I first made this back in not-very-pasta-salad weather. I was intrigued by the ingredients in the pasta with boiled vegetables recipe, which I found while browsing Serious Eats during vegan week. Specifically, one ingredient: potato.
Though I’m not quite a Harold McGee-level food nerd (though I do keep On Food and Cooking on my desk), when I hear of a technique that’s never before been seen in my kitchen, I bump the recipe to the top of my list.
I guess I already knew about how potatoes can transform during cooking. They secretly transform baked goods, especially hamburger buns. As themselves, they can turn into anything from crispy latkes to perfect hash browns to mashed or smashed potatoes. I once read a whole treatise on the right kind of potatoes to use for mashed potatoes. The author couldn’t believe anyone wouldn’t grasp the nuances of starchiness that foretold whether a tater ought to be mashed with butter and cream.
Still, even knowing all that, it’s hard not to say to yourself skeptically: potatoes in pasta? But there it was, a recipe called “Pasta with Melted Vegetable Sauce,” inherited from a chef who’d mastered Italian peasant-style cooking, and presented as a magical way to make a creamy, rich, and hearty sauce from nothing more than boiled vegetables.
It’s not just the potatoes that make this recipe strange and irresistible. This recipe abandons browning in oil. Instead, everything–veggies and pasta–go into a pot of boiling water, though not all at the same time. This builds up both starch and flavor in the water, so that by the time the pasta goes in, it’s essentially simmering in broth. The final touch
And why make this into pasta salad? Well, back in the winter, I made a huge batch. It was great-tasting when hot, but the leftovers were arguably even better. Which made me think “pasta salad!” and stash the gem away until the right time of year–now.