I’ve been somewhat fascinated by the idea of putting potatoes in a pasta dish since I first saw a recipe for it a couple years ago, and my Inner American gasped “All of that starch! How totally unhealthy!” forgetting, as usual, that the people in the world that eat dishes like this are for the most part, 75 percent of the size of your average American.
But the disconnect between American dieting ideals and results is not what I wanted to discuss today, promise. This is really about it being late winter in the Northeast, a good month or two before the local produce looks particularly tempting and being kind of sick to death of everything readily available. Suddenly, potatoes and pasta don’t just sound feasible, but like they’re the best idea, ever. Throw in some sharp, spicy arugula and rosemary, if that’s your thing, and you might also wonder why you haven’t made it sooner.
Pasta with Potatoes and Rocket
Adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables
My only grievance with this dish, if there could be one, was the amount of garlic in it. For some reason, 4 to 6 clovers for a dish that only lightly sautees it and does not suspend it in a sauce seemed way over the top. (Or perhaps have I lost my taste for “unmistakeably all-American” doses of garlic.) I’d use one clove next time, perhaps two.
1 pound firm boiling potatoes (I’d recommend fingerlings, even though we couldn’t find them)
About 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 bunches rocket (about a half pound)
1 small red onion
4 to 6 cloves of garlic, or as per my experience, 1 or 2
1 sprig rosemary (optional)
3/4 pound penne or other tubular pasta
Preheat the oven to 400°. Slice the potatoes about 1/3 inch thick and toss them with a small amount of the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread them in a single layer in an ovenproof dish or on a baking sheet (I like to line mine with parchment, to make everything — and clean-up, easier) and roast in the oven until they are golden brown and cooked through, about 15 minutes. (Mine took a bit longer.)
Meanwhile, wash the rocket* (older, larger leaves are preferable to the tender sprouts), drain, and set aside. Slice the red onion thin. Peel and chop fine the garlic cloves and the rosemary leaves. Put a large pot of salter water on to boil for the pasta.
When the potatoes are done, remove them from teh oven and put the pasta on to boil. Heat a saute pan, add some of olive oil, and saute the sliced onion until it is soft and translucent and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the rocket and garlic, and saute both until they just begin to wilt and soften. Lower the heat, add the potato slices and rosemary and toss together for a minutre or two. When the noodles are done, drain them and add them to the potatoes and onion. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and toss everything together. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve.
* I’m kind of a nut about arugula-washing techniques, so here is my tried-and-true method: Get a very big bowl. Fill it with cold, cold water. Cut the attached part of the arugula bundle off (so they’re in individual sprigs) and drop the bundle in the water. Have a colander nearby. Swish, swish, swish the arugula around with your hand and then scoop it up and dump it in the colander, being careful not to pick up the sandy dirt you’ve just dropped to the bottom of the water. (That’s the genius, by the way, the dirt always drops off.) If the water is still foggy/beige, rinse the bowl out and repeat this process until it is clear, and the sand at the bottom is at a minimum. Shake out the lettuce in the colander and either spin it in a salad spinner or spread it out on a big dish towel until it is dry. I actually wash all lettuces this way, but arugula, being particularly dirt-crusted, is particularly made for this technique.