Pasta with potatoes?!
Respecting standards of taste, authenticity and decorum, it is the easiest and probably cheapest recipe known to me. The ubiquity of the ingredients – potatoes and pasta – and the simplicity of the preparation should therefor be concealed when cooking for guests.
Actually, this is a dish that should not be cooked for more than four people: it must be eaten piping hot, in silence; it is a dish that decompresses, it is a prelude for what lays ahead, it compensates for lost certainties. Having a plate of pasta with potatoes means turning a page in a day, let go what has been, get ready for what’s to come.
This dish symbolizes the archetypical mother, robust, caring, consoling, whispering ‘I know, I know, but now eat and it will all pass’. Comfort food by excellence.
Vegetable, not staple food
The potato is treated as a vegetable in southern Italy, and cooked with dignity. With one exception: in the cities the greengrocers often have a big marmite among their careful displayed merchandize. All year round you can buy boiled potatoes, and depending on the season also artichokes and corn on the cob. The potatoes can be made in a salad, baked or even used in a pie.
A more interesting but disrespectable use for the boiled potato is to bring them to the tavernas, places where men go drinking before dinner. Sawdust on the floor absorbs spilling. There is no music nor any other item that may distract. There are no tables nor chairs and the old counter never dries up. Wine comes from casks, the beer from big bottles. People go there to drink, discuss and buy more wine. Often people bring a cone made out of old newspapers full of boiled potatoes and put them on the counter, so becoming a treat for the mates. The host will supply the salt in which they are dipped. Peeling the potato or not is what separates men from mice.
This is a winter dish in Sicily: eating pasta with potatoes in summer would knock you off your socks, which I truly hope you are not wearing.
Whole lotta starch
The witch hunt on starch originated in the search for the so-called fat makers. Someone pointed at starchy food and start shouting ‘witch’, joined by many others. A fire was lit and potatoes, rice, pasta and bread were burnt before anyone could eat them. Starch does not make you fat if eaten in normal quantities. It is an excellent source of energy, a source of survival for over four thousand years.