When I was in Tuscany researching recipes for my book Italian Holiday Cooking a few years ago, I met a young woman who was a winemaker.  Like everyone else I met on that trip,  I asked her what foods her family prepared for the Christmas holidays, expecting her to name something old and traditional.  Instead, she looked a little embarrassed and said, “We are all so busy, we don’t have the time to do anything special.”  Disappointed, I replied, “But you have to eat something.”  “Well,” she said, “we’ll make something easy like roast chicken and Seven P Pasta.”

My ears perked up.  “What does that mean?” I asked, horrified at the thought of  seven green peas in a bowl of pasta.  But it turned out the seven “P’s” stand for the ingredients:  penne, pancetta, porri (leeks), pomodori (tomatoes), peperoncino (hot pepper), panna (cream) and Parmigiano Reggiano.

She told me how she made it and at home I gave it a try.   It was a big hit–just right for the holidays since it is really quick and easy, but it seemed special because of the cream and the leeks.  Since then, I always make sure I have the ingredients in the house during the holidays, ready to make this delicious pasta.  It may not be an old recipe, but it is a new tradition in our house.

Selvapiana Pasta with Seven P’s

Serves 4 to 6

1 medium tender leek

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 ounces sliced pancetta, chopped

1 small dried peperoncino, crumbled, or a pinch of crushed red pepper

2 cups drained canned Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped


1 pound penne rigati or other short ridged pasta

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Trim the leek and cut it in half lengthwise.  Rise well under cool running water, separating the layers to remove any grit.  Cut crosswise into thin slices.

2. In a nonreactive skillet large enough to hold all of the ingredients including the cooke pasta, combine the oil, pancetta, leek and peperoncino.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leek is tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Stir in the tomatoes and a pinch of salt.  Simmer for 10 minutes more or until thickened.

4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boiling over high heat.  Add the pasta and salt to taste and cook stirring frequently, until the pasta is tender yet firm to the bite.

5.  Just before the pasta is done stir the cream into the tomato mixture and bring it to a simmer over medium low heat.  Drain the pasta, reserving a small amount of the water.  Pour the pasta into the skillet and toss well, adding a little of the reserved water if it seems too dry.  Add the cheese and toss well.  Serve hot.

Copyright 2001 Italian Holiday Cooking by Michele Scicolone

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    • Michele Scicolone