As promised, here is part two to our blog post from yesterday. This is Lidia Bastianich’s recipe for Pipettes with Sweet Potatoes, Parsley and Capers. The first weekend we were back from vacation, I caught the recipe on her cooking show on our local PBS station, and while trying to memorize the ingredient list from the show, I simultaneously looked up the recipe on her website. Luckily, it was listed, and I cooked it for supper that night, using most of the ingredients and halving the recipe. It comes from one of her newer books, Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking: 150 Delicious and Simple Recipes Anyone Can Master. (On a side note, I may have to get this book for my library…this is the second recipe I’ve cooked from it – the other one is the recipe for Baked Toast Sandwiches – and they’re both fabulous).
To say it was a revelation would be an understatement. Most of my life, I’ve made pasta dishes that involve either a red sauce or a cream based sauce. Pasta with just vegetables seemed like it would lack sauciness (for lack of better words), but seeing her make it on her cooking show made it look really appetizing and she made me want to try it. Had I seen this in her book, I might have overlooked it. My daughter, who dislikes sweet potatoes, gobbled this up in no time. (I later found out that she thought it was carrots, but she liked it anyway!) Meat and Tater Man went for seconds, so that’s high praise from someone who likes to have meat featured in most of his meals. And, he asked me to make it again…how’s that for a successful first supper back from vacation!
This is Lidia Bastianich's recipe for pasta with sweet potatoes, parsley and capers, from her estimable book, Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking: 150 Delicious and Simple Recipes Anyone Can Master. This is one of the most fabulous pasta recipes I've eaten in a long time, because it's so different from your usual pasta with red sauce or cream based sauce.
I made a few successful substitutions in this recipe. I used a tablespoon of dried sage instead of the fresh leaves. I used pre-diced pancetta, and skipped julienning some bacon. Finally, I didn't have any fresh parsley, so I used a few spoonfuls of dried parsley. I'm sure fresh tastes much better, but the dish did not suffer at all as a result. I also halved the recipe with great success.
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4 oz thick sliced bacon or pancetta, cut into julienne
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 4 fresh sage leaves
- 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced, (about 2 cups)
- 1/4 cup rinsed small capers (optional)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more for the pot
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red-pepper flakes
- 1 pound pipette or elbow pasta
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for pasta.
- In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and add the bacon or pancetta, the garlic, and the sage. Cook until fat has rendered, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the sweet potatoes and leeks, and cook, stirring continuously, until both begin to soften, about 4 minutes.
- Add the capers, if using. Season with the salt and crushed red pepper.
- Ladle in 1 cup of pasta water, and simmer rapidly until the sweet potatoes and leeks are very tender but the sweet potatoes retain their shape, about 7 to 8 minutes, adding more pasta water if necessary to keep it saucy.
- Meanwhile, cook the pipette until al dente.
- When the pipette are done, remove with a spider directly to the sauce.
- Add the parsley, and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce.
- Increase the heat and boil a minute if the sauce is too thin, or add a little more pasta water if it is too thick.
- Remove the skillet from the heat, sprinkle with the grated cheese, toss, and serve.