Friday, April 03, 2009


This is the perfect pasta dish for times of the year when not much exciting produce is in season, or (in my case) when you’ve been unable to make it to the farmers’ market and must rely upon the less-awesome offerings at the grocery store. It’s also the perfect pasta dish for bridging winter (hearty roasted potatoes, garlic, and rosemary) and spring (arugula, lemon, and no sauce to speak of). Oh, and it’s easy to make, it’s a well-balanced meal in a bowl (starch + salad, anyway), and it tastes really good, too.

The recipe is via the Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables. Deb remarked that she thought it called for too much garlic (4 to 6 cloves), considering it’s not cooked very long, but I didn’t find it overwhelming; I used 4 cloves and maybe I cooked it a bit longer than the recipe called for, because the garlic didn't have that raw edge that makes it overpowering. Or maybe I just like those "unmistakeably all-American doses of garlic." If you’re worried, you can cut it back to 2 cloves, but I think a better solution would be to add it to the pan earlier, with the onions, to mellow out the flavor with a bit more cooking.

I made a few additional tweaks to the recipe: Originally, it called for ¾ pound penne, but who wants to be stuck with ¼ of a bag of pasta in the cupboard? I prefer to use the whole package and call it a day, so I just upped the amounts of potatoes and arugula to compensate. I also cut way back on the olive oil—the original recipe called for ½ cup, which seems excessive; mine turned out plenty tasty with about half that amount. To further moisten/flavor things up, I threw in some reserved pasta water and doubled the lemon juice. I would also recommend being really generous with the salt; potatoes cry out for it, and the dish risks being bland otherwise. I didn’t add quite enough the first time around and thought the pasta was nice but lackluster, but then when I sprinkled a little extra on my leftovers the next day, they perked right up and tasted awesome. For further flavor enhancement, we garnished with a little Parmesan, and A suggested adding bacon in a future experiment. OK, granted, A always suggests adding bacon to everything (did I tell you that I made him bacon chocolate-chip cookies for Valentine’s Day?), but since bacon goes quite well with arugula (see: Corn, Arugula, and Bacon Salad) and, of course, with potatoes in breakfasty goodness, it’s actually not such a crazy idea. If I try it, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

P.S. I just realized that with this recipe, arugula has scored more than enough mentions on this blog (we're up to five arugula-centric recipes) to earn its very own sidebar category! Congratulations, arugula! I guess I like you more than I thought I did.

1 to 1½ pounds firm boiling potatoes (I used small red potatoes, but Deb suggests fingerlings), sliced ⅓ inch thick
About ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and pepper
10–12 ounces arugula, washed and drained
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig rosemary leaves, chopped
1 pound penne pasta
Juice from 1 lemon
Grated Parmesan cheese, if desired

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the sliced potatoes with about 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus generous salt and pepper to taste. Spread them in a single layer in an ovenproof dish or on a baking sheet (for easy cleanup, line with foil or parchment) and roast in the oven until golden brown and cooked through, about 15 minutes (I flipped mine over midway through). When done, remove from the oven.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for cooking the pasta. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve about ½ cup pasta water, then drain.

3. While the pasta is cooking and when the potatoes are done, heat a sauté pan, add about 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sauté the sliced onion until soft and translucent and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the arugula and garlic, and sauté until they just begin to wilt and soften. Lower the heat, add the potato slices and rosemary, and toss together for a minute or two. When the noodles are done, drain them and add them to the potatoes and onion. Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with a little olive oil and add pasta water if the sauce still seems dry. Toss well. Sprinkle with Parmesan if desired.

Serves: 6
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: High.

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