If you’re a purist and want your pasta cooked separately, you can skip this post. The Hasty Tasty Meals Kitchen is about shortcuts, and cooking pasta in the sauce is a time-saver if done correctly. But it can be tricky.
I cook pasta in the sauce in skillet meals, casseroles, and in the pressure cooker. The safety instructions for pressure cookers warn against cooking foods that foam, like pasta or grains, but don’t let that stop you. You just need to exercise caution. I do oatmeal in its own bowl on a trivet above the water, for example, with no problem. I’ve seen countless posts on Instagram and Facebook of beautiful lasagnas made in an Instant Pot or other brand multi-cooker under pressure in a springform pan. It can be done.
When making pasta dishes in my pressure cooker, I prefer Mueller’s Pot-Sized dried pasta. It’s smaller length makes it a perfect fit without breaking.
Here are the rules when cooking pasta, whether by itself or with other food.
- Add a teaspoon of oil.
- Don’t allow pasta to touch the bottom of the pot.
- Spread dried pasta in a single layer as much as possible and don’t stir.
- Use sufficient liquid to cover the pasta.
- Cook for only half the recommended time.
- Allow pressure to drop on its own for a minute then release in short spurts.
- Add cheese or other dairy products.
If you follow these steps, you’ll have satisfactory results. Why go to the trouble to cook a spaghetti dinner in a pressure cooker? Clean up! I have one pot to clean. One. That makes me a happy cook.
Spaghetti and Meat Sauce
- one pound ground turkey (or beef–you choose)
- 1 teaspoon oil
- one 8 ounce can mushrooms (do not drain)
- 8 ounces dried spaghetti
- 1 15½ ounce can tomato sauce + 1 empty can water or broth
- 3-4 cloves minced garlic
- 1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
- ½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the pot of the pressure cooker and brown the ground turkey in the cooking oil. If using an electric pressure cooker, you can just choose any setting that allows you to saute with the lid off. Salt and pepper as desired.
- Remove pot from heat (or hit Cancel on an electric model). Layer pasta over the meat spread as thinly as possible to prevent clumping.
- Add the can of mushrooms, the tomato sauce, and the water or broth over the pasta. Do not stir.
- Sprinkle garlic and seasonings over sauce.
- Seal the cooker and bring to pressure. Cook 5 minutes.
- Allow pressure to drop on its own 1-2 minutes, then carefully vent the cooker to release pressure.
- Open the cooker and stir (use a long handled utensil because contents are hot!).
- Sprinkle with a mixture of mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Residual heat will melt the cheese.
Note: You may use this method with other shapes and sizes of dried pasta. Just cook under pressure for half the time recommended on the pasta’s box.
I try to cook with fresh ingredients. Usually. But sometimes–you know those times when you’ve been working and suddenly you’re faced with a hungry family without a dinner plan–you’re tempted to order pizza. Again. Been there, my friend. So without apology, I present the emergency one-dish meal using (gasp!) canned condensed cream of whatever soup.
All you need in addition to the soup is pasta or rice, some leftover (or canned) meat and/or vegetables, and cheese. There are endless combinations, and any combo produces a reasonably healthy meal in a short time. If you make it in one pot, cleanup isn’t overwhelming, either. One-pot meals are a great use-up of leftovers, too, like that one serving of green beans or that half cup of corn kernels you just couldn’t bear to put down the disposal.
I use a pressure cooker, but I’ve also made this dish in an electric skillet. Whatever works best for you.
Here’s an example, but feel free to substitute ingredients you have available.
Chicken and Mushroom Pasta
- 2 cups cooked chicken
- 1 10½ oz. can condensed cream of chicken soup
- 10 oz. chicken broth or water
- 1 cup dried cavatappi or similar size pasta
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup fresh asparagus, sliced in 2″ pieces
- ½ cup mushrooms
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
- (optional) fresh basil, chopped
- Layer the cooked chicken in the bottom of the pot of a pressure cooker. Spread pasta on top the chicken.
- Pour the soup and broth or water over so that all pasta is submerged in liquid. Scatter the minced garlic on top.
- Close lid, bring to pressure, and cook 4 minutes. Immediately remove from heat (or hit Cancel on electric models) and release pressure. Carefully open lid and stir in the vegetables.
- Cover and let the vegetables cook in the residual heat. There’s no need to return to heat.
- After about 10 minutes, open and sprinkle cheeses over the top. Cover for another 3-5 minutes or until cheeses have melted.
- Serve garnished with optional fresh basil.
I previously sang the praises of spiral vegetable slicers when I bought my SpiraLife. I upgraded to the fancier model but still love my trusty hand-held.
My latest experiment involves sweet potatoes. I peeled a Beauregard (grown locally) and combined its noodles with one zucchini, also spiral-cut, and steamed over low heat for about ten minutes.
I added salt and pepper, and then tossed the “noodles” with a dressing I made from 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, one clove garlic, and a pinch of Chinese Five Spice seasoning. I topped it off with chopped fresh cilantro. Delicious!
You can change up your vegetables by mixing up the combinations and/or dressings or sauces. What a fun way to be sure you’re eating your vegetables. Enjoy!
Lately we’re reading or hearing a lot about spiral vegetable slicing, such as zucchini noodles using the SpiraLife or Spiralizer gadget. But don’t forget the spaghetti squash. It may not make perfect noodles–in fact, its flesh more closely resembles rice–yet it’s a good substitute for your favorite pasta.
Cooking spaghetti squash is easy, especially with a microwave oven. Using a sharp knife, puncture the skin in five or six places. Put the squash in a microwave-safe dish and cook on high for six minutes (Times vary depending on the model of your oven). Slice open, remove seeds and pulp, and then pull the flesh into “spaghetti” using a fruit spoon. Top and serve!
In this slideshow, I topped with scallops scampi and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Spaghetti squash offers a delicious way to sneak a serving of vegetables into the meal no matter what toppings or sauce you use.