Potato salad the Italian way

Mario Batali

While Brand New Potatoes alla Savonesa isn’t a potato salad in the classic American “more mayonnaise, please” sort of way, it’s one of my great side dishes perfect for cooking the any extra potatoes.

The best part about this recipe, courtesy of “Molto Batali” (Ecco, 2011), is that it’s equally delicious served warm, hot, cool or at room temperature, depending on your mood.

The boldly green dressing that soaks in while the potatoes are still warm is the key here. Tart white wine vinegar becomes one with basil, parsley, capers and scallions, giving the potatoes a sharp, oniony bite. The briny capers contribute just enough salt, and in every misshapen nook of the warmed potatoes you can be sure to find melted shavings of pecorino sardo.

Pecorino sardo, also known as fiore sardo, is a raw, firm cheese from the Italian island of Sardinia. This cheese has had quite the journey since its origination in the Bronze Age. In 1996, it was awarded DOP status (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or Protected Designation of Origin) for its milk being sourced from a single flock of a local Sardinian breed. Today, a blending of sheep’s milk and cow’s milk is used to prepare the cheese.

After a total aging of six months, pecorino sardo has a natural, golden-yellow to dark brown rind and a sour, damp smell. Upon slicing, its rich flavor is that of caramel sweetness, a salty tang and a hint of fruit. Depending on the length of maturation, the spiciness will intensify.

A younger pecorino sardo pairs well with respectively young red wines, such as Cannonau di Sardegna, while a matured cheese is best served with Malvasia di Bosa or Moscato di Sorso Sennori. However you serve it, this dish belongs in your repertoire.

Mario Batali is the award-winning chef behind 25 restaurants.

New Potatoes Alla Savonesa

30 small new potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed and halved

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed

4 scallions, whites and about 2 inches of greens thinly sliced

1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino Sardo

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

20 fresh basil leaves, torn

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil in a large pasta pot, and add 2 tablespoons salt. Drop the potatoes into the boiling water and cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the oil, capers, scallions, cheese, parsley, basil and vinegar in a large bowl. Set aside.

Drain the potatoes well, and while they are still hot, toss them with the dressing to coat. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 servings.

Per serving: 283 calories; 10 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 32 percent calories from fat); 43 g carbohydrates; 3 g sugar; 1 mg cholesterol; 319 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 4 g fiber.