- 7 oz of mixed pasta
- 4 potatoes
- 2 onions
- 7 oz of provola
- olive oil to taste
- basil to taste
- salt to taste
- Pepper and parmesan to serve, if desired
Pasta and potatoes is a classic Neapolitan dish. Nowadays every famous, and not so famous, chef on TV would say that this dish is not properly balanced, because it contains too many carbohydrates, since it features both pasta and potatoes. In Naples, though, it’s considered a first course dish fit for kings, thanks to its incredible creaminess, the sweet yet intense taste and the wonderful scent of basil. Like most Neapolitan recipes, it is, undoubtedly, a dish of humble origins. It is thought to date back to the 17th century, just a little after tubers and other vegetables were imported from the New World. It first became popular in the Kingdom of Naples and then spread other nearby areas. Some sources report that the recipe appeared in written form for the first time, in 1773, penned by Vincenzo Corrado in Il cuoco galante (“The Gallant Cook”). In order to prepare nutritious, but cheap meals, the poorer classes used to use potatoes in many dishes, and for the same reason the original recipe suggests using mixed pasta shapes: leftovers, or even small amounts of different pasta which really poor people begged for from door to door. Even today, in Neapolitan dialect, mixed pasta is called “munnezzaglia” (a word generally indicating garbage). In relatively modern times, and to this very day, it is still considered a cheap dish. Not long ago, housewives used to prepare a potato gravy enriched with parmesan rind, prosciutto bones, or pork rind. There is a version with tomatoes and a “white” (without tomato) one; both are equally common, depending on the preference of each Neapolitan family. Even today, in every respected Neapolitan trattoria, in addition to pasta and beans, pasta and potatoes is also served, usually in its white version, with spun curd provola cheese. In Naples, food is a religion, and respecting traditions is a cult. Not infrequently, Pasta con le Patate is brought to the table in wide white enameled ceramic pots: an item that anyone looking inside grandparents’ old cupboards in Naples, will find.
Clean the onion, eliminating the external parts and removing the dirt, if present. Finely cut the onion and then mince it. Wash and peel the potatoes. Cut them roughly, each slice a different size: this way, the small pieces will melt while cooking, and the bigger ones will remain intact.
In a casserole, add some oil, and, on medium heat, cook the minced onion, make sure it does not burn. Once the onion is transparent, add the potatoes and briefly cook them. Then, add some water in turns, and keep cooking until the potatoes are soft. Add the minced basil.
At this point, add pasta to the casserole, making sure there is enough water for it to cook. Some more water might need to be added. Add salt and let it cook until the pasta is al dente and the bottom is creamy and solid. Turn off the heat and add the provola, cut in small cubes, stirring until it is completely melted. Serve. The dish is already pretty tasty, but, if you want, you can add some grated parmesan.