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When it comes to comfort food, one of our hands-down favorites is this: Pasta e Piselli

When it comes to comfort food, one of our hands-down favorites is this: Pasta e Piselli
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Al Grappolo d’Oro where dinner with wine cost 1800 lira which was about $3.00 at the time.

A transformative dish that takes me to a much happier place. I think it will do the same for you.

These days dinner means more than mere sustenance. While we all ‘shelter in place’, it’s a mighty punctuation point to our day. Dinner is a marker that we made it through another day of isolation, homeschooling, Zoom meetings, and a vague feeling that this cannot possibly go on much longer. You can imagine the warm feeling I got when I came across this incredibly easy dish of peas and bacon, pasta and parmesan, one of my comfort food markers. It instantly transports me back to Rome where I was young and in school and where my dinner cost 1800 Lira which was about $3.00. And every time it appeared on the menu of our local trattoria, it was all I ever wanted.  No wonder I felt comfortable.

“Comfort food” is a whole lot newer than I thought.

The simple comfort of peas, bacon, and cheese comes together in just under 30 minutes.

“Comfort food”. The Oxford English Dictionary only added a definition for it in 1997. Even more surprisingly, it traced the term only back to 1977 when an article in the Washington Post about Southern cooking appeared with the following statement: “Along with grits, one of the comfort foods of the South is black-eyed peas.”  Really? 1977?  Even the author of the piece wrote in 2013 “I don’t really believe I created the term…but since then it has been one of my favorite food descriptors”.

You’ll never believe where the first mention of Comfort Food came from.

Believe or not, I discovered that the phrase “comfort food” only first appeared in 1966 in the Palm Beach Post of all places.  And it was first used in a story about obesity:  “Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called ‘comfort food’—food associated with the security of childhood, like mother’s poached egg or famous chicken soup,” it read, beneath the headline “Sad Child May Overeat.”

Palazzo Cenci, home of the Rhode Island School of Design’s European Honors Program in Piazza Cenci, Roma.

Comfort Food’s connection lies in the power of its associations.

I am relieved to tell you that happier views of “Comfort Food” emerged as I delved a little deeper into the subject. A Professor named Shira Gabriel of SUNY Buffalo cracked the code. Her research defined “comfort food” as anything that a person uses to make them feel better. And I am happy to tell it’s not about overeating. Instead, comfort food’s power lies in the associations it calls to mind. Family connections, gentler, happier times, reminders of when things were better, places happier—in short, a lot of what’s missing right now. So here’s today’s recipe for a reminder of how much better things have been and will be again soon.


Pasta e Piselli (Pasta and Peas

April 14, 2020
: 2
: 5 min
: 25 min
: 30 min
: Easy

Peas and Bacon, Pasta and Parmesan combined in a heavenly cream sauce for a dish as comforting as can be.


  • 3 cups peas, fresh or frozen
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 slices bacon, diced or 4 oz package of Diced Pancetta
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 1 lb. pasta, such as fettuccine ( I used Fresh Pasta and cut the cooking time accordingly)
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1⁄4 tsp. sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Step 1 Combine peas, butter, bacon, onion, and 3⁄4 cup water in a 12″ skillet over medium-high.
  • Step 2 Cook until water has evaporated and peas are cooked for about 15 minutes.
  • Step 3 Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil
  • Step 4 add pasta, and cook until al dente, 10 minutes.
  • Step 5 Drain, reserving 1 cup of water.
  • Step 6 Add pasta, water, parmesan, sugar, heavy cream, salt, and pepper to skillet with peas and toss to coat.
  • Step 7 Transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately.

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10 thoughts on “When it comes to comfort food, one of our hands-down favorites is this: Pasta e Piselli”

  • This looks delicious. I can’t wait to make this for supper tonight.

    Interesting about the initial definition of ‘comfort food’ . It brought to mind a wonderful German word – Kummerspeck, which translates to ‘grief bacon’. It is defined as ‘Excess weight gained from emotional overeating.’’. Haha. I think there’ll be a few cases of that going around., starting with me!

    Thanks for your blog and recipes!, Monte. Every recipe I’ve tried has been amazing! 😀

    Kate from Alberta

    • Always so good to hear from you. How interesting about the word “Kummerspeck”. Such brutal honesty! I hope you enjoyed your Pasta! Stay safe. Stay strong and Wash Your Hands!

  • I will try this recipe. I wonder, though, if you really meant to include the peas in the 15 minutes of sauce simmering. I’ve only used frozen peas, but in my experience they don’t benefit from anything more than warming.

    • Interesting question. To be honest, I use frozen peas but I defrost them before putting them into the recipe. I think you are on to something. Add them very last minute and they will keep their color better. Thanks for the tip.

  • I have made a variation of this recipe using prosciutto which I saute in evoo along with the onion and peas , adding water to that pot once the onion is clear and prosciutto is crisp, bring water to boil add broken spaghetti and cook. I have never added heavy cream will definitely try it next time. This dish has been a family favorite forever. Thanks for sharing your version! Yum. Bon appetite !

    • Andria, Thank you so much for taking the time to write. I am so glad you enjoyed this version. To me, this is really ‘nursery food’ because I associate peas with my childhood. The heavy cream is also an addition because that’s what fresh peas swam in at our house. All best, Monte

  • Hi , Monte. I actually have some guanciale on hand that needs to be eaten fairly soon. How would your directions change in this case? I just can’t imagine boiling it! Also, would you happen to have any recipes that use guanciale? If so, I’d love for you to share them. I really like your other recipes.

    • Dear Kathy, Thanks so much for writing. In actual fact, given the cooking time, I would, in fact, use the guanciale, diced. It will give such a wonderful porky flavor to the sauce. One other thing. The one ingredient that you might want to hold back cooking are the peas. If you defrost them, you can pretty much add them at the last minute and they will stay a vivid green. Take Care. Stay Safe. Stay Strong.

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