When Kidlandia meets Foodlandia – Part 2: the Princess and the pea (& ham)

Peas and prosciutto side dishPeas… such a kid-friendly shape veggie and still I have yet to hear a kid say “I love peas!” Who can blame them after all? Have you noticed how these little green fellas are generally served to those innocent tummies? Boiled, maybe with some butter if they get lucky… totally tasteless! I wouldn’t eat them unless I found myself starving on a desert island, so why should children?

What are you saying? Ah! Your kid is a picky eater! Well, let me tell you what I think about picky eaters and please, please don’t take it personally because it’s just my opinion and not the truth about the Holy Grail’s whereabouts. I tend to believe that picky eaters do not really exist: oftentimes it is the parents who do not try hard enough. Ouch, I know!!! Why do I think that? But because I was one of those parents (shame on me)!

During the first three years in my daughter’sΒ life, her majesty didn’t eat anything but milk and fruit. I was feeding her kid’s food (including the contents of those bland, tasteless baby food jars), without putting much effort into it, and she simply refused to swallow it. Every meal was a fight. Every meal was a defeat! Oh gosh! I used to hate meal time!

Then, one day, it just struck me: maybe she wanted something else, maybe she was ready for real, grown-up food. Next thing I remember is me holding a pen and a notepad and calling my mother for my first cooking class ever. That’s how I started, that’s how everything started. πŸ™‚

The recipe I’m sharing today is a classic side dish of the Italian cuisine. Every Italian family has their own recipe. This is how it goes in my house.


A quarter of a small onion
4 small (or 2 large) slices of ham
1 1/2 Tbsp, butter
1 Tsp, extravirgin olive oil
1/2 pound, peas
1 cup, beef broth


Peas and prosciutto side dishChop the onion. Cut the ham into slices and cut the slices into cubes.

In a medium non-stick pot, put 1 Tbsp of butter and pour the oil. Add the chopped onion and cook for about 1 or 2 minutes on a very low heat. Add the ham cubes and keep cooking, stirring often, until the onion cubes soften.

Add the peas, some salt (to taste) and the broth. Keep cooking, stirring often, until the broth completely evaporates and the peas are tender (if the peas are not completely cooked yet after the evaporation of the broth, add some water until the peas get tender).

If you want to make the dish extra moist, once the peas are ready, add a 1/2 Tbsp of butter, toss to coat and serve.

Extra Tip: Although this dish was born as a side dish, sometimes I serve it to her majesty with some pasta. When the peas are almost ready, put a pot of salted water on the stove to boil. When the water is boiling add some pasta (I usually use butterflies) and cook it until al dente. Drain the pasta, put it in the pot with the peas and toss to coat. If you want, you can even dust the top of the dish with some grated parmigiano cheese.

Just give it a try. Who knows? Maybe your picky eater will like this. πŸ™‚

We have a couple of rules that we developed with our daughter during the years that – I think – are worth sharing.

First, we taste a dish at least twice before putting it in the “I don’t like it” category.

Second, since her majesty was able to articulate her thoughts, I have been asking her to explain to me why she doesn’t like a particular dish so that I can change the recipe accordingly. And it usually works!

Of course, these rules are not carved in stone… just a little bit of mom-kid experience that I would like to share out there. Quoting Sid from Ice Age: “Worth a shot”! πŸ˜‰

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0 thoughts on “When Kidlandia meets Foodlandia – Part 2: the Princess and the pea (& ham)

  1. Francesca Post author

    Thank you, Laura! It is true. Before her majesty, I was focusing on my crazy busy career, making a lot of money (which usually helps! πŸ˜‰ ), smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, going on shopping sprees as my favorite sport and converting my kitchen space into a walk-in closet! After all, we were going out every night and we even used to have our breakfast in coffee shops and bars!!! Then her majesty arrived and all of the sudden I was responsible, among others, to feed another human being. I was totally lost! But willpower, a family of great cooks and some cooking classes came to the rescue. Quoting Chef Gusteau from Ratatouille: β€œAnyone can cook”, and I think I’m the living proof! πŸ˜‰
    Have a great day, Laura!

  2. laurasmess

    Fantastic post Francesca! I completely and utterly agree with you on the ‘picky eaters’ count. I had a lot of foods that I hated as a tiny child but my mother persisted, night after night, until I ate them. I now pretty much love everything in the ‘hated foods’ category (mushrooms, aubergine, zucchini, tuna) and I am completely in my mother’s debt for her persistence and love. I am glad that you’ve found a way to overcome her majesty’s food habits. I’m surprised to find out that you only started cooking because of her food aversions! Wow. You’re amazing xx

  3. thesinglegourmetandtraveller

    I love peas so like the way they are used so much in Italian food. Delicious recipe! And as for picky eaters, I can’t abide them and my children never were but the payoff to feeding them real, grown-up food is they learnt to cook very young and now they are grown up they cook me amazing food when I visit!

