Don’t laugh. Your natural reaction might be “why would you pair starch with starch???”. That’s expected. But what if I told you that this dish is a variation of a specialty that’s commonly found in Naples, Italy?
There, potatoes are treated as a vegetable. When you think about it in those terms, your point of view changes. A whole realm of possibility opens up that you might not have thought about before.
Here, potatoes and shallots are roasted with a little olive oil and salt, then combined with cooked pasta, chopped heirloom tomatoes, salt-packed capers and herbs. A touch of lemon juice, a crushed chile pepper and some extra-virgin olive oil round things out. Soft pasta intermingled with savory potato, sweet tomato and caramelized shallots in a lovely lemon-scented herb sauce makes for a light dinner. I would serve a crisp white wine as an accompaniament.
The traditional version of this dish uses pancetta in place of the olive oil. Whichever version you happen to make, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Fusilli with potatoes, tomatoes and herbs
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1/2 lb. baby Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into chunks
2 large shallots, peeled and cut into quarters
1 large heirloom tomato, diced
extra-virgin olive oil
a generous pinch of salt
freshly milled black pepper
one crushed chile pepper or a pinch of red pepper flakes
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon lemon zest, slivered
1 tablespoon salt-packed capers
a generous handful of parsley, chopped
a generous bunch of onion chives, minced
Combine potatoes and shallots in a Pyrex roasting pan or baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss. Roast in a pre-heated 375 F oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
Cook pasta according to package directions, then drain. Ideally you should have the pasta already cooked once the potatoes are done.
Stir in tomatoes, herbs, capers, lemon juice and lemon zest into the potato mixture. Add pasta directly to the roasting pan. Toss, ensuring that the ingredients are well-blended. Taste for salt, pepper (and red pepper flakes or chile pepper). Drizzle with additional extra-virgin olive oil, then serve at once.
Time: 45 minutes, including prep.