Last night Rocco made Pasta with Potatoes. You heard correctly. And of course, the table is not set unless there is a loaf of bread ready to be tackled. Would you like some carbs with your carbs? Oh and here is a side of carbs. If there is an ultimate comfort food in my family, its this dish. Sicilians are known to be a guilt ridden people, but there is no guilt when it comes to consuming demented amount of starch. Oh its just so so good.
My cousin Pino, Rocco's first cousin, has been through a lot these past few weeks with his mom, Aunt Grace, dying in the hospital. I really admire how supportive Rocco has been of Pino who is more like a brother to him.
Yesterday Aunt Grace passed and our family sadly mourns her loss. She was an awesome beautiful and funny woman, and a great cook. It is impossible to alleviate the pain a person experiences when he loses his mother, but there are little things we can do that can comfort him along the way, things he needs to do, that he doesn't have the strength to do for himself, like feed him. Rocco is good at that. He has been cooking for Pino and his wife Roseanne almost every night since Aunt Grace went into the hospital, without any question. He mumbles in half Sicilian, "Pino, come over for dinner." And its Rocco's way of showing love and sympathy when Pino needs it most.
The sauce itself is really simple, onions, potatoes, bay leaf tomatoes, Sicilian grated cheese, which is like parmesan and fresh basil. Its stewed in a heavy pot for about a half an hour. So easy. And what's really fun about this mouthwatering pasta dish, aside from the amazing experience your brain has for getting all that starch injected into it, is that Rocco uses all the leftover pasta he has in the cabinets, all the different shapes and sizes, so the textural experience of all the pasta that cook at different times is really nice.
And if all those potatoes aren't enough, Rocco made pizzaiola. This is an Italian meat and potatoes dish with peas. More potatoes! I love the oregano flavor of this dish but I really do not like the meat. I just can't get into it. But more potatoes and starchy peas, fork them right over.
This meal was not about food. It was really about love. And for me it was about learning from Rocco how to love someone when they need you and all you can do is just be there and do whatever you can do to make them feel a little better when they are in a sad place. Like all of our meals, there was laughing and yelling, and even some crying and hugs, and old family stories that leave us hysterical. And we all agreed that in honor of Aunt Grace we are going to make her infamous Calamari Stew. Well, Rocco is going to make it.
ROCCO'S PASTA WITH POTATOES
4-5 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2 can or less tomato puree
vegetable broth or water with bouillon, enough to cover
mix of different pastas
In a heavy pot, sautee onion and garlic in olive oil. Add bay leaf and tomato puree. Season with salt and pepper. After a few minutes add potatoes and enough vegetable broth to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes until potatoes are tender but not falling apart. Add vegetable broth as need so potatoes don't stick. At the end add some fresh basil and some grated cheese. Serve with a mix of different pastas.