When talking about potato pie, one thinks automatically about the American sweet potato pie. Not everybody knows that Italy also has a long tradition of a special version of the potato pie with a recipe striking back to the 19th century when an Italian literary critic and gastronomist wrote about a peculiar cake made of potatoes and without flour, very soft on the palate and with a velvety consistency.
As soon as I read about Artusi’s recipe in the food writer and photographer Giulia Scarpaleggia’s blog, I ran to the gardener and bought a lb of potatoes, yes, the ones you use to made fries and chips. I was curious and happy to experiment a new way to use one of every kitchen’s most common ingredient. Furthermore, potatoes represent not only one of the world’s most common vegetables but also a symbol of ancient times and poverty, as people had to live on what they could grow on their fields and what their animals could give them. Artusi states in his book Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well (La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene, 1891) that this cake has “plebeian origins” and suggests to conceal it from the guests since “they would undervalue it”. As for the bread cake, the potato pie represents not only a creative way to use a simple ingredient like a potato but also a symbol of simplicity and history.
The original recipe calls for 1½ oz. of butter, which I replaced with 3 tbsp. of oil and added a tsp. of baking powder to make it softer. Since I cannot assume too much sugar, I also decreased the dose of 2 oz.
My deepest thank you goes to Giulia for having made me discover this recipe through her blog, which will delight you with dozens of interesting and tasty recipes that will make you discover Italy through its taste. You can find her article on Artusi here.
Here is what you need to bake my version of Artusi’s potato pie. The list of the ingredients will give indications for both American and European cooking systems.
2 oz. / 100gr of sugar
3 tbsp of oil
Almonds and vanilla
1 lb 8 oz. / 700gr of potatoes
1tsp. / 6gr of baking powder
Peal and boil the potatoes. When they are ready and soft, pierce and mash them with a fork, trying to reach a velvety consistency. Mix well sugar, chopped almonds, eggs and oil using a wooden spoon or a whip. Add the smashed potatoes and the baking powder and mix with the wooden spoon for at least half an hour (or use an electric whip to make it faster). Artusi suggests mixing with a wooden spoon for a long time (about 1 hour) to reach the best consistency.
Put the dough into a greased and floured baking dish and bake in a preheated oven at 180C° for about 1 hour. Let it cool completely before serving. The cake gives it best with a vanilla flavoured green tea and keeps in the refrigerator up to five days.