Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ham, Peas & Cream with Pasta

If your arteries are clogged, then stay away from The 99 Cent Chef's decadently rich Ham, Peas & Cream with Pasta. Oh, what am I saying, go for it, you can exercise later!

My recipe is similar to a creamy Fettuccini Alfredo, (my appetizing recipe video is here) but, with the addition of bite-sized pieces of lean ham and tender peas.

I use a package of frozen peas that I get cheaply almost anywhere. If you can find fresh peas, then use them. But, don't use canned peas, as they will quickly turn to mush.

You can defrost frozen peas in a microwave oven, but be careful not to overcook them. It's quick enough to finish defrosting them in the frying pan as the cream simmers.

And, I'm lucky to find whipping cream, half and half, or even whole milk cheaply at my local  99c only Store. You won't be using too much, so, at whatever price it's worth it. But, you can go light and use regular milk instead of cream -- if you must.

I always have hunks of ham in my freezer. When whole ham shanks come on sale during Thanksgiving and Christmas I get one and break it down into thick slices, for future use. Of course, you can just get a single ham steak, or even use thin slices of deli ham, that's priced cheaply.

This Italian pasta dish comes together quickly, as everything is already cooked -- you are just heating it all up, in about the time it takes too cook a pot of dried pasta.

I used penne pasta, but you can use any favorite dried pasta you have on hand, like, spaghetti, or spiral and tube pastas. Dried pasta is inexpensive almost anywhere you shop for food. I don't quite use a whole package of pasta, so there is plenty of sauce to go around. If you want to finish off the whole package of pasta then just add another cup of milk, cream or half and half.

This is one tasty cheap$kate recipe. My Ham, Peas, and Cream with Pasta will have you back for seconds, so make plenty!

Ingredients (2-3 servings)
1/2 pound of ham - or about 6-8 ounces, cubed. Okay to use thin-sliced or thick. Add more if you like.
2 cups frozen or fresh peas - Canned are too mushy.
2 cups half and half milk - or equivalent. I used 1 cup of whipping cream and 1 cup of milk. Okay to use 2 cups of milk, instead of cream or half and half. You can add more cream or milk to taste, if you want more sauce.
8-12 ounces of penne pasta - or any favorite pasta. Okay to use spaghetti, tube or spiral pastas.
1 tablespoon parmesan - fresh shaved or dried. Optional.
1 tablespoon oil
Pepper to taste - no salt, as ham and parmesan cheese have plenty of salt for me.
Water to boil pasta


Get pasta started. Follow package directions. Simply boil pasta about 7-10 minutes. If pasta  is ready before ham and peas cream sauce, then drain and cool it down. You can reheat pasta in the cream sauce.

In large pan over medium heat add oil. Slice ham into cubes or shred it into bite sized  pieces. Heat the ham through, about 3 minutes. If you are using thin sliced ham, then heat for just a minute.

Next add the frozen peas. Or, defrost peas before adding them to pan to cut down on cooking time.

Finally, pour in the cream, half and half, and/or milk. Season with pepper to taste. I find ham is salty enough for this entree, but add some if you like. Sprinkle in the dried parmesan. If the parmesan is fresh shaved, then add it to pasta just before serving. Stir and bring liquid to a low simmer.

Cook until peas are defrosted and heated through, about 3 minutes. Be sure to try a pea to check for doneness.

Finally, mix in the cooked pasta. If the pasta is drained and cooled down, then cook it in the sauce until heated through. All you need to do is heat everything for a minute or two.

Pasta will absorb some sauce, so serve it as soon as it's hot enough.

The pasta will be delish the next day, too. You can drizzle in a tablespoon of milk when reheating, if the sauce thickens too much by the next day.

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