My Mother's Spaghetti With Peas

By Marcus Samuelsson |

My mom’s dad, Edwin Jönsson, didn’t trust pasta. Born in 1901, he grew up in Sweden under very poor circumstances, and the poor man’s cooking of his childhood dictated his palate for the rest of his life. He preferred the grease left over in the frying pan to butter, meatballs and meat loaf to steak, and he insisted on boiled potatoes with every meal. When the 1970s rolled around and trendy foods such as spaghetti with garlic started appearing, he thought it wasn’t real food. (Don’t even get me started on what he thought about rice.)

Spaghetti with meat sauce and peas was the one pasta dish that my mom made, and whenever my grandfather was there, she’d have to make him his own side dish of boiled potatoes. He spooned the meat sauce over the potatoes and ate them while we feasted on our noodles. I’ve adapted my mother’s recipes, making the sauce lighter and fresher, and I use a healthier, whole grain pasta.

Prep Details

Servings: 6


1 pound whole wheat spaghetti

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas

2 large egg yolks

2 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

2 tbsp. heavy cream

1/2 cup diced pancetta

1 yellow onion chopped

3 garlic cloves chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Zest of 1/2 lemon

1 tbsp. chopped parsley

6 basil leaves


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes, or according to the directions on the package. Strain. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with the olive oil.

2. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with water and ice cubes. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a small pot. Add the peas and simmer for 30 seconds. Remove the peas with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the ice bath to keep the fresh, bright green color. Strain and set aside.

3. Whisk together the egg yolks, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and heavy cream in a small bowl. Set aside.

4. Heat a large sauté pan over low heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until crispy, about 8 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent, another 4 minutes. Add the spaghetti and cook until heated through, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Remove from the heat and toss with the egg-Parmesan mixture and the lemon zest. Garnish with the parsley, basil, and peas, sprinkle with grated Parmesan, and serve immediately.