This is just about the height of La Cucina Povera. What’s less expensive and more filling than pasta and potatoes to feed a hungry family? My mother made this fairly often because it was a family tradition but would never serve it to guests – it wasn’t good enough. She pronounced it in Napolitano dialect as basta badon. It’s really a minestra, that is, sort of a soupy pasta with vegatables.
A quarter pound of meat for a little protein and extra flavor – some parsley to give a bit of color to a white on white dish, and there you have it. Recently my teenage granddaughter Molly came for dinner with a group of her hungry friends. We served six or seven courses with this as the pasta course. Of course it didn’t have the traditional poverty connotation for them and they said it was their favorite course of the dinner. Food doesn’t have to be expensive to be good.
¼ lb pancetta (or prosciutto) cut into small pieces
1 medium onion
4 small tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
3 Idaho potatoes cut into 1 inch cubes
salt & black pepper
1 lb small pasta
5 oz parmesan cheese
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
Sautee the pancetta and chopped onions until lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and stir until they release their juice. Add potatoes and mix. Cover just barely with water and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are almost done. Remove about 1 cup of the soup, puree it and return it to the pot.
Drain the pasta when it is almost done, saving the water. Add the pasta to the soup to finish cooking and also add as much pasta water as you need to make a soupy consistency. Mix in the cheese. Sprinkle with parsley for a little color and serve with additional parmesan cheese.
My Aunt Lena got this recipe from a chef in Salerno. He told her the idea was that a woman could be out with her boyfriend all day and serve this to her husband when he got home – with him thinking that it took her all day to cook it when it wasn’t cooked at all.
4 large tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped basil
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
Salt & coarse black pepper
½ cup olive oil
Put the tomatoes in boiling water for a few minutes until the skin cracks, then run cold water over them and peel off their skin. Cut them in half across the core and squeeze out the seeds. Finely chop and put them in a large serving bowl. Add garlic, basil, parsley, salt & pepper and cover with ½ cup of olive oil.
A few optional additions: chopped anchovies, drained capers, chopped olives.
The ingredients should all be at room temperature before mixing with 1 lb. just cooked spaghetti. The heat from the hot pasta will be all it needs.
Raw Puttanesca is kind of a light and delicate summery sauce that’s almost a salad, so no cheese unless you must.
If you don’t make your own (a blender and two day old bread – simple) always buy unseasoned breadcrumbs and use your own seasoning. To toast – put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy frying pan on medium heat. Add a cup of the unseasoned bread crumbs and keep them moving until they darken. Don’t walk away to do something else because they’ll burn. When they reach the right color remove them from the pan immediately or they’ll keep cooking. They should smell like toast, not burnt toast. You can use this on many pastas in place of cheese and there are some sauces where you can only use toasted breadcrumbs – fish sauces like pasta con sarde or baccala.