Rigatoni with Peas, Cannellini Beans, Fried Ham

Wed. September 15, 2010 12:00 AM
by Brad Mercil

If you're like me, you usually end up with some kind of leftovers after the holidays. In my case it was ham. You can make my Best Pea Soup recipe, but that is usually way too much ham. How about this? Rigatoni with peas, cannellini beans and fried ham.

When it comes to freezing your leftover ham, I think it's best to leave a generous amount of ham on the bone for soup at a later time. So, I usually cut off one or two big slices of ham that I can then freeze separately to use for this recipe. Do not slice or dice the ham pieces at this time, the ham will get freezer burn, become watery and lose most of their juices. Just wrap the ham slices as tightly as you can and don't let them sit in the freezer more then three months.

This recipe is easy to make and is good on a cold winter night because you get to slurp up the broth. The combination of crunchy ham and warm pasta with peas and beans will surely satisfy. Be sure to use a good brand of pasta.

When it comes to the ham there are a couple of issues we need to discuss. If you do have a piece of ham that has been frozen be sure to thaw it out thoroughly. With ham that has been frozen, ice crystals can form in the meat and when it thaws, all of that water is released. If your slices look watery, dab them with paper towels to remove the excess water. Get a sharp knife; even a big slicing knife will work. You want to be able to create nice thin slices of ham that will fry up crispy, almost like bacon. We're not looking for Proscuittio slices but you'll want your slices about an 1/8th of an inch. Be sure to fry the ham long enough so that it is nice and crisp.

So let's get started!


Rigatoni with Peas, Cannellini Beans
and Fried Ham



1 pound Rigatoni pasta
2 1/2 cups thinly sliced ham
2 to 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 tblsp olive oil
1 can Cannellini beans, do not drain juice
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 cup fresh Italian parsley roughly chopped
2 - 3 cups reserved pasta water
Pecorino Romano cheese shredded
Salt and Pepper


Bring pasta water to a boil and cook pasta following their instructions. When pasta is cooked 1/2 way, add frozen peas to pasta water.

Heat olive oil in frying pan, add garlic and onions and cook until golden brown. Add thinly sliced ham to garlic and onions, stirring occasionally, and cook until ham is crispy. Reserve 2 to 3 cups of pasta water, drain pasta and peas and return to pot. Over low heat, add Cannellini beans with their juice, 1 1/2 cups of the reserved pasta water and the ham, onions and garlic to the pasta and peas. Use 1/2 cup of remaining reserved pasta water to deglaze the frying pan and add to pasta. Heat until sauce comes to a slight boil. If you like your pasta with more sauce, add more of the reserved pasta water.


Serve in pasta bowls, top with rough chopped fresh Italian parsley and Pecorino Romano cheese.