Easy Gluten Free Pea Pasta with Chicken 

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Easy Gluten Free Pea Pasta with Chicken

My family loves pasta so I made this gluten free pea pasta on a whim to try to something new. (Even dietitian moms struggle with changing up the types of food we cook!) We always have a bag of frozen peas on hand for ice pack purposes, but I realized that I hadn’t cooked them in quite a while! Peas often get a “bad rap,” but I find that if you mix them with other foods your kids like, they are more likely to eat them!

Why Do Peas Get a Bad Rap?

Here are a few reasons why some people might avoid peas:

  1. Texture: Some people don’t love the texture of peas, describing them as too mushy or mealy. The outer skin of peas can also be somewhat tough, especially if not cooked properly.
  2. Canned or Overcooked Peas: Canning peas or overcooking them can cause them to lose their vibrant color, become mushy, and develop a less appealing taste and texture. Many people prefer the freshness and crispness of properly cooked fresh or frozen peas.
  3. Associations with Childhood Dislikes: Peas tend to be a common food that children are encouraged to eat. I’m sure many of us hold on to memories from the “clean plate club!” Those associations are hard to break! It’s important to give peas a second chance and rediscover ways to cook them as an adult. 

What Are the Health Benefits of Peas?

Peas in pod

Peas, whether fresh or frozen, offer various health benefits due to their nutrient content. Here are some of the reasons why you should include peas in your meal plan:

  1. Rich in Nutrients: Peas are a good source of essential nutrients such as vitamins (including vitamin K, vitamin C, and several B-vitamins), minerals (such as iron, zinc, and magnesium), and antioxidants.
  2. High in Fiber: Peas contain a significant amount of dietary fiber, which is essential for digestive health. Fiber helps promote regular bowel movements, prevents constipation, and supports a healthy gut microbiome. It can also help regulate blood sugar levels and increase satiety.
  3. Protein Content: Peas are a plant-based source of protein, which is important for muscle development, repair, and overall body function. They can be a valuable protein source for vegetarians and vegans (or picky kids who avoid meat!).
  4. Heart Health: Peas contain heart-healthy nutrients such as potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure. Their antioxidant content may contribute to overall cardiovascular health.
  5. Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Peas contain flavonoids and phytonutrients which have anti-inflammatory properties. This may help reduce inflammation in the body and lower the risk of chronic diseases.
  6. Supports Bone Health: The combination of vitamins and minerals in peas, including vitamin K and manganese, contributes to maintaining healthy bones and preventing bone-related issues.
  7. Versatile and Easy to Include in Diet: Peas are versatile and can be easily incorporated into a variety of dishes, including salads, stir fry dishes, soups, side dishes, and this gluten free pea pasta!

It’s important to note that the nutritional content varies depending on whether the peas are fresh, frozen, or canned. I know many people think they have to buy fresh vegetables to get any real nutritional benefit. Frozen vegetables, and legumes such as peas, retain many of their nutrients due to the quick freezing process. Canned vegetables tend to have added sodium and vary the most in texture. I prefer frozen peas if I am not going to use fresh. 

Wait, Are Peas a Vegetable or a Legume?

Picture of different legumes

I know we often think of peas as a vegetable, but they are actually a legume! Legumes are a family of plants that produce seeds in pods. The term “legume” refers to the fruit or seed of these plants, which is typically contained within the pods. In the case of peas, the peas themselves are the seeds contained within the pods, making them legumes. Other examples of legumes include beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peanuts.

How Are Legumes Different Than Vegetables?

We just learned that legumes produce seeds in pods, while we usually eat the leaves, stems, roots, and fruits of vegetables. One of the biggest nutritional differences is that legumes contain more protein than vegetables. Peas, for example, contain 4 grams of protein per ½ cup, compared to ½ gram of protein for most vegetables. 

How to Serve Peas

I think many of us probably grew up eating peas a side dish, maybe steamed with a little butter on them, or maybe mixed in rice or soups. Let’s be honest, plain peas are just not that exciting! When introducing a new food for kids, or one with a bad rap like peas, I pair it with foods and/or flavors that I know they already love so there is a higher chance of them trying and enjoying it. I chose a pasta dish because that is usually a win in our household and quick for weeknights.

Gluten Free Pea Pasta

Looking at other recipes out there, many just have some combo of peas, pasta, and parmesan, give or take bacon and cream sauce. I decided to add red peppers and mushrooms to our gluten free pea pasta for a mix of flavors and color. One kiddo loves mushrooms and the other loves cooked peppers, so that way there is another veggie in there they will eat as well. I kept the parmesan because who doesn’t love parmesan cheese?! If you are dairy free you can eliminate it or substitute for a dairy free variety. 

If you have read some of my other blog posts, you might know that my youngest daughter was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease, so we have become a gluten free household. Thankfully there are a ton of options now, and finding gluten free pasta varieties is not too difficult. I was able to find a gluten free fettuccini noodle at my local H-E-B grocery store, but you can use regular or whole wheat pasta as well. 

Recipe

Easy Gluten Free Pea Pasta with Chicken

Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: gluten free pea pasta
Servings: 6 people

Equipment

  • large frying/saute pan
  • large cooking spoon
  • large pot
  • strainer
  • knife
  • cutting board
  • measuring spoons
  • measuring cup, liquid

Ingredients

  • 16 oz gluten free fettuccine noodles (we used Barilla gluten free fettuccine pasta, but you can use regular or whole wheat pasta, too!)
  • 1 ½ lbs chicken, cut into strips or bite-sized chunks
  • 8 oz mushrooms (I prefer sliced baby bellas)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic (if you know me, you know we don't skimp on the garlic! Add as much or as little as you prefer)
  • 1 tbsp chicken broth paste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan cheese (we add when serving)

Instructions

  • Place a pot of water to boil for your pasta.
  • Chop the red bell pepper and onion.
  • Preheat your frying/sauté pan and add about 1-2 tbsp olive oil. Add the chicken and garlic and cook over medium heat until cooked through, about 7-8 minutes.
  • At this point your water should be boiling. Add your pasta and don't forget to set your timer according to the package cooking directions.
  • When the chicken is cooked, add the red pepper, onion, mushrooms, oregano, basil, thyme, salt and pepper. Sauté until veggies are tender.
  • Add ¾ cup water and chicken broth paste and stir until heated through and mixed well. This liquid will serve as a light pasta sauce.
  • Add the frozen peas until heated through, be careful not to overcook.
  • Your pasta should be done. Drain, rinse, and then add it to the chicken, pea, and veggie mixture. Mix well to coat the pasta with the sauce. Top with Parmesan and enjoy!

Notes

Tips for picky eaters:
  • For kiddos who don’t love food mixed together, you can separate out some of the chicken, pea, and veggie mixture before you add in the pasta, then serve a bowl of pasta on the side. You can mix the pasta with a bit of olive oil and Parmesan cheese as well!

About the Author

Dru Rosales

Dru Rosales, MS, RD, LD is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. She specializes in children and adolescents with a focus on eating disorders, weight management, and sports nutrition. Dru received her Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology from the University of Southern California and her Master’s Degree in Nutritional Science from California State University, Los Angeles.

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