tortellini: Peas, P’s, Please!

[24 May 2007 | By | 14 Comments]


Prosciutto, peas, Parmesan, parsley and pasta. What is not to love? (Maybe guilt from all the cream and butter)? Well, at least the peas are healthy: so I add a ton of them! The fresh, sweet peas perfectly compliment the salty prosciutto and rich cream. The more peas, the less guilt in my mind.

I am a fan of the book French Women don’t get Fat and have just started reading the sequel: French Women for all Seasons. The beauty of this rich dish in context of her espoused food philosophy is this: enjoy it. Slowly savor… each creamy, salty, herb flecked, pea popping bite. Let the flavors loll about on your tongue, sip some fruity red, momentarily close your eyes. What I love about this book—and her orientation toward food—is that it encourages you to focus on the pleasure of food. This luxurious and rich dish, Mireille would recommend, should be offset by smarter, less fatty foods in the days surrounding. But in the end, when you are eating this dish: be present with it. Enjoy each bite.

And be a food snob. Not in a nose up way, but in a way that makes you focus on the flavors and bites, not just eating to pass time or until your tummy hurts. Don’t eat and forget that you are eating, don’t eat just to finish your plate: eat for the pleasure of your palate. And when your palate is satisfied (usually before your belly is bursting), then stop. Make every bite earn its place; it must be highly satisfying and delicious or you won’t eat any more. Try it: it is an interesting experience.

And a wonderful excuse to have and enjoy this indulgent, satiating dish. But when you have enjoyed these flavors enough, leave the rest on your plate and use your food snobbery to pick and choose only the bites that are most satisfying each and every meal, each and every day. I sometimes find myself thinking ‘that flavor isn’t worth any more bites’ or ‘I definitely need a few more bites of that.’ Or ‘this dish is so worth each singular, pleasure-filled bite.’

It may sound silly, but for me, slipping into this French philosophy, helps me focus more on flavor profiles, and ultimately the pleasure of food. I don’t deny myself a rich and creamy bacon laced pasta dish—in fact I enjoy each and every bite—but I usually don’t need too many bites because invariably it IS really rich and for me that means my palate is happier sooner.

This is almost a one dish meal, though if I serve it to guests I will certainly start the meal with a selection of olives, bread with dipping sauce and perhaps a light salad. Dessert shouldn’t be too complex or overwhelming: perhaps a fruity sorbet or fruit and cheese to drink with a friendly port. Or better: some simple cookies with coffee. Mostly, though, I make this for a weeknight meal for my family; it is quick and easy to make, and a dish I love to warm up for lunch the next day!

Tortellini Carbonara
4 T butter
6 oz prosciutto
3 T flour
2 cups heavy cream (though I sometimes cut it in half with milk)
1 cup cooked peas
1 tsp ground pepper
3 T fresh Parmesan
1 T chopped Italian Parsley
1 LB cheese tortellini

Melt butter in pan, sauté prosciutto (low/medium heat) for a minute, add flour and cook, stirring for another 3 minutes. Whisk in cream, stirring a bit, let thicken for 7-10 minutes (aim for low simmer). Add the P’s: peas, pepper, Parmesan and parsley. Lower heat and keep warm. Make pasta, drain, toss and serve. Pass the peas please! I always add extra pepper, parsley and Parmesan on top…

This entry was posted in default dinners, entree, food. and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.


  • Jennifer said (24 May 2007 at 5:37 pm):

    I just told Mommy Chef her tortellini was the best looking one I’ve seen but now it’s a tie. This looks refreshing, light and delicious!

    I actually saw an interview with the author of that book on some talk show a while back. It’s interesting how the French have a totally different way of eating versus us Americans. My Grandma is from France and she eats a lot differently than the rest of us as well.

  • Jen said (24 May 2007 at 5:43 pm):

    Wow – so easy and it looks so good! Anything with prosciutto is automatically delicious in my book!

  • sognatrice said (24 May 2007 at 11:43 pm):

    I love the combo of peas, parmesan, and prosciutto; we do an even simpler dish in my house kind of like this–put the cream in a pan, heat it up and stir in torn pieces of proscuitto. Toss with tortellini. Talk about easy and delicious!

  • robin said (25 May 2007 at 7:05 am):

    Thank you for such a wonderful post. I enjoyed your talking about savoring food very much. I had never thought to surround days of light eating with something heavy like Tortellini Carbonara even though I think I do that subconsciously anyway. I haven’t read French Women Don’t Get Fat, but now I will. And I’ll have to try this dish also!

  • Brilynn said (25 May 2007 at 7:42 am):

    Those are all wonderful flavours! I would eat pasta in a cream sauce everyday if I could.

  • Karen said (27 May 2007 at 7:19 am):

    Janelle, I fully agree. Life without a little bit of cream and tortellini would be so dreary!
    And savoring every bite – to me that’s what life is all about.

  • sandi @ the whistlestop cafe said (27 May 2007 at 12:18 pm):

    So smart~ If we savor the flavors we are less likely to eat as much.
    Life is to short to be gobbling all the time!
    by the by~ I sent my COTM!

  • Kirsten said (28 May 2007 at 10:07 pm):

    Lovely!!! Delicious!! Inspiring!

    It is such an important concept to focus our eating on things that are of quality and bring us pleasure – and this recipe certainly would qualify.


  • Kate said (29 May 2007 at 7:42 am):

    Sounds like Alphabet eating- pick a letter of the alphabet and make dinner using only those items, like your ‘P’ food.

    That dish looks wonderful. I love tortellini!

  • Bad home cook said (29 May 2007 at 3:41 pm):

    Tortellini Carbonara – so that’s what it’s called? Good thing I didn’t know about the fancy name before I attempted it. I might have been scared off. Well, I’m sure yours is a darn site better than mine. Looks delish here!

  • Kristen said (29 May 2007 at 6:27 pm):

    I love peas and my kids love them when they are properly disguised. This looks like something they would like!

  • Christa said (31 May 2007 at 5:52 pm):

    This dish sounds delightful. In a few days I should be able to pick peas from my garden. I’ve been watching them grow for three months now; I can’t wait to savor each little one!

    Good quality food, savored slowly, does make a difference.

  • Alessandra said (4 June 2007 at 1:37 pm):

    french people stole that recipe from italian woman, we perfected pasta .. and tortelliniis deff. italian & thats an italian dish

  • J said (5 November 2007 at 6:16 pm):

    I order this at one of my local italian restaurant, though I ask them to substitute farfalle instead of tortellini. Makes it a BIT lighter. 😉 I’m going there on Thursday…I think I’ll ask for extra peas!