Pasta With Green Pea Sauce & Lots of Pecorino

November  1, 2021
9 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

My eternal love for dried pasta will never dwindle, but my relationship with this pantry staple has changed over these past few weeks. As I’ve relied on pasta more and more during this pandemic, I’ve needed to dig deep into my cooking creativity to avoid boredom.

My solution: Create pasta sauces that feature puréed vegetables—the results are silky, creamy, and deeply flavorful. Maybe you’ve already tried this with cauliflower, broccoli, or beets. Really, the options are endless when it comes to veggie sauces.

A recent experiment with puréed fava beans yielded a sauce that tasted earthy and delicate, with small hints of lemon, mint, and roasted garlic. Of course, fresh favas can be tricky to track down. If you can get a hold of some, I highly recommend swapping them into this recipe (instead of 2 cups of blanched peas, just use 2 cups shucked fava beans).

After favas, the next best thing might already be in your freezer: frozen peas. Reserving some of the pasta cooking water is all that’s needed to transform pea purée into a sauce that beautifully clings to the pasta. Finely grated Pecorino Romano will add additional creaminess and umami, but you could easily omit the cheese and serve a vegan pasta that tastes nearly as rich as any Alfredo sauce.

If you don’t have peas, try making a purée out of sautéed fennel or even marinated artichoke hearts. And if you don’t have leeks, you can swap in anything from onions to shallots to scallions. This is a recipe that’s meant to be versatile—especially now, when grocery shopping is more difficult than it used to be. Use the recipe as a guideline rather than a contract, and if you end up making some delicious adjustments, leave a comment below and please tell us all about it. —Josh Cohen

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Pasta With Green Pea Sauce & Lots of Pecorino
  • Pea Sauce
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups frozen green peas
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon (or more) kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pasta and Assembly
  • 2 leeks
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound fusilli (or another short dried pasta shape)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino, plus more for serving
  1. Pea Sauce
  2. In a small pot over medium-low heat, cook the oil and garlic, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the garlic just begins to caramelize. Remove the pot from the heat.
  3. Meanwhile, set a large pot of water over high heat. When the water is boiling, add the peas and cook for 2 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to transfer to a blender (we’ll use that water to cook the pasta in just a bit).
  4. To the blender, add the garlic and oil, mint, water, lemon juice, and salt; season with black pepper. Blend on high speed until a smooth purée forms. Taste and adjust with salt and lemon juice as needed.
  5. Do Ahead: The purée, without the lemon juice, can be made 3 days ahead. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Add the lemon juice the day you're going to serve.
  1. Pasta and Assembly
  2. To prepare the leeks, remove the tough, dark green outer layers. Halve each leek lengthwise, keeping the root end intact. Rinse the leeks under cold running water, carefully removing all of the dirt and grit from the layers. Slice into half-moons about ½ inch wide; discard the root.
  3. Bring the water used to cook the peas back to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook the leeks, oil, chili flakes, and ¼ teaspoon of the salt, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, until the leeks are soft and just beginning to caramelize.
  4. When the water is rapidly boiling, season with salt until the water tastes pleasantly salty, then cook the fusilli for 1 minute less than the package directions. Drain, reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid.
  5. Add the pasta and the reserved pasta cooking liquid to the skillet with the leeks and toss to combine. (If you feel like your skillet isn’t big enough for all that pasta, just transfer back to the pasta pot.)
  6. Add the pea purée and ⅓ cup of the mint to the pasta and heat over medium. Stir until the pasta is fully coated with the sauce, then add 1 cup of the Pecorino. Stir until the sauce is warm and clings to the fusilli. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  7. Divide the pasta among plates or bowls. Garnish with mint and a dusting of Pecorino.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • DicedTomato
  • Ewa Agnieszka Bartczak
    Ewa Agnieszka Bartczak
  • Taylor Stanton
    Taylor Stanton
  • Sharada Sridhar
    Sharada Sridhar
  • Josh Cohen
    Josh Cohen

15 Reviews

DicedTomato April 23, 2024
So creamy with just peas it's amazing. A great way to incorporate more veggies into your pasta. I had no leeks, but it was still delicious just as is w/o them. I bet leeks would be even better.
Morgankap March 18, 2024
Delish! I've made this twice now - my toddler loves it. I didn't have mint, so subbed rosemary herb. I add a protein like chicken or beef hotdog for my toddler. I use less pasta so that there's plenty of sauce.
Lindy August 2, 2023
Hi all, I am going to try this recipe w/shrimp. Was thinking of using a gluten free green pea pasta. Any thoughts, wondering if it would be too much green pea?
IowaCitycook August 2, 2023
I haven't ever had GF green pea pasta, but I'd say, go for it. I think that could work — the green pea taste is great.
Rosieontherun May 31, 2023
This was expectedly delicious!! Excellent meal
IowaCitycook September 25, 2022
This is delicious! A wonderful restaurant in Iowa City, the Goosetown Cafe, had something like this on its menu. We enjoyed it so much I had to find a recipe, and this came close. It's great as a vegetarian main. I added toasted pine nuts. I found there wasn't quite enough sauce at the end — I may add more pasta water. But it's a winner!
Ewa A. October 17, 2020
I made this with sautéed cubed chicken and used lime instead of mint the result is divine!!
Ewa A. October 17, 2020
Sorry, lime instead of lemon!
J May 24, 2022
Lime juice? zest? Proportion?
Taylor S. August 13, 2020
WOW. That is all I can say. This is probably the best pasta I have ever made; I followed the recipe to a T, and the mint is not discernible at all (even though I love the herb).
Ellen D. June 15, 2020
Hi Josh! Any suggestions for another herb in this dish besides mint? I have a mint hater in my house.
Josh C. June 15, 2020
Hi Ellen - I'd suggest a handful of basil to replace the mint!
Ellen D. June 16, 2020
Perfect - thank you!
Sharada S. May 22, 2020
I can't believe I logged into Facebook to write this but this is ABSOLUTELY delicious. It's hard to make pasta exciting during a time when that's a lot of what we're cooking, so this really exceeded my expectations.

I personally halved the recipe, which worked very well, with two tweaks that are to preference: a ton of mint in the pea sauce (like a loose 3/4 cup lol) and lots of chili flakes when sauteing the leeks. I also tend to season with salt and pepper by taste. Highly recommend!!!
Josh C. May 22, 2020
Thanks for this great comment, so glad you enjoyed it!