Italian Ground Beef, Peas and Onions

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I am republishing this 20 minutes RECESSION DELICIOUS recipe (initially posted in 2012) because grocery prices are crazy right now. This is fast, delicious and can be altered.  We love this ground peas and peas just as is, but you can add in pasta, potato or rice.

Ground Beef and Peas

One day in the past, I stumbled upon a video of a 91-year old Italian-American grandmother, cooking pasta and peas just the way her mother cooked them nearly every night for her family during the depression.

She used an onion, a potato, and a can of peas,…. all items that didn’t need refrigeration and cost mere pennies.

This took me back to a year ago when I attended a pot luck at the Italian Club in Nashville. Someone had brought this dish that I couldn’t stop eating.

It was a sauté of ground beef, peas, onions, and olive oil. Out of all the things I could have treated myself to, this dish took my plate back for three helpings.

I am not hear to talk about socio-economic times, discuss politics or to depress you. I’m not a complainer, but I am a dreamy realist. I see the world through food. (that statement was written in 2009 during the recession, and here we are today in 2024), in strange times for different reasons.

Can I be brutally honest with you?  While I count my blessings every day to have a warm bed and good food to eat, I am in sticker shock every time I go to the grocery store.  I shop daily because it’s convenient for me. I can walk to my local Publix and I make myself walk almost daily to the Whole Foods (3.5 miles one way).

I try to choose grass fed beef which is healthier, but let’s face it, at $8 a pound, sometimes I choose something else.

As a food blogger, I probably do cook in my kitchen more than most and am acutely aware of how the prices have gone up. I’m also aware of how diseases related to fast food are on the rise, and how families no longer sit at the table the way they probably did for that Italian grandmother.

Ground Beef with Peas and Onions

Ground Beef and Peas is Budget Friendly

If we need to adjust our budget (and we do), my first concern is my food budget.  What do I need to sacrifice?

That’s why I have easy, healthy, real food choices, that are fast, and practically brainless.

The grandmother in the video made me think of my grandmother, who lived through the depression, but was like me, in that she liked good food good. And, she knew how to make a five minute meal taste like a new culinary invention.

Today is my grandmother’s birthday. She would be 105 years old. She would still be cooking the exact same way…healthy, flavorful, uniquely fast, perhaps influenced a bit by the depression. Don’t try to picture the little Italian grandmother standing at the stove for hours cooking for her family.

My grandmother owned her own beauty salon, and cooked exactly once a week on Sunday night, only after all her clothes and sheets were pressed, and her newspapers were read. She was a rare beauty that never stepped foot in town in a “uniform.” She was a fashionista, donning heels, hat and gloves and threw her curvy body on a bus every day to get to down town, making a scene as if the paparazzi were following her.

Her allure and charm weren’t cut out from her Sunday night quick fires. Everything she made was authentic, such as spinach fritters, chicken and olives, or crabs and spaghetti, but it was fast, quick, earthy and a bit sexy, always hitting the senses with a surprise.

Italian Ground Beef with Peas and Onions from an Italian Grandmother

There would be lecture that “americanos” pronounced “ameriganos” don’t know how to eat. I look at their skin and I can smell their hair and know the garbage they are eating. But, you my Angela (pronounced Ahngela) have a grandmother that knows about food. Just look at me and you can see that I eat right.” Yes, she said that.

Since her day, the American diet has changed in that on one hand it has gotten worse, and on the other hand it has gotten much better. There are two different kinds of kitchens cooking (or microwaving) in America today. I’m grateful my grandmother Rose Dee (mother of Retro Rose) pointed me in her direction and never owned a microwave.

How to Make Ground Beef with Peas and Onions

Ground beef with peas and onions may not exactly be a “depression” dish, but perhaps a bit reminiscent of the peas and pasta dish that blanketed many Italian Americans during the true depression era and even my grandmother’s table.

A sauté of peas and onions is very Italian. You must use olive oil for the right flavor and a good sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Simplicity always requires great ingredients. Peas and onions are good alone, or combined with rice or with potatoes, but with ground beef, it’s dinner.

I will not tell you to mix three kinds of ground meat together to make it more “foodie” or to pretend this is restaurant fare. It’s not. It’s meant to be Sunday night home cooking.

You can use whatever ground meat you desire, even ground lamb would be quite tasty, but this is just ground beef and not extra lean. You want good (I mean animal-treated right) good, ground beef that has some fat in it, because that is where the taste is.

Ground Beef Ideas from Spinach Tiger

I would eat this any time, though because it’s just good food and so would you. Don’t you dare call it hamburger helper or ground beef casserole or I will come and put tape over your mouth and eat this in front of you. It’s rustic, but that doesn’t mean it’s a compromise.

