Tortellini with Ham and Peas

I was reluctant at first to post this recipe and here's the silly reason: I didn't make it entirely from scratch.  It's true.  But as we were practically licking the last of the sauce from our bowls the other night I realized something. 

"What I need are more time-consuming recipes requiring special equipment," said no one ever.  

So I decided to swallow my pride and let you in on a little secret.  Sometimes I use frozen tortellini.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about this super simple, delicious weeknight pasta!

For the last couple of years at Christmas time, we’ve been generously gifted a ham by Chris’s boss.  It’s practically like being handed a wad of grocery money, as we get several meals out of the thing.  Along with red beans and rice, ham and bean soup, and grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, this is one of our favorite ways to cook with ham.  (Wow.  I didn’t realize until I just typed that sentence how many ham dishes I love to eat.)

This pasta is pretty magical.  It comes together in fifteen minutes and with the exception of the pot used to boil your tortellini, it’s all done in one big skillet.  It's warm and hearty without being heavy, since merely a touch of cream is used to finish the sauce instead of a lot of it serving as a the base of the dish.

A saute of onion, ham, and garlic is followed by a glug of wine and a drink of stock.  Frozen peas, a cook’s dream in the wasteland that is the fresh vegetable array during the dead of winter, are added along with a splash of cream.

After tossing in the cheese tortellini, this dish only needs a little garnishment.  A squeeze of fresh lemon is added for brightness, a shaving of parmesan for sharpness, and an optional sprinkling of parsley for freshness.

Next time you find yourself at the grocery store, pick up the ingredients for this tasty, easy meal.  You won’t be sorry when you need to get a quick dinner on the table.

And let’s all agree not to feel guilty about using high quality, prepared ingredients to make our lives easier, shall we?

Tortellini with Ham and Peas

serves 4

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 12 oz. smoky ham, diced
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 8 oz. frozen peas
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 oz. parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped, optional

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the onion and saute until softened and beginning to color.  Add the ham and saute until it begins to caramelize.  Meanwhile, cook the tortellini according to package directions.  Add the garlic to the ham and onions and toss.  Pour in the wine and stock and simmer until the liquid reduces by half.  Add the peas and cream and bring to a simmer, allowing it to bubble until the sauce thickens just enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Taste and season with salt and pepper (depending on the saltiness of the ham, it may not need much more.)  Toss in the tortellini and simmer for one minute, tossing often.  Add remaining ingredients to garnish.