Sweet Peas & Shells Alfredo

As the person responsible for putting food on the table in our household, I've found quite a few helpful shortcuts to keep me sane.  I occasionally employee the good ole doctored up box of mac & cheese trick. It's something I rely on when I come home from work to hungry boys and my brain is fried from looking at Quickbooks all day. No matter how hard I try, boxed mac & cheese always tastes like boxed mac & cheese. Sure, I'll sometimes throw peas, broccoli, red pepper, bacon and tons of Parmesan in and yep...the boxed cheese taste shines through. Husband doesn't mind, but I kinda do (although I keep eating it).

This recipe from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (YAY DEB!) can be whipped up in NO time. And boy is it good!

What you have is a creamy shell pasta dish with TONS of peas, herbs & lemon zest. It screams SPRING to me with it's light & creamy nature. It's a crowd pleaser for the adults in my house. Picky 4 year old still is on the fence about pasta/cream sauce/peas. I'll pay you 50 bucks if you can get him to eat a bite. But for now....us greedy adults will make this recipe serve TWO.

And we're off!  Gather your ingredients.

Trader Joe's has been selling fresh shelled peas. They're pretty good. I suppose you could use frozen peas, you'll just have to cook them a bit longer.

Cook the pasta, and at the last 30 seconds add the peas.

My camera lens got a steamy facial in the making of this pasta. Camera lens doesn't have clogged pores now...

Drain the pasta & peas. Reserve some of the pasta liquid.

Heat the cream in the empty pot.

Add the zest, pepper & Parmesan. Stir! Cook it down til it's thicker.

And we marry the pasta/peas with the sauce. EASY.

Give it a good stir. Add in more Parmesan.

Throw in the parsley & mint.

Dinner is served.

There's no looking back!

Sweet Peas & Shells Alfredo

serves 2-4
recipe adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

  • 1/2 lb. dried small pasta shells
  • 1 cup fresh shelled peas (from about 1 lb. in the pod)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta, and cook according to package instructions. Add peas to cook during the last 30 seconds of pasta cooking time. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, set aside. Drain the pasta and the peas together

Dry out the pasta pot, and pour in the heavy cream. Bring the cream to a simmer, and cook until slightly reduced, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the butter, and stir it until it has melted. Generously season the sauce with freshly ground black pepper, add a pinch of salt as well as the lemon zest. Add 3/4 cup Parmesan, and stir it until the sauce is smooth; then toss in the drained pasta & peas. Cook the pasta in the sauce for 2 minutes, until the sauce has slightly thickened. Add the reserved pasta water by the spoonful if needed to loosen up the sauce.

Divide the pasta among bowls. Garnish with remaining Parmesan, chopped parsley & mint.

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  • Sarah
    March 20, 2013

    Hey Tracy! This looks so good, I will have to try it out. I will be in the Oakland/San Francisco area this week and was just wondering if you have any recommendations for cool places to go/eat? Thanks, I'd appreciate it!

  • March 20, 2013

    This looks awesome. I wish I had a huge bowl right now for lunch! I love how those shell pasta shapes scoop up a little bit of sauce AND a pea. Perfect shape!

  • I love your sense of humor! (camera facial)

  • March 20, 2013

    Love creamy pasta with peas! And a big yes to the Trader Joe's shelled peas, they are a must-have in my house. Those suckers get thrown into everything, it seems.

  • March 20, 2013

    I love recipes that are this easy, help me avoid that dehydrated cheese flavor, and can be done out of the freezer. Thanks for highlighting this one!

  • Amy
    March 20, 2013

    Looks so tasty !!!

    I love your recipes

  • MaryBeth
    March 20, 2013

    I'm cleansing right now from a solid week of overindulgence, but soon as I'm done this is on the hit list!

  • March 20, 2013

    I got Deb's book for Christmas and I'm not sure why I haven't tried this one yet! On my list now, thanks Tracy!

    And for reasons I can't fully explain, a steamed camera lens always makes me very nervous, like the moisture will force its way into the electronics and tear at it with its moist little teeth...

  • As if peas & pasta weren't enough to make me swoon, the mint and lemon have sealed the deal.

  • I am glad how you chose this simple yet delicious recipes- for a pasta lover I could take these any day :)

  • March 20, 2013

    This looks so yummy and simple! I'm definitely going to make this this week. Deb's cookbook looks amazing too - contemplating if I should get a copy or not... P.S. Love the blog!

