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Mar 18, 2018
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By the Book: Lidia Matticchio Bastianich’s Pipette or Elbows with Sweet Potatoes, Parsley and Capers

November 19th 02:11pm, 2013



I had a plan. After a leisurely Sunday afternoon browsing through Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Kitchen, I would cook up an Italian feast. Maybe try my hand at homemade pasta (She offers wonderfully simple instructions with or without a pasta roller.). Or I’d give her Pepperadelle with Turkey Rolls a go. Maybe I’d bake something.

Then the wind picked up. In the next 10 minutes, rain blew sideways; branches crashed into the street; hail pelted the driveway. My lights flickered once, twice, and then died completely. And they remained off for the next 36 hours. Instead of preparing for my feast, I spent the limited hours of daylight purging my freezer of dripping ice cream and thawing leftovers. I ferried all my precious dairy products – half-and-half, milk, the good cheese – to the refrigerator at my office.




With deadline – and darkness – approaching on Monday, I called my parents and offered to cook dinner in exchange for their kitchen. Then I flipped open the book again, this time hunting for something simple and fast. Luckily, Lidia Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali’s recipes are delicious and as touted, based on common sense. After a quick trip to the grocery store for some fennel, leeks, a sweet potato and some quality cheese, I whipped up a filling meal.




Bastianich’s Pipette or Elbows with Sweet Potatoes, Parsley and Capers was a great seasonal pasta dish that warmed us up on a cold night. Bright orange sweet potatoes and soft green leeks studded the pan sauce, bulked up with plenty of pancetta. Fresh parsley and capers brightened it up, and the whole thing coated the elbow macaroni without weighing it down. A note of caution: Use a light hand when seasoning. With all the pancetta, capers, pasta water and cheese, the dish didn’t need another pinch of sodium.




The bonus dish – Baked Fennel with Sage – was the surprise hit of the night. As I sliced and blanched the bulbs, the potent smell was a tad off-putting to some (Exact words: “It smells like my old fish tank.”). But baking the fennel in a hot oven (and smothering it in fontina and Parmigiano-Reggiano), turned the strong, licorice-y vegetable into a mild, earthy side dish that screamed for a slice of rustic bread to sop up all that gooey cheese.




Each dish took only about 20 minutes of active cooking time, and the instructions encouraged home cooks to trust their instincts. But the best part? I returned home to a well-lit apartment where I stored my leftover ingredients in a nice, chilly fridge. Now back to that grand Italian meal…



Pipette or Elbows with Sweet Potatoes, Parsley and Capers
6 Servings

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz. thick-sliced bacon or pancetta, cut into julienne strips
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4 fresh sage leaves
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 leeks, white and light-green parts only, sliced (about 2 cups)
¼ cup rinsed small capers (optional)
½ tsp. Kosher salt, plus more for the pot
¼ to ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb. pipette or elbow pasta
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano

• Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for pasta.
• In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and add the bacon or pancetta, the garlic and the sage. Cook until fat has rendered, about 3 to 4 minutes.
• Add the sweet potatoes and leeks and cook, stirring continuously, until both begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the capers, if using. Season with the salt and crushed red pepper.
• Ladle in 1 cup of pasta water and simmer rapidly until the sweet potatoes and leeks are very tender but the sweet potatoes retain their shape, about 7 to 8 minutes, adding more pasta water if necessary to keep it saucy.
• Meanwhile, cook the pipette until al dente. When the pipette are done, remove with a spider directly to the sauce.
• Add the parsley and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. Increase the heat and boil 1 minute if the sauce is too thin or add a little more pasta water if it is too thick.
• Remove the skillet from the heat, sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve.



Baked Fennel with Sage
6 Servings

½ tsp. Kosher salt, plus more for the pot
3 bulbs fennel, trimmed (about 2 lbs.)
8 oz. grated Italian fontina
½ cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
6 large fresh sage leaves, chopped

• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bring a large lot of salted water to a boil.
• Halve and core the fennel and slice it ½-inch thick. Add the slices of fennel to the boiling water and blanch until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and rinse.
• In a medium bowl, toss together the fontina and grated Grana Padano.
• Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread in the blanched fennel and season with the salt. Scatter the chopped sage over the top and sprinkle with the grated cheese.
• Bake until browned and bubbly, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Reprinted with permission from Alfred Knopf Publishing

Power outages, broken ovens, hungry dogs… What’s the biggest obstacle that was interfered with your cooking plans? How did you adapt? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Sue, whose answer on last week’s By the Book has won a copy of Roberta‘s Cookbook by Carlo Mirarchi, Brandon Hay, Chris Parachini and Katherine Wheelock. Sue, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.

By Catherine Klene

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11 Responses to “By the Book: Lidia Matticchio Bastianich’s Pipette or Elbows with Sweet Potatoes, Parsley and Capers”

  1. Joe Says:
    November 24th, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    Cooking out doors over an open flame always presents difficulties. I’ve been on camping trips during rainstorms without the aid of a campstove. You have to get creative and sometimes scale down the plans for meals!

  2. sara Says:
    November 25th, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    We have stayed on the beach twice during hurricanes and once right after one. The first time we had bought groceries, for my three teenage boys and three of their friends, thinking the hurricane was landing a few hundred miles west of us. We checked in our condo only to find out that the hurricane had taken a turn and was headed right for us. The first thing that happens is that the power goes out. Luckily I had chips nuts and M&Ms to feed the guys all night during the storm. After the storm passed, we had to get ice to keep our groceries from spoiling. Luckily we had charcoal to cook with. We tried running the coffee maker from the car with an adapter but it didn’t work. The local restaurants cooked everything they had and had free meals for those who needed it. The second and third time we were better prepared. We bought ice ahead of time and some canned/packaged stuff that was easier to hold.

