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Pasta Shells with Fingerling Potatoes, Fresh Herbs & Arugula

February 17, 2011

It’s been raining all week in San Francisco. All week long. We deserve it though—while we got loads of rain in November and December, it has been a very dry (and very warm) January and February. But the fact that we need the rain doesn’t mean that we want the rain. Especially when there have been four days of rain in a row—and counting. But we had a brief, and very welcome, respite from all the rain yesterday afternoon. The sun even came out for a few hours. The sun! I was able to leave work while it was dry, and there was still a little sunshine. When I got home, I went up to our roof deck to pick some fresh rosemary and thyme for our dinner.

And I was lucky enough to enjoy this beautiful sunset while I was up there, before the clouds returned and it started pouring again:

Today the rain is back with a vengeance. Freezing cold. Torrential downpours. And lots of wind. In short: the weather in San Francisco really couldn’t be worse. And we’re going to have more of the same tomorrow and the next day. But at least we have sunshine forecasted for Sunday and Monday, meaning that we (thankfully) won’t have to spend the entire long weekend indoors.

Ok. Enough ranting about the weather. What about the food? Well, I planned this as an easy, simple weeknight dinner. And it was. Quick. Easy. Simple. But I guess I wasn’t expecting all that much, given the dish’s simplicity. Plus, Patrick let me know, as I was making this, that he was a bit wary of the combination of ingredients—pasta with potatoes? Really? But I was intrigued enough to give the recipe (with some tweaks) a try.

Boy, were we both wrong about this one. It was so good. Absolutely delicious. Something about the flavor combination just worked really, really well. It was perfect for a cold and stormy night, and yet fresh and bright enough that you could feel spring just around he corner. Given the simplicity of this pasta, using fresh, high-quality ingredients is absolutely key. Fresh herbs are essential, as is nice, young arugula. Pair with some creamy fingerling potatoes—along with a bright squeeze of fresh lemon juice—and you’ve got a delectable meal on your hands. It will almost make you forget that it’s cold and stormy outside.


I picked out some very tasty ruby crescent fingerling potatoes for this dish, simply because they looked so good. They have a lovely pinkish skin, and taste absolutely delicious. However, I’m sure that any variety of fingerlings would work equally well in this dish. Also, this dish could easily be made vegan by using an egg-less pasta and skipping the parmesan.

Adapted from Alice Waters, Chez Panisse Vegetables

Serves 4 as a main

3/4 lb. pasta shells (oricchiette would also work well here)
3/4 lb. fingerling potatoes
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
arugula, several large handfuls
parmesan, freshly grated
olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Clean the potatoes, then slice 1/3 inch thick. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange on a sheet pan in a single layer, and roast until tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil on the stove. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. While you’re waiting for the water to boil—and for the pasta to cook—heat a couple splashes of olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Add the onion—along with a little salt and pepper, to taste—and cook until just beginning to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and add the potatoes and garlic. Toss everything together for a few minutes, while you wait for the pasta to finish cooking. Once the pasta is done, drain, add to the pan with the potatoes, and toss well. Remove from the heat. Add several handfuls of arugula, along with freshly grated parmesan—I used about 1/4 cup—and 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (to taste). Toss well (the arugula will wilt slightly), and taste for seasonings. At this point, you may want to add a little more salt, freshly ground pepper, and/or lemon juice. Divide among 4 bowls, and top each with a little extra parmesan. It’s that simple—enjoy!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mirjam permalink
    February 20, 2011 1:58 am

    This looks yummy Kirsten! Perfect for cold winter evenings here in Norway as well!
    To bad tha grocery selection here in Trondheim is rather limited so I’m not always able to get all the fresh herbs and exotic(!) vegetabeles you use. By the way, we still enjoy that fabolous risotto you made for us when you visited. I actually made it last night, but put in some extra fennel and sugar pies, and some lemon juice, very tatsty!
    Keep up the good work Kirsten! Love the pictures 🙂


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