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Easy Ham and Pea Risotto

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This simple Ham and Pea Risotto is perfect for quick weeknight meals, utilizing either leftover ham or deli ham, and incorporates a uncommon ingredient that we all on hand. It’s a satisfying meal that’s easier to make than traditional risotto!

Three quarter view of Ham and Pea Risotto in a white pasta bowl with microgreens

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Keep this recipe on hand the next time you have leftover ham or are craving ham’s sweet and smokey flavor for an easy weeknight dinner.

Or when fancy restaurant food is calling your name, but you want to avoid ordering pickup, make it at home with mostly pantry ingredients in minutes.

What to Love About This Easy Ham and Pea Risotto

  • Creamy and utterly delicious
  • A quick method reduces hands-on cooking
  • Great recipe for leftover ham… or deli ham!

Best Consistency for Risotto

Cooked risotto should be al dente — this means, the rice should be fully cooked yet still somewhat firm. If you want a soft risotto, simply add an extra 1/2 cup of liquid.

The Italians say it best, they have a phrase, “la onda,” they use to describe perfectly cooked risotto. “La onda” is like “a wave that slowly rolls to shore.” Think thick porridge, when you “run a spatula through the risotto, it should flow slowly back to fill in the space.”

Side view of Easy Ham and Pea Risotto with microgreens and shavings of Parmesan in a white pasta bowl

What is Easy Risotto

While cooking traditional risotto is simple, it takes a bit of time and a lot of focused stirring. In fact, it’s said that when making risotto, it should be your only job in the kitchen.

As you know, it requires stirring and ladling and stirring some more, and ladling more until the rice is creamy and delicious and at perfect consistency. There is no substitute for this traditional method.

But this easy risotto recipe gets really close.

And there is no constant stirring and ladling for 30 minutes or more. It’s just… really simple.

Now, about that secret ingredient…

The Secret Ingredient

I mentioned in the intro that this ham and pea risotto contains a secret ingredient. Curious?

You might be surprised, as was I when I first made it with that secret ingredient. Before you roll your eyes… you have to try it, especially with already salted ingredients (like ham and cheese).

The secret ingredient for incredibly easy and delicious risotto is salted water. As you know, most risotto recipes will call for broth or stock (several of my instant pot recipes like do too). But in this recipe, salted water works best.

And it’s an ingredient everyone has on hand, which makes it even more delicious.

For the skeptics, if you think about it, broth is essentially a liquid that draws flavor from what you add to it. Essentially, risotto makes it’s own broth from cooking.

As Mark Bittman, food writer for the New York Times explains, stock is simple the “extraction of flavor from solids by the addition of water. Since you’re adding water to whatever you’re using to make risotto, you’re arguably making it as part of the process.”

Ham and Pea Risotto ingredients on a round wood board

Easy Ham and Pea Risotto Ingredients

Specific ingredient measurements are in the recipe card below.

  • Butter for sauteing
  • Small onion, this could be a shallot, yellow onion, or even green onions
  • Garlic cloves, minced
  • Risotto rice, like Arborio
  • Frozen peas
  • Ham: You will want thick ham, leftover ham is delicious but thickly sliced deli ham works well too.
  • Dijon mustard for quick flavor: this is an optional addition. My husband loves it, I think it’s flavorful enough without it.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or your favorite Italian cheese
  • Toppings: pea shoots, microgreens, or fresh herbs like parsley, mint, thyme, etc., and more cheese.

How to Make Easy Ham and Pea Risotto

Easy step-by-step instructions are in the recipe card below, but here’s a quick overview:

Heat water with 1 teaspoon of salt (or salt to taste). If your ham is especially salty, you might want to eliminate or reduce the salt. Hint: If you have an electric tea kettle, it can do double duty for quickly heating the water. And then you can enjoy a nice cup of tea while the risotto cooks (smile).

Top view of onion cooking in butter in a Dutch oven
Toasting arborio rice, garlic, and onion in a Dutch oven for risotto

Melt 2 tablespoons butter, sauté onion until soft; 2 minutes. Toss in rice and garlic and roast for 2 minutes.

Pour in salted water and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Reduce heat, and stir in the peas, ham, mustard, cheese, and butter. Cook a few minutes until the desired consistency is reached.


Closeup view of Ham and Pea Risotto in a white bowl on a wooden paddle.

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Three quarter view of Ham and Pea Risotto in a white pasta bowl with microgreens

Easy Ham and Pea Risotto

Easy Ham and Pea Risotto is a quick meal using deli or leftover ham, frozen peas, and cheese. Satisfying, delicious and ready in 30 minutes!
5 from 3 votes
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6 servings


  • 6 cups water heated, with salt to taste
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups risotto rice, like Aborio
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup ham diced into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano plus more for serving
  • 1 cup pea shoots, optional or fresh parsley


  • Heat water and 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste) in a saucepan over medium heat until steaming; keep warm.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Then add the rice and garlic; cook, stirring until toasted, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Pour in the salted water and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes on medium heat, stirring frequently.
  • Reduce the heat to low and stir in the peas, ham, mustard, Parmesan cheese, and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Cook for another few minutes, stirring until the liquid is absorbed and the risotto is at desired consistency.
  • Serve with additional Parmesan cheese, pea shoots, or microgreens. You can also add fresh herbs like parsley or fresh mint.



Calories: 332kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 30mg | Sodium: 510mg | Potassium: 205mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 379IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 125mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: easy risotto, ham and pea risotto

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