Cooking pasta and sauce all together in the same pot is such a great idea that it’s hard to believe that no one thought of it before. It means a whole dinner can be cooked from scratch in less than 20 minutes and there’s only one pot to watch when you’re done.
Of course “Hamburger Helper” has been around for decades but commercial processed food is really more of a chemistry experiment than cooking. No one thought to apply the one pot technique to real food until about a year ago when it went viral on Pinterest. It’s unclear exactly who thought of it first but most folks credit Martha Stewart with the initial recipe and most of the ones that have come since are based on it.
The concept is simple. Put raw pasta in a pot. Add the ingredients for your sauce. Then put in enough liquid to cook the pasta and what doesn’t evaporate or get absorbed by the pasta mixes with the other ingredients and becomes the sauce. The liquid can be water, stock, broth, wine or a combination. The only trick is to use the right amount so your pasta is neither too dry nor too soupy but a miscalculation is not critical. If all the liquid is absorbed before the pasta is cooked, just add some more. And if the mixture is still too soupy after the pasta is cooked, salvage it by pouring the whole thing into a colander catching the liquid in a bowl. Pour the liquid back into your pot and boil it down until you’ve got the right amount. Then just pour your pasta back in. You’ll have to wash a colander and a bowl but otherwise no harm is done.
There are hundreds of recipes out there. A few have been included below to get you started but don’t be afraid to experiment and develop your own. This is a perfect way to use some of the fresh produce coming in now and with no oven and only one burner on for 15 minutes or so, it won’t heat up the house too badly.
While you’re cooking quick and easy, try eliminating some more steps from your favorite pasta recipes.. The first recipe below is a descendant of Martha Stewart’s original one pot pasta recipe, but where she first sautéd the onions in the olive oil and blistered the tomatoes before adding the linguine and other ingredients, this recipe dispenses with that and just plops everything into the pot and boils it. The extra work may have added some flavor but it’s plenty delicious the easier way.
Make sure your pot is large enough for your linguine or spaghetti to lay flat. If it’s not, break the pasta up. The other thing is to keep it stirred. Some folks claim that the pasta can stick and make a nasty mess but keep it moving and especially toward the end when it’s getting drier, keep it stirred and there shouldn’t be a problem.
Gluten-free pasta can be used in these recipes but bear in mind that gluten-free pasta is a different animal. It behaves differently giving what some call a gluey result and others call creamy.
Gary Maxey of Elkin says the one pot method is great. “No need to dirty all the pots and pans. Also, and most importantly, the pasta has the opportunity to absorb so many of the flavors of the sauce and spices. It is not just a good sauce lying on a pile of starch. Gives the pasta much more character.”
A quick, easy, tastier dinner. What’s not to love?
One pot pasta
This is an faster, easier descendant of the original Martha Stewart recipe. It is incredibly delicious and surprisingly filling for a meatless meal.
1 pound box linguine
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
1 onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
handful of basil plus torn leaves for garnish
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
2 tsp. coarse salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
6 cups water
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and water in a large straight-sided skillet (the linguine should lay flat). Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs or a fork, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide among 4 bowls, and garnish with basil. Serve with olive oil and Parmesan.
Chicken and Mushroom One Pot Pasta
1 – 12-14oz. package of spaghetti or linguine
2 cups diced boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen peas
2 cups sliced mushrooms
5-6 cups chicken stock or water
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
Grated Parmesan cheese
Place the pasta in your pot, along with the chicken, peas, and mushrooms. Cover with the stock, olive oil, lemon zest, pepper, and thyme; season with salt and pepper.
Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium high but still boiling, and cook, stirring and turning the pasta frequently with tongs to break it up and prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook until the pasta is al dente and the stock is mostly evaporated, about nine minutes.
Remove the pan from the stove and add the heavy cream, stirring to combine. Remove the thyme sprigs and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese before serving.
One Pot Sausage and Mushroom Pasta
This recipe is from budgetbytes.com They have so many variations of one pot meals that they’ve coined their own word for them; wonderpots.