  3. Sara B Says:
    November 26th, 2013 at 11:37 am

    it usually involves failure to purchase the proper ingredients. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been SURE I had X ingredient in my pantry, only to discover at the start of the cooking process that I either had something similar, or used it and then forgot, or was otherwise misinformed about the contents of my kitchen.

  4. AJ Says:
    November 26th, 2013 at 11:47 am

    During the massive power outage a few years ago we realized that our good was going to go bad. We lit a fire, had the charcoal grill going and invited friends. We cooked up a massive feast and were able to enjoy the fairly unfortunate situation with friends and a good meal. By candle light, no less!!!

  5. Jane G Says:
    November 26th, 2013 at 11:51 am

    When we first moved into our new house, I couldn’t quite get the hang of the oven. It burned everything I baked, from cookies to roasts. I finally tried the convection setting (duh!) and have been happy ever since.

  6. Stacie Kerr Says:
    November 26th, 2013 at 11:56 am

    While working my way through the cookie baking list, my oven broke just as I put in the first trays of chocolate chip cookies. After calling the repair man only to be told they could not get to me until well after these cookies needed to be ready I decided to improvise.
    Out came the electric griddle. After preheating it I dropped spoonfuls of cookie dough on it and then covered it with a jelly roll pan to hold the heat in. The cookies “baked” fine but had a glossy slightly sticky finish so again I decided to improvise.
    I mixed powdered sugar, a dash of nutmeg and cinnamon then lightly coated the cookies. They actually turned out really well and the cinnamon was a great compliment to the semi-sweet chocolate.
    This improvisation has since been repeated on purpose… minus the oven breaking of course.

  7. Raquel Says:
    November 26th, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Several Thanksgivings ago, I decided to follow in my father’s glorious footsteps that trailblazed through any barbequed or smoked meats I had ever had the pleasure and privilege of devouring! I would attempt to smoke a turkey. The size of the bird had to be large since the amount of prep work and smoke time would be considerable…might as well have plenty for all the work involved, right? 23 pounds. Preparing it with utmost care and painstaking detail (careful injections of a spicy, juicy baste; a cheesecloth blanket to keep it moist during its long journey through smoke and fire, etc.) I had a bird ready for smoke! Weather seemed great in the days leading up to the big feast and then we experienced a weather snap overnight. 22 hours of low and slow felt like an uphill battle as I struggled to hold the smoking temperature. I camped out in the house close to the back porch and set an alarm for every 30 minutes to ensure the fire would not snuff out. Babysitting a bird for every 30 minutes for 22 hours sounded like the last thing I wanted to do when all I wanted was uninterrupted sleep! The charcoal eventually could not stand up to the persistent freezing temps and extinguished some time before 6am. The bird was supposed to remain until 8am. I removed it in a panic…and proceeded to investigate my work so far. Bracing the cold, fighting sleep…did it yield delicious results?! YES! The most succulent and delicious ever!

  8. Hao Says:
    November 26th, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    i didn’t have curry powder at 11 pm when i wanted to make curry chicken salad. in my delirium, i decided to use tandoori chicken powder instead. it turned out HORRIBLE. I added tumeric to make it better and then onions and apples. All of that HELPED so that it was EDIBLE by the end… but when my boyfriend tried it he said to me, “It’s… different… like you put spicy, sweet, salty all together, locked them in a closet, and had them fight it out.” he wouldn’t eat anymore after.

  9. LHSechrist Says:
    November 26th, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Our cooking obstacles are a bit more mundane. We have a very picky eater in our family, so frequently when we have visions of seafood risotto with scallops, shrimp and calamari, or perhaps some pan-grilled pork chops with lemon and radicchio, Darling Daughter will turn up her nose. So, we improvise. We make a simple pasta or risotto (parmesan and herb) for her, then add extra ingredients (mushrooms, squash) for us, and a big salad for all. I am confident that someday her taste buds will develop. I was crazy picky when I was young (did not like strawberries, asparagus, all manner of fresh wonderful things) and now I like ‘most anything.

  10. Adriane Bloyer Says:
    November 26th, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    One Thanksgiving it was my turn to bring the Banana Nut bread and Cranberry Pumpkin Bread. Thanksgiving morning I turned on the oven to get it heated. Then I prepared the the batter for the Banana Nut bread. I went to place the bread in the oven and it was stone cold. In a panic I called my husband to the kitchen to determine what was wrong with my electric stove. It was an older stove that came with the house when we bought it the year before. Apparently it had a fuse that had blown. Unfortunately for me it was a special fuse and we had no spares. No stores were open it was Thanksgiving morning. I finally devised a makeshift oven n my slow cooker. I put the meat rack for the slow cooker in the bottom of the pan and placed the bread pan on the rack. I then turned the slow cooker up as high as it would go and placed the lid on and prayed. To my utter delight and astonishment it worked. The bread cooked fine…tasted great and no one but my husband knew it was crock pot Banana Nut bread.

  11. Heather Bertine Says:
    November 17th, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Some years ago when my husband and I were in a place where we were struggling a bit with groceries, we would usually have staples but it was hard to afford anything extra like cheese, cream, etc.; we were pretty much living on ramen and rice at that time. I was determined to make us some pasta alfredo. Somehow I managed to cobble together an alfredo sauce using powdered coffee creamer and little condiment packages of parmesan, and the macaroni out of boxed mac & cheese. I think it was probably decent only because we both love garlic so much and I was heavy-handed with that. It was pretty hilarious, I was so smug! I am sure memory has tinged my opinion of the stuff but as we both recall we liked it very much as a break from the usual.

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