La Vera Cucina

Nonna’s Pasta E Patate

For Chicago restaurateur Pasquale DiDiana, his Nonna’s Pasta e Patate is a favorite family recipe. As she would explain in very broken English, “Back in the war (WWI), they had no money, so they cooked what they could get their hands on, pasta and potatoes.”

As fortunes improved, the family gradually richened her recipe with “little extras” like diced prosciutto ends, Parmigiano Reggiano rinds, and smoked mozzarella. For Pasquale, the aroma of simmering potatoes and rosemary helps him recall her beloved voice!


  • 2 tablespoons Fall Harvest Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 whole clove garlic
  • 1 Calabrian chili, chopped
  • ¼ pound prosciutto end, finely diced
  • ½ white onion, finely chopped
  • ½ stalk celery, finely diced
  • 2 pounds potatoes, diced
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 branch fresh rosemary
  • 6 leaves fresh basil
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ pound Parmigiano Reggiano rinds, finely chopped
  • 1 pound dry ditalini pasta
  • 6-7 cups water
  • 1 pound smoked mozzarella, grated
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano (garnish)


Warm oil in large saucepan over medium flame. Add whole garlic clove and chopped chili. Add prosciutto; sauté 4-5 minutes.

Add onions and celery; cook until they soften. Remove garlic clove; add potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sauté for 3 minutes; add water to make ingredients float like soup.

Add rosemary, half of fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, and Parmigiano rinds. Once “potato soup” boils a few minutes, add pound of dry pasta.

If needed, add more hot water as pasta absorbs it. Stir frequently until pasta reaches al dente.

Add mozzarella and remainder of fresh basil; mix with wooden spoon. Cover and remove from heat.

Let rest 5 minutes to become, as the Napolitani say, “azzeccata,” thick and sticky. Garnish with grated Parmigiano; eat immediately while cheese is stringy.

About Parmigiano Rind

Unlike waxed cheeses, the outside protective rind of Parmigiano Reggiano is edible and should not be discarded! While it is too tough to chew, it still can add a beneficial nutty flavor to soups, sauces, and stews. Just scrape off the surface ink, chop or grate the rind, add to your soup during cooking and enjoy!