Pasta e Patate
Pasta e patate is one of those Neapolitan dishes that I have always rolled my eyes at, questioning why anyone would put one starch on another, isn’t that a bit much? I had never had it before, even though my husband has been raving about it ever since I met him, with a little drool seeping out the side of his mouth anytime it is mentioned. I gave in the other day, not wanting to go to the store and wanting to try something new, I broke out my Neapolitan bible and looked up the recipe. What I found in the preface for the recipe made me chuckle:
“What are you making for lunch today?” “Pasta e patate.” “In the middle of August?” I was amazed. “If you love pasta e patate the way I do,” said Ida, “you’d know there is no season for it.”
It is the middle of August and we are eating pasta e patate, in some past life I was born and bred in the Pigna Secca.
Pasta e Patate
adapted from Naples at Table by Arthur Schwartz
- 3 to 4 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/8-inch dice (about ½ cup), or 3 to 4 ounces unsmoked or smoked American bacon, cut into 1/8-inch crosswise pieces
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 rib celery, finely chopped (1/3 to 1/2 cup)
- 1 carrot, finely chopped (1/3 to 1/2 cup)
- ½ cup peeled Italian tomatoes, drained and crushed
- ¼ tsp hot red pepper flakes
- 1¼ pound potatoes, peeled and cut into ½- to ¾-inch dice
- 1 parmigiano-reggiano rind about 2 by 3 inches, washed and scraped (I used pecorino romano)
- 3 to 4 tsp salt (I used 3 tsp of sea salt and it was way too salty, I would reduce to 2 at most, you can always add salt later)
- ½ lb pasta mista
In a 4- to 6-quart heavy-bottomed pot, combine the pancetta or bacon and the olive oil over medium heat and fry the pancetta until it starts to crisp.
Stir in the onion, celery, and carrot. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring a few times, until the onion is transluscent, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and hot pepper and continue to cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, for about 4 minutes.
Add the potatoes and cheese rind, and the prosciutto skin if using. Stir well and cook about 4 more minutes, stirring occasionally, again to prevent sticking.
Add 6 cups water and the salt. Cover, increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, still covered, for 20 minutes.
With the liquid at a full, rolling boil, add the pasta. While the pasta cooks at a steady boil, stir regularly to prevent sticking. When the pasta is cooked, but not quite as tender as you’d like, remove the pot from the heat.
Remove the cheese rind and keep the pot covered while cutting the cheese rind into ½-inch or smaller pieces. Stir these pieces into the pot, then let the minestra stand, covered, for about 10 minutes before serving. I would even recommend longer, it only gets better the colder it is.