I am determined to never lose those dishes which I loved and learned as a child. Along with Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches and Hot Dogs, Fried Chicken and Burgers the dishes of the Southern Italian Immigrant kitchen of the late 1890s to 1920s is the single largest pool of dishes I draw on in my own kitchen. The dishes that Grandma and Grandpa brought with them, the American additions or deletions, how Mom interpreted them, these are the things that shape what happens at my stove. BASTABADANN, say it quickly with a long emphasis on the ANN at the end and now you’re talking like my father. This blogpost is all about the Southern Italian dish PASTA E PATATE, or Potatoes and Macaroni. Think Pasta e Fagioli and remove the beans and insert the potatoes. The typical southern Italian kitchen of those days used what was available in ways to stretch the paltry amounts they had to work with. Sad premise but as with much of the world’s cuisine extraordinary dishes with very little have been passed down to us. In 2018’s often misguided food and eating world two hardcore carbohydrates in the same dish can be off putting. Consider this, these soups or stews if you want to give them a label were not meant to be consumed as part of a larger meal. They ARE the meal. Keep an open mind and plan your eating around that and they are not CARB BOMBS. A little tomato, onion or garlic, olive oil, pasta and potatoes, peperoncino to taste are the whole dealio. To those items I add a seasoning, a pinch of oregano or a basil leaf or two and I love to garnish the finished bowl with pieces of hot cherry peppers packed in vinegar. Add Pecorino or Parmigiano to that and you have an amazing bowl of food. Some good bread on the side works too but watch for any Food Police that are lurking by. A few years ago I posted my Pasta e Patate on Facebook and was scolded by someone for over “Carbing” my food. That person the previous day posted a Tuna with Mayo Sandwich on White Bread (toasted) with a layer of Crushed Potato Chips. Ahhh…the Food Police. Watch out for them and ignore them. Common sense says if you’re eating this many carbohydrates pair it with a good bracing salad of greens and maybe some tomatoes or a side of sauteed greens in garlic and olive oil. Balance friends not preaching and bad messages. We will all eat happier that way. Ok, enough of my preaching and onto the PASTA E PATATE. One more note..Pasta e Patate has a tradition (not a rule, and not everyone follows it) of using MIXED MACARONI, ie: different shapes. I like using two together, but they are basically the same shape just in different sizes, TUBETTI and TUBETTINI, one is bigger than the other.
TIME: about 1 1/2 hour or less SERVES: 4-6
1/4 lb. TUBETTINI
1/2 LB. TUBETTI
1 1/4 LBS. PEELED AND CUBED POTATOES, or COARSELY CHOPPED, up to you.
1 fine diced ONION
1/2 stalk CELERY, fine diced
pinch of OREGANO or a few fresh BASIL LEAVES
3 SPRIGS OF ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY
2 TBS. TOMATO PASTE
3 TBS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1 SMALL RIND, PARMIGIANO REGGIANO
KOSHER OR COARSE SEA SALT
3 COARSE CHOPPED HOT VINEGAR CHERRY PEPPERS
PECORINO ROMANO or PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO for grating the finished servings.
Use a large heavy bottomed pot. Add 2 tbs. of the olive oil and add the onions, a pinch of salt, a pinch of peperoncino and the celery Saute’ till soft, about 10 minutes on medium to low flame. Now add the tomato, oregano or basil, parsley, blend, Then add a 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and add the potatoes and season with more salt. Add the Parmigiano Rind if you have it. Cook these on a low boil. Keep an eye on this so that the liquid doesn’t completely evaporate, stirring frequently. If more liquid is needed add it in 1/2 ladle increments. While this is cooking bring a pot of water to the boil, well salted of course and cook the 2 pastas. When they are just al dente, remove them with a slotted spoon and add to the pot of potatoes. Mix well. Add a little olive oil and then check the consistency. Some like this dish “dry”, some a little thick, and some more soupy. This is when you add some of that reserved pasta cooking water to achieve your desired texture. And don’t let the food police tell you your preference is wrong. Throw them out of your kitchen. This dish is made a million different ways. Blend the water and then remove from the heat. Important step here. LET IT SIT. ItalianSoups, maybe soups in general, stews too, get better when they sit for a while, especially over night. Let it sit for at least 1/2 hour. (Longer is better but I’m sure you’re hungry by now!!). TASTE THE DISH AT THIS POINT before you reheat. It may need more salt, or add some grated cheese and see how it tastes, More peperoncino, more olive oil. This is where you learn to not be dependent on a recipe and instead on your cooking intuition. Serve the Pasta e PAtate in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of peperoncino, let your diners GRATE THEIR OWN CHEESE INTO THE BOWL. Wow. Done. Delicious. Ask your diners if they would like some hot vinegar cherry peppers on top. Don’t assume they will like that. I like that, you may not. Serve the peppers in a bowl on the table next to the cheese!!! Fantastic. Buon Appetito!! Happy Cooking!!
Works for Vegetarians. Omit the cheeses and it should work for Vegan and Plant Based Diet followers.