It’s good food, in fact, it’s delicious food that will stretch your budget and your view of ground beef and what fast and affordable can be. Just serve with a nice loaf of crusty bread to sop up the juices, and don’t forget that glass of red wine.

Here is a different version of this recipe, with added greens.

More Ground Beef Recipes from Spinach Tiger

Print Recipe
4.20 from 41 votes

Recession Delicious – Italian Ground Beef, Peas and Onions

An easy delicious way to eat ground beef with an Italian twist, green peas, onions.
Servings: 4


  • 1 large white onion diced
  • 1 pound ground beef seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 – 2 cups frozen peas
  • olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • red chile flakes
  • freshly grated parmesan or pecorino optional
  • fresh herbs mint, parsley, basil, oregano, thyme…they all work


  • Heat olive oil and butter. Add onions, saute until soft.
  • Add ground beef that has already been flavored with salt and pepper. Cook until medium rare.
  • Add in frozen peas, right at end and allow them to defrost and heat up, while the meat is on its way to medium-well done. Toss in fresh herbs, red chile flakes. Season to taste.


This is an EASY recipe. You may be tempted to keep adding other ingredients, but the simplicity is what gives this dish it’s proper structure and flavor. More is not always more.

Please follow me on instagram. If you make this recipe,  please tag me #spinachtiger.

If you love this recipe, please give it five stars. It means a lot. xoxo

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  1. I was just trying to find a recipe that only my father made, back in the 50s and 60s, and only when Mom was working. He called it Scotch Maggie, though I’ve no idea where that name came from. It too involved ground beef, onion, potato and peas, but was very watery. He came from a poor family so adding water to feed lots of kids was probably normal to him. I didn’t find Scotch Maggie, but found your recipe instead. And it looks a lot more to my now much more refined taste. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. 5 stars
    My father-in-law ate pasta every night I knew him in various configurations. This was one of his favorites. But it was with potatoes, a small bit of crushed tomatoes and the leaves from celery. And ALWAYS with regular spaghetti. It was called “Mineshinedu” (the phonetic spelling). A very filling meal although my father-in-law ate it as a starter for the full Italian meal.My mother-in-law was an outstanding cook who started cooking at noon every day for dinner.

  3. I love everything about this. btw, I actually was playing with possible ingredients that included ground beef, fresh garden peas, onion, fresh garden greens (including kale) and frozen fresh tomatoes. The photograph of the second skillet intrigues me.

    Found it!!

    This first post definitely resonates with my own tastes. Will be checking further in. Following now on Facebook and Pinterest, too. Thank you.

    Hmm … every time I try to click the “Notify me of new posts by email” I’m directed immediately to this page… Ah… I just had to get the click box further removed from the ad at the bottom of the screen.

  4. 5 stars
    I made this tonight because I needed to clean out my refrigerator before a trip. I had thawed ground beef, a bag of peas, and some Parmesan. It is absolutely delicious and has such a clean, simple feel. I used half a white onion sauteed in butter and olive oil, added dried rosemary, dried thyme, dried parsley and garlic powder, then added the seasoned ground beef, half a bag of frozen green peas and half a can of peas, about a tablespoon of red chili flakes, and Parmesan at the end. So good and incredibly simple. Thank you for sharing!

  5. 5 stars
    This is my favorite recipe for ground beef, and it works with venison, too (with a little more butter). Delicious– people always ask for this recipe, and all of it always gets eaten. I always make this with the intention of having leftovers for the next day, and it never happens 🙂 Thanks for sharing this!

  6. 5 stars
    Delicious! I made it tonight, and I used mint, which sounded a little weird, but it turned out delicious. I made a simple meal of it with just crusty bread and wine. Nothing else. Not even a salad.

  7. I was looking for a recipe to use up some hamburger and peas tonight and found your blog and immediately thought “A blog photo with HAMBURGER!?!?!” You are so right–that is something that never happens!

  8. Italian cooking is among the world’s richest and most varied, with dishes perfect for every occasion.Italian cuisine has developed through centuries of social and political changes, with roots as far back as the 4th century.Italian cuisine is characterized by its extreme simplicity, with many dishes having only four to eight ingredients.Italian cuisine has become famous as one of the richest in the world.
    Italian Restaurants In Dublin

  9. I love this article! Your grandmother sounds like she was a sassy and interesting lady!
    And you’re totally right about the lack of real, home-cooked, no-frills cooking on food blogs. It seems like everyone is trying to up-one each other, and we’re forgetting about the simple dishes that are better suited for our current economic times. We can learn a lot from our grandmothers, who made so much out of so little. Thanks for sharing!

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