    1. Francesca Post author

      I couldn’t agree more!!! πŸ™‚ They learn to appreciate food and this is something they are going to “carry” with them anywhere they go! One of the best gift a parent can give them. I see you did even better: your children are also “vegetable gardeners”. How cool is that? Hat off to you, mom! πŸ˜‰

  4. ChgoJohn

    It’s as if you’ve stolen a page from my Mother’s cookbook, Francesca, especially when you wrote about adding pasta to the dish. She served this “plain” to get my siblings to eat their peas and served it atop pasta for me. What a great dish! Thank you for sharing your family recipe and for taking me on a trip down Memory Lane. πŸ™‚

    1. Francesca Post author

      Thank you, John!!! I feel honored that, sometimes, my recipes work their magic and bring back memories of your childhood! It happens to me when my mother cooks something that my nonna used to make. It is such a unique, warm feeling! πŸ™‚

  5. Pingback: Egg Pasta Squares and Peas – Quadrucci con i Piselli | My Home Food That's Amore

  6. workingmomcooksblog

    I totally agree…I never met a kid who doesn’t like peas. My kid loves them too. I always keep frozen peas on my fridge and add it as the “green veggie” in the dish. I need make this – easy and delicious πŸ™‚

    1. Francesca Post author

      A picky grown-up child? That’s a great way to put it! πŸ™‚ I’m sure you are. Judging from your cooking skills, it couldn’t be otherwise! πŸ˜‰ Thank you, Jo!

  7. Just Add Attitude

    Francesca your mother’s recipe sounds like a deliciously flavoursome way of serving peas. I am afraid I was a picky eater as a child and I had a total down on vegetables especially cabbage. I now willingly eat all vegetables, except cabbage, but I suspect if I were to cook myself some cabbage using a variation of this recipe that I would enjoy it.

    Take care. Bx

    1. Francesca Post author

      I hear you, B. I eat vegetables too but, if I could, I would only eat carbohydrates. They are my sin and my obsession. I would pick a bowl of pasta, a piece of bread or a slice of pizza over any kind of vegetable every day and twice on Sunday. πŸ˜‰ The only thing refraining me from doing that is my pants’ size. πŸ™‚

  8. Heather (Sweet Precision)

    I need to tuck these bits of wisdom away for when I’m raising my children! I must sadly admit that I have too many friends that have children that are picky eaters. We had a similar rule in our family which was ‘you have to at least try it once.’ What I love the most about your recipe is the simplicity. It shows the busy parent that you don’t have to slave away in the kitchen for hours to produce a dinner that is healthy and tasty. Excellent recipe and advice yet again Francesca, thank you!!

    1. Francesca Post author

      Thank you, Heather! I’m not one of those mothers who has read the entire kid encyclopedia to learn how to raise her child properly. I didn’t even read any book about babies when I was pregnant! Whatever I know I learned it on the field. It is just common sense and take the time to get to know and understand your child. I know it can seem scary and very hard when you are young but love makes miracles. It will happen to you too! Your child will be the happier kid on earth … having the perfect baker as a mother! I mean … every kid’s dream!!! πŸ˜‰

  9. Tracy Lee Karner

    wonderful mommy, you, to figure this out while she is so young, that all you need to do is listen…

    I totally agree. Most picky eaters are merely discriminating eaters — and listening to them really does help overcome their aversions. I was one of those exceedingly picky eaters as a child. But I didn’t want to be picky–I simply couldn’t make myself swallow some things… When I was able to articulate: that potatoes boiled in water tasted like water and I preferred them baked, with a dollop of sour cream; that margarine tasted like plastic and I preferred butter; that Chef Boyardee in a can tasted like pure sugar and I preferred unsugared tomato sauce and herbs; that Minute Rice tasted like nothing at all and I preferred my aunt’s wild rice with mushroom… my mother listened. And I went from starved to nourished.

      1. Tracy Lee Karner

        So true! I was especially lucky since my mother didn’t like to cook at all, and still she tried to please me. And she never forced me to eat the stuff that gagged me (it was common practice in those days to force children to eat everything on their plates).

    1. Francesca Post author

      Thank you, Kimberly! I wish God gave me some kind of talent … writing, painting, taking pictures, acting … you name it but, unfortunately, it was not in my cards … at least in this life. So I enjoy myself playing with food and trying to add an artistic touch to it. I cannot tell you what your comment meant to me. Thanks again, Kim. πŸ™‚