Grandma’s Peas and Macaroni

My Grandma was an incredible cook.  Her meatballs and gravy are legendary, to this day.  I’ve tackled both many times and I think my meatballs are pretty close, but it’s impossible to know for sure.  I’d probably always prefer hers.

One of my favorite things to eat at Grandma’s was peas and macaroni. Now, I was a kid that didn’t eat peas that much.  I have no idea why this dish appealed to me, but it did.  When I’m really missing my Grandma, I make this dish.  And it’s really comforting on a cold night and if you pair it with another Grandma staple, iceberg lettuce with oil and vinegar dressing,  it’s like being transported to her kitchen.

When Grandma served it, it was never the main dish, in fact we usually had chicken cutlets with it, but I’d always eat at least two bowls of it.   I never asked her how to make it and I don’t think she kept recipes (does anyone know?)  So I’ve pieced this together after some trial and error.  The good thing is that this is a simple recipe with few ingredients, so it was easy to put together.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1T butter unsalted
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste (I keep a tube of tomato paste for recipes like this that don’t use much)
1 15 oz can no salt added peas, with liquid
1 15 oz can low sodium chicken broth OR two cups of low sodium chicken stock
8 oz pasta (ditalini or any tiny pasta you like.  Stars, baby shells.  It just has to be small)
salt and pepper to taste


  • Saute the onions and garlic olive oil (sometimes I add a little butter) and sweat them. Don’t brown.
  • When veggies are cooked, add the tomato paste and cook for a few more minutes.
  • Add the can of peas with liquid and chicken stock
  • Bring to a simmer.
  • Add red pepper flakes if you want
  • Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
Ok, from here there are two ways to do this.   I’d lean more towards the second one, because it’s less steps, but its personal choice.
You can cook the pasta in a separate pot of water and then add the cooked pasta to the peas.  this will result in a lot more liquid.
You can cook the pasta IN the pea mixture and double the chicken stock.  This will result in a thicker, starchier liquid and while the pasta will soak up a lot, there will still be plenty of liquid. (Which is what I did tonight)
  • Serve with shaved or grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiana Reggiano (In my opinion, this MAKES the dish)
If you can restrain yourself from eating all of this, it heats up nicely for leftovers.  Yes, I said leftovers and I usually greatly dislike leftovers.  When storing leftovers, be sure to separate the broth, or the pasta will soak it all up.
I added a few red pepper flakes to give it a little heat, so feel free to doctor this up any way you’d like.  Maybe some sliced mushrooms?  If you want to make it a one dish dinner, you could add some cubed chicken or rotisserie chicken.
It’s not exactly a soup, so you don’t want to have a lot of liquid.
By the way, I KNOW my pictures look green or yellow.  It’s a combination of bad lighting in my kitchen and a camera that’s not meant for food photography.  Any camera makers looking for people to test out cameras? Pick me!
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4 Responses to Grandma’s Peas and Macaroni

  1. Did I ever eat this? It sounds weird but looks good.

  2. C says:

    Probably not. You were a picky eater. In case you don’t remember.

  3. Val says:

    I “second” the picky eater comment, sorry Kim.

    I never saw a recipe in Grandma’s house. If I did, we would all have copies. Sue – did you ever see any recipes there?

  4. Angela says:

    There weren’t any recipes but you had to watch them to see how they made it. I will dig out my mom’s recipe – I’m sure the sisters made it the same way!

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