The cookbooks of Marcella Hazan are delightful to read. On nearly every page we find not just a recipe but a story, a story of a place, an experience, or a person. And thanks to the keen sensibility of her husband Victor, who translates from Italian for Marcella, the writing is lovely and evocative. One of our favorite recipes (and stories) has always been one from the book Marcella’s Italian Kitchen. In it, Marcella describes a recipe for a sort of potatoe pie which she picked up from her cleaning lady, which she called “patate maritate”, or “married potatoes”. (Isn’t it wonderful! In the States we’re always trying to get recipes from celebrity chefs. In Italy, the best cooking often comes from the most humble.) In this case the potatoes are “married” to the mozzarella with which they’re surrounded. It’s a wonderful story and an even more wonderful dish. We like to think of it as an homage to marriage and to cooking for one’s spouse… a humble, comfortable, and delicious dish. We’ve made it as long as we’ve been married, and it’s always been a favorite. We served it at the restaurant recently and promised to share the recipe, so here it is!
Our version comes via Marcella’s book listed above. Often I find myself customizing and personalizing a recipe, but often a recipe needs no improvement, which is certainly true in this case. For another approach, though, check out this version from Abruzzese chef Laura Decina, as published in the Washington Post.
1) While your oven preheats to 400 degrees, peel a pound of potatoes and slice them into the thinnest rounds. If you own a mandolin, use it. Toss with olive oil to coat well. Season very generously with salt. Potatoes soak up a lot, though remember that the parmigiano is salty too.
2) Grate about a cup of parmigiano-reggiano and slice thinly or shred about eight ounces or more of mozzarella, preferably mozzarella di bufala imported from Campania. Chop about ½ cup parsley, and grind quite a bit of black pepper.
3) Mix together the parmigiano, parsley, and pepper.
4) In a baking dish, drizzle olive oil over the bottom and add bread crumbs to lightly cover.
5) Add about a third of the potatoes, with just a little overlapping. Add half the mozzarella and half the parmigiano mixture.
6) Repeat with the potatoes and then with the cheeses.
7) Add the final layer of potatoes and top with bread crumbs to cover lightly.
8) Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 400 degree for around 45 minutes, until nicely browned.
9) Serve immediately or slightly cooled.
A note from November:
We were very happy to meet the founders of Context Travel at our recent November dinner. We had known about and admired Context for a few years, having been acquainted with several of their docents, but were delighted to discover the connection. Lani and Paul’s story is marvelous, and we feel a bond with them especially for the fact that they started their business in the same year that they had their first child, as we did (ours being a much smaller business, of course). As crazy as it gets at times, it is a true joy!