This Southern Italian potato pasta is the epitome of comfort food on a weeknight. A Cucina Povera dish (or peasant food), pasta and potatoes are cooked together in one pot with tons of leeks and herbs until the potatoes start to melt into a luscious savory sauce.
Leek Potato Pasta / Pasta e Patate
This traditional Neapolitan classic is improved with a base of caramelized leeks, a carrot and celery base of aromatics, bay and thyme. Everything is cooked in one pot until most of the broth is absorbed and the potatoes start to melt into the pasta resulting in the most delicious sauce. Reserve some of the leeks to fold back into the dish before serving for more texture and different layers of flavor.
About the Pasta
IGP Gragnano Pasta made from durum wheat semolina is the best pasta forever and ever. Furthermore for best results try using only one shape of pasta to make sure it all cooks evenly at the same time. Using any leftover bits is okay however one must consider their different cooking times and add into the pot at different times starting with the thickest shapes first. I used Lumache this time around but I also love this with Orecchiette or little shells. If you are someone who stocks bags of fregola in your pantry, this is definitely a dish where it would shine.
The most important thing here is using a waxy potato (low in starch) that holds its shape during cooking. You don’t want to end up with mashed potatoes, just little cubes that stay al dente in the center while the outside melts into the pasta. Any gold or red waxy potatoes should be just fine, no need to peel them just a good scrub and rinse.
Recipe Tips & FAQ
- The Leeks – You’ll want about 4 cups of sliced / chopped leeks that have been throughly cleaned. In my opinion the more leeks the better, once wilted and caramelized I like to reserve about a cup or so to fold back into the pasta before serving for both texture and nice little flecks of green throughout. The rest serves as a heavenly flavor base that is going to melt into all the other ingredients.
- Carrot – Peeled then grated, you want it small enough to become one with the sauce as it cooks. I’m not fond of chunks of carrot here so I highly recommend grating it if you can.
- Herbs – I added both bay and thyme but you could use one or the other or swap for a sprig of rosemary.
- Tomato Variation – Stir in 1/3 cup of Arrabiata or Pomodoro sauce at the very end before removing from heat.
- Nutritional Yeast– packed with savory umami flavor and B vitamins, this magic dust should really be sprinkled over everything.
- Crispy Italian Bread Crumbs
- Tomato Cucumber Basil Salad
- Crispy Roasted Broccoli
- Homemade Bread
- Italian Roasted Pepper Salad.
how to make potato pasta
Leek Potato Pasta (Paste e Patate)
- 2 medium leeks (sliced or chopped ~about 4 cups)
- 1 large carrot (peeled + grated)
- 2 celery stalk finely chopped
- 1.5 lb gold potatoes diced
- 1 lb pasta like orecchiette, lumache, elbows, shells
- 8 cups water
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme optional
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (non fortified)
- 2 tsp sea salt + more to taste
- Olive oil
- Slice the leeks into thin circles or half them lengthwise then chop them up. Add to a large bowl and cover with cold water. Give them a good stir agitating the water well then allow them to sit for 10 minutes or so. All the sand and gritty particles will sink to the bottom while the clean leeks will float on the top.2 medium leeks
- Preheat a large heavy bottom soup pot over medium heat. Using a spider ladle or your hands simply scoop the clean leeks from the water bowl and add them to the hot pot. (No need to dry them as the water here will help create steam for the leeks to wilt faster).2 celery stalk
- Season the leeks with a good pinch of salt and sauté until the moisture has evaporated. Push them to the side and add a drizzle of olive oil then cook a few more minutes until they start to get a little color on the bottom. Reserve some for garnish (about 1/2 cup or so).Olive oil
- Add the carrot and celery to the pot with the leeks and give everything a toss to combine. Sauté a few more minutes until they get a little golden color taking care not to allow anything to burn.1 large carrot, 2 celery stalk
- Meanwhile scrub and rinse the potatoes well, dice them into bite size pieces and rinse again in cold water. Drain and add the potatoes to the pot with the sautéed veggies.1.5 lb gold potatoes
- Pour in the water, bay leaf and thyme and bring to a boil. Add 2-3 teaspoons of salt then taste and adjust seasonings as you go.8 cups water, 2 bay leaves, 8 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 tsp sea salt
- Once the soup has reached a constant boil you can add the pasta making sure the heat is high enough to continue boiling. Add the nutritional yeast and stir well. Continue cooking for about 15 minutes or so until both the pasta and the potatoes are cooked through and al dente in texture, stirring often. (As they cook the potatoes will melt into the broth and create a lovely gravy).1 lb pasta, 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- Remove from heat and cover with a lid. Allow the pasta to sit covered for a few minutes for the flavors to marry and the pasta to absorb whatever is left of the brothy gravy. (This will create a nice creamy coating all over).
- The Leeks - You'll want about 4 cups of sliced / chopped leeks that have been throughly cleaned. In my opinion the more leeks the better, once wilted and caramelized I like to reserve about a cup or so to fold back into the pasta before serving for both texture and nice little flecks of green throughout. The rest serves as a heavenly flavor base that is going to melt into all the other ingredients.
- Carrot - Peeled then grated, you want it small enough to become one with the sauce as it cooks. I'm not fond of chunks of carrot here so I highly recommend grating it if you can.
- Tomato Variation - Stir in 1/3 cup of Arrabiata or Pomodoro sauce at the very end before removing from heat.