potato-pancake-plated 3750-

Potato Pancakes with Ricotta-Basil Pesto

These pancakes are neither crispy nor light. Rather, they are moist and fluffy, with delicately browned exteriors and a sweet, pure potato flavor. There are no eggs added, no flour, no leavening agents; they are essentially mashed potato patties browned in a hot skillet. I love them as a simple first course, but they also make a lovely side dish to roasted meats or poultry, and are very satisfying with assorted cheeses, cured meats, and a light green salad as a main course.

For the pancakes:

  • ½ pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peel on (2 small potatoes or 1 large potato)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing onto the spatula

For the pesto:

  • ¼ cup fresh whole-milk Ricotta
  • ½ cup packed basil leaves, washed thoroughly and dried
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the pancakes: Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cool water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender when pierced with a knife, about 25 minutes for small potatoes or 40 minutes for large potatoes. Drain and cool to room temperature, then peel and coarsely grate on the large holes of a box grater. Set aside until completely cool; ideally, let the grated potatoes rest at room temperature, uncovered, for 4 hours (or up to 12 hours) before cooking the pancakes, so the potatoes have a chance to dry out a bit; this will make the pancakes lighter.

Meanwhile, make the pesto: Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Taste for salt and adjust if needed. The pesto will be quite thick, which is intentional; if you prefer a more fluid pesto, as for coating pasta, add more extra-virgin olive oil with the motor of the food processor running until you achieve a consistency you like. Refrigerate the pesto until needed (up to 12 hours), covering the top tightly with plastic wrap so the pesto does not darken.

When you are ready to cook, add the salt and pepper to the potatoes. Mix to combine. Taste and adjust if needed; it is likely that they will need more salt. Compact the potato mixture into 4 even mounds on a plate and press with your hands to flatten.

Bring the pesto to room temperature when you are ready to serve, so its flavor is not muted by the cold of the refrigerator.

To cook the pancakes: Brush both sides with the olive oil. Warm a 12-inch nonstick skillet over a medium-high flame for 2 minutes, or until quite hot but not smoking. Add the potato pancakes and press gently with a wide spatula (brush the spatula first with olive oil to prevent it from sticking to the potatoes) to compact further into flat pancakes. Cook 5 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp on the bottom. Turn and cook another 5 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp on the bottom. Serve hot, with the pesto.

potato-pancake-plated 3750-