Recipe: Pasta e patate (Soup of potatoes, tomatoes and pasta)

By Silvia Nacamulli, October 17, 2008

his is an old recipe from my late grandmother, Nonna Emma. It has both potatoes and pasta so if you are on a low carbohydrate diet, this dish is not for you.

Tomatoes are key in this recipe and so is a tasty "soffritto". The anchovy and the chilli give a kick and there is no need to use any stock. However, remember to add a good amount of salt, as otherwise it will taste bland. If you don't plan to eat the whole soup at the same time, then cook the pasta only in the quantity of soup you plan to eat. If you cook all the pasta and you don't finish the soup then the pasta will go mushy and will absorb all the liquid. You can also make it less Italian and leave the pasta out altogether.

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Serves 6-8
Time: one hour

5-6 potatoes (about 500-600g)
400g plum tomatoes in tomato juice (from a tin) or passata
1 finely chopped carrot
1 finely chopped celery stick
1 finely chopped onion
3 crushed cloves of garlic
4-5 leaves of fresh basil
5-6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 anchovy fillet (optional)
Pinch of dry crushed chilli (optional)
1.2 litres boiling water
200g small macaroni pasta or similar shape
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese (optional)

● Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a medium sauce pan and add the onion, the celery, one finely chopped carrot.
● TIP: add a few tablespoons of water to soften all the ingredients.
● Once the water has evaporated, add the garlic, the anchovy fillets, the chilli, and some salt and pepper. Leave this ‘soffritto' to cook for 5 minutes.
● The ‘soffritto' is the starting point and the first step in building layers of flavour in most Italian dishes. The ingredients are cooked slowly, until they wilt and become aromatic. In this case, it is a fundamental step in order to have a tasty soup.
● While the soffritto cooks, peel, dice (2x2 cm, ¾ in) and wash the potatoes. Once the soffritto has softened, break the tomatoes and add them to the soffritto with the juice.
● Leave to cook, over a low flame, for 5-8 minutes and then add the potatoes.
● Stir well and add the boiling water, extra salt (about a tablespoon) and cover almost completely with a lid. Leave the potatoes to cook, stirring occasionally, for about ½ an hour or until cooked, over a low flame.
● Taste and add more salt if needed.
● Once the potatoes are cooked, add the pasta and leave to cook for as long as the package says. Add the fresh basil and serve hot.
● Grate some Parmesan cheese over the soup (optional).

Last updated: 1:55pm, October 16 2008