  • March 20, 2013

    Easy peasy! {see what I did there?}

    I love doctoring up storebought meals too, but this seems like it's too simple to pass up! Delicious too :)

  • March 20, 2013

    Oh yum this looks amazing!!

  • March 20, 2013

    Wow... my mouth instantly started to water when I saw the first photo. This is the perfect meal to ring in Spring! I love the simplicity of your photography.

    • Tracy
      March 20, 2013

      Ring in spring!! And thank you!

  • March 20, 2013

    YUM! Seeing as I'm currently STARVING this looks like a dream come true, even more than I'm sure it normally does! Lunch time, anyone?

  • March 20, 2013

    This pasta sounds so tasty and springy--and easy and fast besides! I can't wait for the new spring peas to emerge... :)

  • March 20, 2013

    This looks pretty dang good and so spring-like! I love the sound of the fresh herbs in there, too.

  • March 20, 2013

    Those shells look really fantastic. I used to hate the "white" boxed mac and cheese when I was little, but now the thought of that bright orange-dyed stuff kind of freaks me out! Nice photos.

  • March 20, 2013

    I have the SK cookbook too, and this recipe for sure jumped out at me. Except ... my other half seriously hates peas. I was thinking of using asparagus instead. Once it's a little more in season. (Unfortunately it's not quite spring in NY yet. Grrr.). Thanks for posting it!

  • March 20, 2013

    Mmmmm, a simple and delicious blend of ingredients. Looks tasty!

  • March 20, 2013

    Boxed mac & cheese is my favorite comfort food and guilty pleasure, this looks like a lovely guilt-free version!

  • March 20, 2013

    You know, I'm not sure I've ever had mac and cheese with peas. I think my mother knew better than to pull that one on me as a kid. But I'm grown up now, and it's time to change! This pasta dish looks awesome and I have NO doubt it's amazing, coming from both you and Deb.

  • March 20, 2013

    I love simple quick pastas like these. Tremendous weakness for them. Sigh... If only my hubs was more into it. Then again, I always make them and hog it all for myself. Gotta try this soon. I have every single thing in my pantry!

  • Love how easy this is! Yum!

  • March 21, 2013

    Easy peasy deliciousness! I love the added peas in this recipe! So springy!

  • Andrea J
    March 21, 2013

    i so want to make this tonight and it seems so quick and easy. do you think frozen peas would work too?

  • Ashley Marti
    March 21, 2013

    What material is your table? It's beautiful!

  • Teri
    March 21, 2013

    This dish is screaming for some tuna stirred in. Sounds delish!

  • Andrea J
    March 21, 2013

    Made this tonight and LOVED it! My 4 year old daughter surprisingly ate it all - minus the peas. its a start! Thanks for posting!

  • March 22, 2013

    um.......YUM! This sounds and looks divine!


  • Danielle
    March 24, 2013

    I'm going to make this with orecchiette and pancetta... I'm in dire need of some comfort food, and this looks like it will fit the bill VERY nicely.

    • Tracy
      March 24, 2013

      Sounds great!

  • March 24, 2013

    I always put Sweet Peas in my Shells and Cheese! I've not tried alfredo sauce so that will be something new to try! =) Thanks for the idea and recipe! =)

  • March 27, 2013

    Super combo. Thank you for this suggestion of Alfredo with peas since I love Aflredo sauce but I know humans must eat green veggies. (Peas aren't the most interesting vegetable.) So, yay a new way to eat peas.

  • May 22, 2013

    I used Orecchiette from Trader Joe's. Since I'm allergic to the milk protein, casein, I used coconut "creamer" instead of the cream. And I used vegan butter. I cut the parmesan to 1/2 cup for the entire batch. Seems my allergy can tolerate a little parmesan, but that's my limit. Thank you, this was really wonderful!

  • RlolaS
    September 8, 2013

    I tried this with some modifications: I didn't used mint cause I had none :( and I added bacon.

    Fried bacon, set it aside, fried peas in bacon oil, add butter and cream and everything else....ended up with crisp bacon and fresh cheese.

    This is now one of my #1 Confort food

    • Tracy
      September 8, 2013

      that sounds amazing! nice addition.

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