2 tbsp. olive oil
2-3 links Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion
8 oz. button mushrooms
1 (28oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
4 cups vegetable broth
1 lb. rigatoni
¼ cup Parmesan
handful fresh parsley (optional)
Add the olive oil and sausage links to a large pot and cook over medium heat until they are browned on the outside and firm enough to slice into rounds. Remove the sausage from the pot with tongs, slice into rounds, then return them to the pot and cook for a few minutes more, or until fully browned. While the sausage is cooking, slice or mince the garlic and slice or dice the onion (depending on how big you want your pieces). Slice the mushrooms. Once the sausage is browned, add the crushed tomatoes, onion, garlic, mushrooms, basil, and oregano to the pot. Stir to combine and to dissolve any browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Add the vegetable broth and pasta, then stir to combine. Place a lid on the pot, turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rapid boil. As soon as it reaches a full boil, give it a stir, replace the lid, turn the heat down to low. Let the pot simmer on low for 15 minutes. Stir it every five minutes or so while it’s simmering. Make sure it’s simmering (bubbling) the whole time. If it is not, turn the heat up slightly. After 15 minutes of simmering, the pasta should be tender and most of the liquid should be absorbed. If there is still too much liquid, let it simmer without a lid for a couple more minutes. Stir in the Parmesan and top with fresh chopped parsley, if desired. (You can use Better Than Bouillon brand soup base to make my broth.)
Spinach & Artichoke One Pot Pasta
8 oz. mushrooms
1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts
4 cloves garlic
1 medium yellow onion
5 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp olive oil
12 oz. fettuccine
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
freshly cracked pepper (15-20 cranks)
4 oz. frozen cut spinach
Rinse the mushrooms to remove any dirt or debris. Slice the mushrooms thinly. Drain the can of artichoke hearts and roughly chop them into bite-sized pieces. Thinly slice the onion and garlic (you can mince the garlic if you don’t want large slices). Place the vegetable broth, olive oil, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, onions, and garlic in a large pot. Break the fettuccine in half and add it to the pot along with the oregano, thyme, and some freshly cracked pepper. Push the ingredients down under the broth as much as possible. Place a lid on the pot and bring it up to a rolling boil over high heat. As soon as it reaches a boil, stir the pot to evenly distribute the ingredients and prevent the pasta from sticking. Turn the heat down to low so that the pot is just simmering. Allow the pot to simmer, with the lid on, for 10-15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Give the pot a stir every few minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking. Once the pasta is cooked through, add the frozen spinach. Allow the heat from the pasta to thaw the spinach. Stir the pot to help break up the clumps of spinach as they melt. Serve hot.
One Pot Eggplant and Mushroom Pasta
Recipe is vegan as printed. Just be careful to use vegan marinara. For non-vegans, a dash of Parmesan cheese at the end wouldn’t hurt.
12 ounces dry pasta
1/2 small eggplant, cubed
2 cups cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced and divided
1.5 cups marinara sauce
2 cup water
2 tsp. sea salt + more for eggplant
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
Optional: Fresh parsley or basil for finishing
Rinse and dice eggplant into small, bite-sized cubes. Place in a colander in the sink and sprinkle generously with salt to draw out some of the moisture. Wait 20-30 minutes, then rinse and pat thoroughly dry with a towel. Set aside. If you’re short on time, skip the eggplant and double the mushrooms. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, the eggplant and 1 clove of minced garlic. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and stir. Sauté for 3-5 minutes or until a golden brown color is achieved, then add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes more or until all of the veggies have color. Set aside and cover – you will top the pasta with it.
To the same saucepan, add the pasta, water, marinara sauce, the remaining cloves of garlic. Start with 1.5 teaspoons sea salt and 1 teaspoons black pepper. You will likely add more later depending on the saltiness of your marinara and your personal taste. Bring mixture to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer until the pasta is cooked to al dente – will vary depending on kind of pasta – but typically an average of 10 minutes, stirring so it doesn’t stick to the pan. Once cooked, stir and taste to adjust seasonings. Add more salt and fresh herbs at this point, if needed. Remove from heat and top with eggplant-mushroom mixture and more fresh parsley or basil. Serve immediately. Serves 3-4.
Pasta with Roasted Red Peppers, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Brie
12 ounces linguine, broken in half
1 cup packed basil leaves
1 cup coarsely chopped roasted red peppers
1/2 cup sliced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
3 to 4 large garlic cloves, pressed
4 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp. oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes (or regular olive oil)
1 tbsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
Pinch red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 ounces brie cheese, rind removed and torn into pieces
Grated Parmesan, for serving
Good-quality olive oil, for serving
Combine linguine, basil, roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic in a 3-quart straight-sided skillet. Add the water, olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes, and a generous amount of black pepper and bring to a full rolling boil over high heat. Using tongs, stir and turn the pasta frequently to prevent sticking. Cook until al dente, approximately 9 to 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. (If there is still a little bit of cooking water, pour some — but not all — into a separate bowl.) Add the brie and toss with tongs until creamy and melted. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. The sauce will naturally thicken up after a couple of minutes. Serve with grated Parmesan and a swirl of good olive oil. (If the pasta does seem to need liquid, add back a few splashes of reserved cooking liquid.)
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Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard or by email.