The Pasta e Patate alla Napoletana (Neapolitan Pasta and Potatoes) is a delicious variation of the classic Pasta and Potatoes. It is a first course whose roots are really humble. Combining potatoes with pasta in fact is an ingenious way to prepare a very poor peasant dish. To make the preparation richer, pancetta (or cheek lard) is added to allow the sautéed vegetables to sizzle. To give some color, add tomato paste which, during the summer, can be replaced with fresh tomatoes for example. And then there is the fundamental ingredient of Neapolitan pasta and potatoes: Parmigiano reggiano crust! The crust becomes soft with the heat, releasing part of the cheese still attached and transforming the dish into a delicacy of creaminess, while the outermost part, thoroughly cleaned and grated, is to chew.
To prepare Neapolitan pasta and potatoes, start by peeling celery, carrot and onion and then finely chop them.
Then also clean the potatoes and cut them into irregular pieces of about 2 cm. Finally slice and then chop the cheek lard. At this point you have everything you need, move to the stove. Put a saucepan on the stove and a drizzle of oil, add the lard and let it warm over low heat for a few minutes.
Then dip the chopped onion, carrots and celery. After a few minutes, add the potatoes and let them cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, thus avoiding burning the bottom. Also add the rosemary and the cheese crust (you can wash and scratch the outside first); also add the tomato paste and stir. Pour 600 g of hot water, season with pepper and salt. Finally cover with the lid and cook over low heat for 30 minutes; if necessary you can add a little more water. After that time the potatoes will be softened, crush a part of them with the back of the wooden spoon; at this point pour the pasta.
Immediately add another 250 g of hot water and bring to the boil. Cook the pasta, stirring occasionally: if needed, add more water as needed; make sure it's just salt. At the end of cooking, however, remember that the mixture should be creamy and almost dry. Then remove the rosemary sprigs and place your Neapolitan pasta and potatoes garnishing with a little oil.
You can keep the pasta and potatoes for up to 2 days in the fridge. Freezing is not recommended.
One of the richest and tastiest versions of Neapolitan pasta and potatoes includes the addition of what in Campania is known as provola or smoked mozzarella. Just cut it into cubes and let it melt at the end of cooking, stirring well until it becomes stringy and creamy.
You can also bake the dough by dusting the surface with a bit of breadcrumbs: this allows you to prepare this dish also in advance.