These one pot pastas are hot right now, and I’ve been curious ever since I saw this one on my friend Mary’s blog. The deal is that everything cooks together in one pot in about 9 minutes, pasta and all, with no sauteing or draining. About this time last year the first one pot pasta debuted in Martha Stewart Living, and the story is that her editors discovered the recipe in Italy. It’s a neat idea, and it clearly has visual appeal, but I was still skeptical. So since I couldn’t ask Martha herself, I did the next best thing; I called Mary, and asked her for the lowdown — did it really work? Was it worth my time? And when I got her enthusiastic thumbs up, I knew I had to give it a try.
The original recipe calls for red onions, cherry tomatoes, and basil. My version is inspired by the colorful bounty of the early summer farmer’s market. Every Sunday I buy way too much, and so the first night or two after a farmer’s market run is usually a mad dash to use as many vegetables as I can…this pasta is perfect for that.
The concept is simple — everything gets layered into a big pot, you add liquid, bring it to a boil, and let it bubble away for several minutes until the pasta is al dente. The veggies get cooked perfectly, most of the liquid gets absorbed, and what’s left melds together with the tomatoes to become a sauce. All you have to do is add some grated hard cheese and fresh green herbs to finish the dish. I say ‘liquid’ because while most recipes use water, I used part wine for some extra flavor. You could also use chicken stock. The precise amount is the key, it’s just enough to cook the pasta and leave a little leftover for a sauce.
Pasta Primavera is one of my all time favorite pastas, but it can be a little time consuming to make — you usually have to saute the veggies in stages, create a sauce, and then cook the pasta separately. It’s a lot of pots, stove time, and copious amounts of boiling water sloshing from stove to sink. This method is fun to throw together, and sure saves a lot of work.
- 12 oz spaghetti
- 1 medium red onion, peeled, halved, and sliced
- 1 small Japanese eggplant, halved lengthwise and sliced
- several stalks asparagus, cut in 2 inch pieces
- a handful of broccoli florets, cut in half
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 colorful bell pepper, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 2 handfuls baby greens, I used baby kale and wild arugula
- 1 - 1-1/2 tsp salt and lots of fresh cracked pepper
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 1 Tbsp white wine or sherry vinegar
- 1 cup shredded hard Italian cheese
- halved cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cups finely shredded basil leaves
- Put everything except the cheese, into a large pot. Add the wine and water (measure exactly since you will not drain the pasta) to the pot and bring up to a boil. If your pasta doesn't fit completely into the pot, nudge it down into the water as it softens. Cover the pot while it comes to a boil then uncover and boil for about 7-9 minutes, until the pasta is just al dente. Babysit the pan a little bit to ensure that the pasta doesn't stick. Don't over cook the pasta, there will still be some water left in the pan.
- Toss the pasta with the cheese, and serve with the extra tomatoes and lots of fresh basil.
You can use lots of different veggies for this dish, whatever looks good. Mushrooms would work well, also carrots, zucchini, cauliflower. Tomatoes are a must, though.
So here are my conclusions… first, it totally works, I was surprised that my veggies weren’t overcooked or mushy, even my baby asparagus stayed relatively firm, and the colors remained pretty bright. There is what you could call a simple ‘sauce’ that is formed from the starchy pasta water and the tomatoes that break down in the cooking process. I wouldn’t necessarily use this as a dish for entertaining because it is rather ‘homey’, but as a family dinner it worked really well.
There are a few secrets for success. One is, don’t skip the tomatoes. The rest of the veggies remain intact, but the tomatoes break down and help to form a sauce with the starchy pasta water and the cheese. Two, don’t skimp on the cheese, for the reason just mentioned. Three, pay attention to flavoring the pot. In addition to salt, I like lots of black pepper, red pepper flakes, and my secret flavor weapon, a dash of sherry vinegar. And finally, don’t forget the fresh garnishes. Reserve some little tomatoes and a big handful of fresh basil for topping the cooked pasta.
If you haven’t tried this idea yet, I recommend you give it a go. The concept is one you can tinker with, and there are lots of different variations online. Just search one pot pasta.