26 February 2017

Pasta and Potatoes / Pasta e Patata - A Classic Recipe to Chase the Chill Away

Pasta and Potato
Pasta and Potatoes
It's still chilly these days even though February this year was milder than usual and bowls of hearty vegetables and pasta still go a long way to taking the edge of that chill off. This particular recipe I started making this summer after one of our volunteers, Mascia, prepared us one of her favorite dishes, her grandmother's recipe for pasta e patata, or pasta and potatoes. It's always a treat when someone cooks for us, and especially so when its from one of our volunteers. We've had a variety of International cuisines over the years, Japanese, French, Dutch, Italian vegan / macrobiotic and even my familiar American. 



Most everyone can always use another pasta dish to add to their repertoire.This one seems to be a classic dish in many parts of Italy with as many variations as their are cooks I would imagine. In it's simplest form it is very much like what many of us think of as minestrone soup without the beans. Some people like to add a bit of saltiness and flavor punch by adding in some form of porky cut of meat with various levels of fattiness and smokiness or not. Some like a bit of red pepper zippiness or a touch of oregano. Most are a thick "stick to your ribs" kind of consistency. The Neapolitan version is  finished off in an oven proof dish smothered in smoked, or not, provolone cheese slices and heated till the cheese melts and served right away. 
This version is a simpler straight forward version that Mascia insisted that the butter used to sauté the vegetables was her nonna's secret ingredient.  Here in the north they are fond of using butter and it does make a tasty addition to this simple dish and is highly recommended. What ever your preference might be I think you will find this classic pasta dish a great comfort and "go to" recipe for any day of the week. 
Thanks Mascia for sharing your nonna's recipe. 


Yield : 4 servings

Ingredients:

2-3 T olive oil, extra virgin
30g / 2 T butter
50 g smoked pancetta, prosciutto, or guanciale (optional)*
80 g / 1/2 c  white onion 
80 g / 1/2 c carrots, diced
80 g / 1/2 c  celery, diced
100 g / 2/3 c cherry tomatoes or pachino, blanched, peeled and diced

3 ½ – 4 cups water or stock
1 vegetable bullion cube, use if you don't have chicken or vegetable stock
500 g / 2 3/4 c potatoes (peeled and cubed)
160 g / 1 1/3 c small shaped pasta ( small tubes, wheels, gnocchetti, mixed pasta, half penne)
2 -3 Parmigiana or Grana Padana crusts (optional)*
Parsley chopped to garnish  or some oregano as some recipes call for 

Grated Parmigiana to sprinkle
Salt and pepper  or hot red pepper to taste

*Variation: In Naples and other southern parts of Italy they will put the finished dish in oven proof bowls and cover the top with some slices of smoked provolone cheese. Heating it to melt the cheese before serving.

Directions:

In a medium pot, at least 2 qt/L, heat your pan, then add the butter and olive oil.
Once the butter has melted and the oil is heated, add the diced onion, carrot and celery.
Sauté the vegetables on a medium heat for a few minutes.
Cook until the vegetables are soft, but hasn't picked up any color, about 3-5 minutes.
Then add the meat if using, and tomatoes, cook a few more minutes.
Add 3 cups of water to the sautéed vegetables along with bullion cube, if using
and the potatoes and pasta.
Taste and adjust seasonings keeping in mind that the crusts will add salt to the dish.
Add the Parmigiana crusts if you have them.
Cook until the potatoes and pasta are cooked, adding the other ½ -1 cup of additional water to reach a creamy texture, but not too soupy.
Serve hot and garnish with Parmigiana if desired. 

Buon appetito!!

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