This Creamy Ham and Pea Pasta Recipe is easy, comforting, and completely kid-approved! Tossed in a garlic parmesan cream sauce and loaded with fresh or frozen peas, enjoy this 30-minute pasta anytime you need an easy and delicious dinner the whole family will love.
Creamy Leftover Ham and Pea Pasta
If there is one thing I love more than leftover turkey, it’s leftover holiday ham. Working wonders in all sorts of recipes from soups to sandwiches to pasta, just a little bit of this holiday favorite goes a long way.
As a kid, my grandmother would take the leftover ham and create a tower of thinly sliced ham for sandwiches for the whole family. Her ham sandwiches were always the same- Wonder Bread smeared with Miracle Whip, two slices of ham, iceberg lettuce, and a shake of salt and pepper.
They were the best.
My mother always made soup- split pea soup and ham and bean soup – often freezing half the pot for later in the month. And some years, when my dad would decide to purchase an especially large ham, he would surprise us with our favorite croissant breakfast sandwiches for dinner.
But pasta? There was never any pasta. At least not in my family. I mean, my dad always made turkey tetrazzini with leftover turkey but seemed to forget that ham and noodles like each other, too.
Naturally, I needed to fix this and this pasta couldn’t be any more perfect.
A few simple pantry essentials plus some leftover ham is all you need to make this recipe. Kids love it, husbands love it, and YOU will love it.
In addition to tasting awesome, this creamy ham pasta is also super easy to whip together on busy weeknights. Technically, you could use one pot by making the noodles first, then use the same pot to make the sauce, but I like to save time so I use two pots and make my husband do the dishes.
- Pasta noodles (I used Ziti)
- Butter + All-purpose flour (for the roux)
- Low-sodium chicken broth (you could also use bone broth)
- Italian seasoning
- Half-and-half or heavy cream
- Leftover ham (see substitutions below)
- Peas (fresh or frozen)
- Parmesan cheese
- Crushed red pepper (optional)
- Fresh thyme
Leftover Ham Alternatives
Now, to keep the same flavor profile as ham, pancetta is the best alternative. A popular addition to carbonara pasta, pancetta is pork belly meat that has been salted and cured. You will not find pancetta in big cubes like the ham in this recipe, however, you can find it chopped in small tiny cubes or thinly sliced. If pancetta is unavailable, bacon is another great alternative.
With both pancetta and bacon, cut the total amount in half. In other words, rather than three cups of pancetta, add 1 1/2 cups.
Not a fan of pork at all? Chicken, turkey, and even salmon would taste amazing in this creamy ham and pea pasta.
How to Make Ham and Pea Pasta
Get started by cooking your noodles two minutes less than packing instructions. Trust me guys, you do not want soggy noodles. You can use whatever noodles you have on hand (bow-tie, farfalle, fettuccine, tortellini, macaroni, penne, etc) or whatever noodle your 5-year-old is demanding that week. In my case it was Ziti.
As the noodles cook, you’ll start your sauce. Start by sautéeing the onion until soft, then add the garlic. Then you’ll make a roux.
What is a roux? A roux is made by mixing flour with fat (in this case, butter!) to thicken sauces. It’s super easy to do.
Push the onions to one side of the pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Melt the remaining butter in the pot. Once it has fully melted, whisk the flour in with the butter (actually use a whisk here), forming a thick paste. Continue whisking (do not walk away or turn up the heat) and slowly add the chicken broth to the roux, whisking the entire time. Whisk and mix until fully incorporated.
Once you’ve finished the roux, the rest is smooth sailing.
Stir in the half-and-half, salt, pepper, dried Italian seasoning, ham, and peas. Drain the noodles, reserving 1-2 cups of salted pasta water. Add the noodles to the pot. Sir in the cheese, crushed red pepper, and fresh herbs. Season to taste.
What about that reserved pasta cooking water?
Whenever I make my own pasta sauce I always reserve at least 1-2 cups of pasta water. Pasta water is hot, salted, and starchy– all very good things if you decide to add some last-minute liquid to pasta sauce. If you find that your sauce is too thick simply add 1/2 cup-1 cup of reserved pasta water and voila! Problem solved.
How Long is Leftover Ham Good in the Refrigerator?
In the case of leftover holiday ham which was cured and cooked, and then usually cooked by the consumer again (as is most common with holiday hams), it is recommended to enjoy within 3-5 days.
I find this to be quite conservative, however, and will (personally) give ham that has been stored properly, and reheated properly, one week as I hate to waste leftovers.
More Pasta Recipes,
If you try making this Ham and Pea Pasta Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to read your thoughts and feedback!
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Creamy Ham and Pea Pasta
- 1 pound Ziti Pasta - (or another favorite pasta noodle) cooked to al dente
- 6 tablespoon butter - divided
- 1 onion - minced
- 6 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 3 cups ham - diced into small pieces
- 1 lb green peas - fresh or frozen
- ¾ cup Parmesan Cheese - shredded
- ½ teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
- Chopped fresh parsley - to garnish
- Fresh thyme leaves - to garnish
- Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1-2 cups of the salted pasta water; drain well.
- Prepare the cream sauce. As the noodles are cooking, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring often, for 4-5 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper, mixing well to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the remaining butter to the skillet. Once melted, whisk in the flour, stirring continuously to prevent the flour from burning.
- Finish the sauce. Once the flour is fully combined with the butter, slowly add the chicken broth, whisking continuously, until incorporated. Add the Italian seasoning and half-and-half and mix well to combine.
- Add the Ham and Peas. Add the ham and peas to the sauce. Bring sauce to a very low simmer, taking care not to boil. Allow sauce to simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until peas and ham are heated through. Add the cooked pasta, shredded Parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper, and fresh herbs. Remove from heat and mix well to combine.
- Season and serve. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. If the sauce is too thick, add reserved pasta water, as needed, until desired consistency is reached. Enjoy!
- Not a fan of peas? Add other veggies like zucchini, broccoli, or spinach.
- Make it cheesy with a sprinkle of shredded mozzarella or parmesan cheese.