Butterfly Pasta with Peas, Tomatoes, Sausage, and Cream

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

This is a luscious and simple sauce, definitely one of my everyday favorites. The cream softens the edges of the tomato sauce without making it overly rich. Of course, my preference is to use just-picked fresh peas, but they are a fleeting pleasure. Using frozen petite peas will allow you to enjoy this sauce more than just a few weeks a year.

NotesIn times past, I would peel, seed, and dice fresh plum tomatoes for sauce. Then I learned an easier way. Grating plum tomatoes produces a skinless, seedless pulp in less time, with less equipment. To grate tomatoes, you need a four-sided, stainless-steel box grater. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds and juice with your fingers. Holding the cut side of a tomato half against the grater’s large holes, grate until only the thin tomato skin remains in your palm.

Serves4 to 6

Cooking Methodsauteeing



Total Timeunder 1 hour

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free


Taste and Texturecheesy, chewy, creamy, hot & spicy, meaty, savory, umami

Type of Dishdry pasta, pasta


  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 4 to 6 ounces hot Italian sausage, preferably with fennel seed
  • 1 pound ripe plum tomatoes, grated (see Notes)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds English peas, shelled (about 2 cups)
  • 1 pound farfalle, gemelli, or fusilli
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

  2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over moderately low heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the sausage from its casing if necessary and add it to the skillet, breaking it up with a fork. Cook just until it loses most of its pinkness, then add the tomatoes and simmer gently until the tomatoes are softened and no longer raw-tasting, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  3. Put the peas in a sieve that fits inside the pot of water, resting on the edges of the pot, and cook them in the boiling water until tender, about 5 minutes. Lift them out and add them to the skillet. Keep the cooking water at a boil.

  4. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until 1 minute shy of al dente. Set aside 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the warm pot over moderately low heat. Add the sauce and cook for about 1 minute to allow the pasta to absorb some of the flavor of the sauce. Moisten with some of the reserved pasta water as needed. Stir in the cheese, then divide among warm bowls and serve immediately.

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