We caught one of Lidia’s cooking shows the other day.

Once upon a time – when we both worked Monday – Friday – we used to watch the PBS cooking shows on KQED in San Francisco or WHYY in Philadelphia. They were fun, something in the background while we were doing chores or whatever, and once in a while gave us an idea for a meal or dessert.

Fast-forward many years and now that we’re retired and have all the time in the world, the non-stop PBS cooking shows no longer happen on Saturdays and we rarely have the TV on that early, anyway.

Since we ditched cable, we rarely watch broadcast TV, but our Samsung TV came with its own channel of programs – many completely commercial-free. The other night we stumbled upon a channel showing episodes of Jacques Pepin and Lidia Bastianich, so we watched…

Lidia made a pasta dish that was not only intriguing, we had the basic ingredients in the house!

Dinner was served.

A standard portion of pasta per person is 2 ounces. A standard portion in an Italian household is a pound for every two or three people – along with platters of meatballs, sausages, and braciole. We won’t even go into the appetizers. A nice salad rounds things off.

For just the two of us, I usually cook 3 ounces per person – and that’s a lot.

Pipette with Sweet Potatoes, Parsley, and Capers

adapted from Lidia Bastianich

  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 oz thick-sliced pancetta or bacon cut into julienne strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 leeks – white and light green parts, only
  • 1/4 cup small capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 lb pipette or elbow macaroni
  • 3 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup grated grana padano

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 a 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, toss, and serve.



Naturally, I switched a few things around…

Pipette is a large elbow-type pasta that you’re probably not going to find at your local grocer. For this recipe, I went for 8 ounces of orecchiette – planning leftovers for lunches. We also had thick slices of prosciutto in the freezer that I wanted to use up, so I substituted it for the pancetta and used Greek Oregano and Thyme for the sage.. Otherwise, I pretty much made he recipe as written.

I gotta say, this was pretty good. Simple ingredients and easy to make – but it does take some stove-time. You don’t want to leave it unattended for long.

Any good pasta will work with this – a rigatoni, mostaccioli, penne… Use your imagination – or the box in the cupboard.

And, yes… we have leftovers…

Lunch for the next few days!