“Asciutta” means dry in Italian, and doesn’t usually refer for food, but when referring to pasta it means dry or without sauce. When I first heard about this pasta dish, I must say that I was very skeptical. There’s only three ingredients…peas, grated Italian cheese and pasta. How good could this taste? Well, in one word, “delicious.” Oh, how I love this dish! I’m almost embarrassed to even call it a recipe. It’s a recipe in all it’s simplicity, and it has a very nice story/memory for my husband to go along with it. You know I love the memories
When my husband was a young boy in Italy, he visited his aunt (Zia) in Naples, who served this dish for a first course of a family dinner. He claims he had never had this before, and that perhaps it was created as a result of the food rations during World War II, when you had to make due with whatever food you had. He loved it so much that he ate dish after dish until he could barely eat the second course. As in most Italian families, his good appetite was applauded (literally) by the elders. Even to this day, when we make this, he eats dish after dish. I don’t applaud, however. I just try to keep up with him.
If you want to make this a bit more “robusto,” you can (and I often do) add a drizzle or two of some wonderful extra virgin olive oil. Obviously, the quality of ingredients is of utmost importance here, especially the grated imported cheese. Whether you use parmigiano reggiano or pecorino Romano is entirely up to your taste. I also like a few twists of the black pepper to top it off.
Now if you still feel you’d like to make this more of a meal, you can add a step or two, and make this the way my mom did. In a saucepan, sauté chopped onion and chopped bacon, pancetta or even prosciutto in a few tablespoons of olive oil until onion is quite soft. Add 2 cans of Le Sueur canned peas or slightly cooked frozen peas. Then combine this with the pasta. Add cheese and pepper, and you’re all set.
My guess is that you’ll enjoy this both ways, but the “asciutta” is what I want to focus on here, and hope you’ll give it a try.
RECIPE: serves 4 ( or one hungry husband)
1 pound of ditalini pasta ( has to be ditalini)
15 ounces of frozen peas
freshly grated parmigiano reggiano or pecorino Romano cheese
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling ( optional)
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Cook the ditalini, reserving a cup or so of the pasta water.
- While the pasta is cooking, gently cook the peas as directed, making sure they are not over-cooked.
- Drain the pasta and put in a serving bowl. Add the peas. Add some of the reserved pasta water, just to moisten a bit and keep the pasta from sticking together.
- Add the grated cheese and some freshly ground pepper and toss.
- Serve with lots of grated cheese and more fresh pepper.
- If you want a little drizzle of olive oil, now is the time to add it.