The concept of two starches in one dish, namely rice and potatoes, has become a running commentary between Giuseppe and the husband. Being Napoletano, this idea seems perfectly reasonable to Giuseppe.
The husband on the other hand, finds the concept completely foreign. Of course the way he tells it is that he conjured up this picture in his mind of a whole potato sticking up out of a bowl of rice. I know he’s much smarter than that, so it doesn’t really wash with me. But that’s his story and he’s sticking to it.
Truth be told, the husband is always skeptical at first. This causes Giuseppe to wave his arms in dismay and exclaim that he “è molto difficoltoso.” Regardless of their banter however, the husband absolutely loved this dish. Of course you won’t catch him telling Giuseppe that anytime soon!
Another stick to your ribs recipe from the pages of Cucina Povera Napoletana, Riso e Patate is Neapolitan comfort food through and through. A favorite dish on a cold winters day, this thick and hardy minestra is “molto cremosa” as they say. The creaminess coming from the starches in the rice and potatoes.
Like its cousin Pasta e Fagioli, it can be prepared “in bianco” or with a handful of tomatoes and is flavored with a bit of meat. Giuseppe’s meat of choice for both, pancetta coppata – cured belly of pork.
Unlike Pasta e Fagioli however, or many of the Cucina Povera Napoletana dishes for that matter, preparing Riso e Patate is a bit more difficult and time-consuming. It takes more pots, more patience and a bit more practice to master getting the consistency just right.
1 kg Potatoes
1/2 kg Arborio Rice (Italian short-grain rice)
150 grams Pancetta Coppata
5 Cherry Tomatoes
5 -6 Basil Leaves plus more for garnish
2 Pieces of Parmigiana Rind
Salt and Pepper
Bring a large pot of water to boil for the potatoes
While the water is coming to a boil:
Peel, dice and rinse the potatoes
Peel and dice the onion
Wash and cut the tomatoes in half
Rinse 5 – 6 basil leaves
This is a good time to put on a medium pot of water to boil for the rice. Before you add the rice you will use about 1/2 cup of it for the sauce so you will want to have it on the stove at a rolling boil.
Coat another large pot with oil and heat over medium heat
Add the onions and basil and cook until the onions are soft and translucent
Add the pancetta and cook through for another few minutes
Add the tomatoes and turn the heat to low
Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in boiling water until they are tender, about 10 minutes
Drain the potatoes and add them to the sauce
Add salt and pepper to taste
Add about 1/2 cup of boiling water (from the water for the rice) to the mixture and turn the heat up to medium-high
Replenish the water for the rice and bring it to a boil over high heat
Add the rice and cook for 5 minutes (you not cooking the rice, just cleaning it)
Drain the rice and add it to the potato mixture
Add two pieces of parmigiana rind and enough water to cover the rice
Cook for 15 – 20 minutes over low heat until the mixture is thick and creamy and the rice is cooked through
Stir occasionally and add water as needed to cook the rice
Salt to taste and add grated parmigiana
To serve, grate a bit of parmigiana on a plate, add a nice mound of Riso e Patate and garnish with fresh basil leaves.