Pasta e Patate

Pasta and Potatoes

This dish is from Liguria and Piedmont. I am assured this combination of carbohydrate on carbohydrate is, as I write, the latest thing dietetically. Scepticism remains, but this dish is certainly delicious, with a very home-cooked taste. All Italian males above the age of fourteen claim to be great cooks: the reality is different as most of them can’t even make coffee, Mamma does it for them. They can talk about a great dish but would be lost if required to cook it. Fausto, one of the assistants at La Cacciata in 1995, rarely spoke at all before noon, and was hardly loquacious after that, so he completely shocked me one day by quietly producing this perfect dish. Fausto’s Pasta e Patate.

Ingredients

  • 300 g ditali (penne or macaroni)
  • 500 g potatoes, peeled and cut into 5 mm dice
  • 1.5 litres Chicken Broth
  • 1 bunch parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped (keep the stems for the stock)
  • 4 tbsp good olive oil, plus very good oil for the table
  • 1 onion, peeled and very finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
  • salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 75 g Parmesan, freshly grated

Method

Heat the broth to boiling, add the parsley stalks, then simmer for a few minutes. In a trustworthy 4 litre pan or casserole heat the good oil over a medium heat and add the onions and garlic. Soften for a few moments, then add the potatoes and parsley. Stir and soften for a few minutes, still over a medium flame. The potatoes starting to stick will announce the end of this stage. Season with a little salt but rather more coarsely ground black pepper, then sieve all the broth in. Turn up the heat until boiling and then turn down to medium. Simmer until the potatoes are nearly tender then add the pasta. Return to a simmer, then stir and cook for 5 minutes. Stir again, cover and allow to sit off the heat for 5 minutes.

Remove the lid and stir gently again, adding the Parmesan. You stir gently because the potatoes should not break up completely. By now most of the liquid should have been absorbed by the pasta and everything is ready to eat, you merely need to adjust the seasoning. If still rather liquid but the pasta is al dente, serve anyway, telling your guests that it’s always served like that in Genoa. Extra Parmesan and very good olive oil should be offered at the table.

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