Filling the house with the sublime scent of rosemary with a hint of garlic, roasted potatoes are perhaps the ultimate comfort cold weather food. The potato is not uniquely Italian. It was introduced to Europe after the discovery of the New World. Although it took some time to become accepted, by the 19th century the potato had replaced the traditional turnip and rutabaga as a popular food because of its high nutritional value, ease to grow, and lack of spoilage.
What makes this dish Italian are the seasonings. The combination of garlic and rosemary is the distinctive aroma of Italian roasts. Breathing it in as one enters the house makes one’s mouth water in anticipation. For me, it is the smell of tranquility. After a long day, it de-stresses and signals that all is right with the world.
When our youngest daughter was born, she was round and pale. An Italian friend of ours started calling her “patata” and the nickname has stuck. Coincidentally, potatoes are one of Michela’s favorite foods and her face lights up whenever we take these out of the oven.
Giuliano uses red creamer potatoes in this recipe and leaves the skin on. The skin becomes a bit crispy in the mouth and makes for a delightful crunch. I also like to eat the garlic; after it is cooked it becomes mild and soft. My mother has convinced me that eating garlic is good for the immune system, so…. since after the roasting it is mild and soft, I often eat it just by itself.
We are very pleased that apparently the food trend for 2011 is back to simpler, more wholesome food. This recipe, with just six ingredients including salt and pepper is our offering to this “newest” old trend.
(From How to Cook Italian by Giuliano Hazan)
Total time from start to finish: 1 hour
Serves 6 as a side dish
2 pounds red creamer potatoes
3 medium garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 425° on the convection setting, or to 450° on regular bake.
2. Scrub the potatoes with a vegetable brush under cold water. Cut the potatoes into approximately 3/4 inch cubes, place in a bowl, and cover with cold water to prevent the potatoes from turning brown.
3. Drain the potatoes and pat them with a cloth towel to dry them as much as possible. Place the potatoes in a baking pan large enough to accommodate them snugly in a single layer (some overlap is fine). Lightly crush and peel the garlic cloves and add them to the potatoes with the rosemary and olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir to coat the potatoes with the olive oil.
4. Bake until the potatoes are tender and have formed a nice brown crust, 40-45 minutes. You can check on the potatoes periodically but it is not necessary to turn them. Serve hot.