Our cheesy pasta and potatoes recipe for the Southern Italian pasta e patate makes a home-cooked comfort food dish you’re unlikely to see on Italian restaurant menus unless you get off the tourist trail or into a local home. While the Neapolitan pasta, patate e provola with provolone cheese is best known, Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano can also be used.
This cheesy pasta and potatoes recipe for the Southern Italian pasta e patate is one of those Italian comfort food dishes that I love to tuck into in a bowl on the couch in my pyjamas during a Netflix binge session. It’s that kind of meal.
If we are eating it at the table, we’re going to keep things simple – some slices of sourdough and a simple rucola and tomato salad are all it needs. If we were renting an apartment in Italy, we’d be pouring tumblers of a simple table wine.
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Now let me tell you more about this cheesy pasta and potatoes recipe for the Southern Italian pasta e patate.
Pasta and Potatoes Recipe for the Southern Italian Pasta e Patate
Before Terence and I made Southeast Asia our home over a decade ago, we spent a lot of time in Europe, especially in Italy, both for our work as a travel writer and photographer team authoring travel guidebooks for years, as well as holidays in Italy when we lived in the Middle East.
After moving to Abu Dhabi in 1998, Italy was the first European country we went to for our first long summer holiday. While we’d been cooking Italian food for a lot longer, it was after those first trips to Italy that we really got serious about cooking Italian food, and especially regional Italian food.
We’d return from holidays in Italy with suitcases filled with bags of artisanal dried pastas, whole Parma hams, and genuine Parmigiano Reggiano. Terence regularly made a heavenly ragu alla Bolognese that would simmer for hours, made pastas by hand, and began many an Italian meal with a soffritto.
I make a classic Italian soffritto for this cheesy pasta and potatoes recipe for pasta e patate, which consists of diced onion, carrot and celery sautéed in olive oil over medium-low and for about 10 minutes or so until it’s soft and fragrant.
If you’re not familiar with a soffritto, the term comes from the Italian verb ‘soffriggere’, which means to sauté. It’s essentially the Italian take on mirepoix and is the foundation of many Italian dishes, from soups and stews to pasta sauces, including the rich ragu for Bolognese.
A traditional Italian soffritto from Northern Italy and Central Italy is typically comprised of onion, carrot and celery. In Southern Italy, however it might include minced garlic – garlic is used more in Southern Italian cooking – or peperoncino (chilli), particularly in Calabria and Sicily where the Italian food is spicier.
While this cheesy pasta and potatoes recipe is traditional, you could spice up the dish by adding diced chorizo to the soffritto, stirring through some chilli flakes, or even drizzling on some chilli oil.
Tips to Making this Pasta and Potatoes Recipe for the Southern Italian Pasta e Patate
I make this cheesy pasta and potatoes recipe for pasta e patate with a simple chicken stock that we make whenever we poach chicken breasts, which is weekly or twice-weekly, so we nearly always have chicken stock in the fridge.
Most traditional Italian paste e patate recipes use water rather than stock, but I think chicken stock gives the dish so much more flavour. It’s a straightforward stock that we’ll sometimes season if we have a dish in mind, but if I know I’m going to use it for this pasta e patate dish, I’ll keep it clean and simple.
After making the soffritto, add the potatoes and salt, and fry them for a few minutes, which gives them more flavour, then ladle enough of the simmering stock into the pot to cover the potatoes, bring them to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and continue to cook the potatoes until just tender.
As for those potatoes, a good all-purpose potato, such as a Yukon Gold, is best. Because you want a potato that still holds some shape but is also starchy so that it breaks down a little, to thicken the soup, stew or sauce, depending on what texture you prefer.
When the potatoes are just done, add more of the hot chicken stock and the larger pieces of pasta if you’re using mixed pasta or pasta mista corta, the last of the dried pasta left in the packets – because part of the point of this cheesy pasta and potatoes recipe was to use those up as well as any leftover vegetables and cheese ends or rinds.
If you’re mixing up different sized pasta pieces, do as I suggest in this pasta e patate recipe and put the large pieces of pasta on first and then the smaller pieces.
Don’t add all the stock at once unless you want it very soupy – which, of course, is quite acceptable. I’ve seen this cheesy pasta and potatoes recipe served as a sort of pasta soup, as well as a denser stew-like texture, and also with no liquid at all, as a pasta with potatoes.
I tend to serve it soups the first time and then when we reheat the leftovers the next day, it’s more like a pasta stew, as the longer you let it sit the pasta is going to soak up the liquid.
So stir in that cheese and serve it immediately. I find that one cup of grated cheese makes it cheesy enough, but by all means use more. I drizzle on a little extra virgin olive oil before serving, sprinkle on some more grated cheese, as well as grind on some fresh cracked black pepper. Some finely chopped parsley is also delish.
Pasta and Potatoes Recipe for the Southern Italian Pasta e Patate
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion finely diced
- 1 small carrot finely diced
- 1 celery stalk finely diced
- 250 g potatoes peeled and chopped into 2cm cubes
- 1 tsp sea salt – or to taste
- 250 g mixed dried pasta
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
- In a pot, bring the six cups of chicken stock to a simmer.
- Meanwhile, in another pot, make the soffritto: heat the olive oil over medium-low and sauté the diced onion, carrot and celery for about 10 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally.
- Add the potatoes, half the salt, and fry for a few minutes. Ladle enough stock to cover the potatoes, bring it to boil, reduce the heat to simmer, cover and cook the potatoes for 20 minutes or so until just tender.
- Remove the lid, add another cup of stock and rest of the salt, increase the heat to bring to a boil, add the larger pieces of pasta and cook for 5-7 minutes until almost al dente, then add the smaller pieces of pasta and more stock if needed, then cook until al dente.
- For a soupy texture, remove the pot from the heat, add the grated cheese and stir in well, and serve immediately. If you prefer more of a stew-like texture, continue to cook on low heat for another 5-10 minutes until the potatoes have broken down further and the pasta is soft, stir in the cheese and serve.
- Drizzle on a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle on more grated cheese, and grind some fresh cracked black pepper on top.
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make this cheesy pasta and potatoes recipe for the Southern Italian pasta e patate, as we’d love to hear how it turned out for you.
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