Recipe: Little Grandma’s Peas & Shells

Peas & Shells

The first time that I met Little Grandma was at my wedding in 1993. Antoinette Grieco Scarano was my husband Michael’s Great-grandma and I thought she really was great.  She was born in Cerignola, Italy in the year 1907 and a few years later she and her family immigrated to America, entering through Ellis Island.  The family lived in New York for a while and eventually Antoinette and her husband Vincent Scarano made their way west to California.

Little Grandma, as she was affectionately called, was the Matriarch of her family, meaning she was the one in charge.  She was a woman who was small in stature but had a very large personality.  A savvy business woman in real estate and she knew how to maneuver herself through finances. She took great care of herself and her family.

When I met Little Grandma, she was maybe 4’11” tall and 86 years young; spry and very quick in her mind and she was very thoughtful and caring and I instantly liked her.

She lived to be 100 and almost made it to her 101st birthday.  I wish that I could have spent more time with her and learned from her all the wisdom someone like that has to offer.

Great-great Grandson Kevin, Little Grandma, Great Grandson Michael @ her 100th birthday 2007

When my husband was little, Little Grandma would come from California and stay for a while, this recipe was a dish she made for him and his brothers.  My mother-in-law Cynthia, makes this quite often when the family gets together and everyone is hungry.  It is a quick and easy recipe that is made from the simplest ingredients that usually every household has on hand.

Peas and Shells

  • 1 pound  of shell pasta (smallest you can find)
  • 1 15 oz. can of sweet peas (do not drain)
  • 1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • I medium size onion (diced into small pieces)
  • 2-3 tsp. dried basil (needs to be fresh and fragrant)
  • Parmesan Cheese (freshly shredded for best flavor)
  • Olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pan for sauteing onion)
  • Salt and Pepper

In a stockpot, bring water to a boil and cook pasta shells to desired tenderness, stirring constantly to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

While the pasta is cooking, in a medium-sized saucepan, add the olive oil and allow to heat up.  The onion that has been diced into small pieces is now added to the oil.  Saute the onion on high-medium heat until it is tender and translucent.  Once the onion is done, add the tomato sauce to the pan with the onion, you can rinse the can out with some water for a little extra liquid if you want.  Now add your basil, salt and pepper, taste the sauce to check for the flavor you prefer.  Let this cook on medium heat, covered for about 5-10 minutes allowing the spices, sauce and onion to flavor each other.  After this time, add the un-drained peas to the sauce that is cooking.  Turn down the sauce to low, cover pot again and allow the peas to heat up in the sauce, about 2-3 minutes.

When the pasta is done, drain; and now add the pasta and the sauce with the peas together in a large bowl.  Now mix well and sprinkle with as much parmesan cheese you want.  Serve with a nice salad and a fresh loaf of bread.

This recipe takes about 30-40 minutes at the most to prepare and cook.  It is a nice simple dish that is full of flavor.

If you use larger shells, they will absorb the liquid and make the dish too dry.  I think this dish is great, but I find that I like it even more the next day as all of the flavors have really mixed into one another. 😉

Give it a go and let me know if you do try it out?  Any questions, send me a comment and I will get back with you!

(Always try to use the best ingredients as possible for your dish to have the most flavor, good ingredients and simple cooking is the best!!)

Until next time, have a blessed day!




All pictures belong to Deanna Klell

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