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.
This recipe originated as part of my research for the romance novel I’m currently writing, Return to Drake Springs. The hero is on a tight budget but wants to impress the heroine by cooking her dinner. While shopping, I bought only sale items (the lengths we writers go in the name of research!) at my local supermarket, which included bags of fresh, ready-to-eat spinach and boxes of pasta (Both Buy-One-Get-One free), and a discount on fresh baby portabella mushrooms and red bell peppers. The result of my experiment is Mushroom Pasta Florentine.
This recipe is a hearty and delicious meal for meat free Monday or any day. Whole grain pasta bumps up the protein, and the spinach and mushrooms give two servings of vegetables per meal. It’s affordable, too. This has become one of our household’s favorite meals. A writer never knows where research will lead. ☺
Mushroom Pasta Florentine with Whole Wheat Pasta
Hasty Tasty Mushroom Pasta Florentine
- 4 oz. dried thin spaghetti, whole grain or whole wheat
- 1 package fresh spinach leaves, washed and ready to eat
- 8 oz. crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- ¼ red bell pepper, diced
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- ½ tsp. grated fresh nutmeg
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs (i.e. Rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley)
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- In a large pot, bring 4 – 5 quarts water to a boil. Add salt and pasta. Cook to al dente (follow instructions on the package).
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add spinach.
- Cook spinach until it wilts and leaves room to add mushrooms and red bell pepper.
- Using tongs, toss cooked mushrooms, spinach, and pepper with nutmeg and garlic. Cook another two minutes and remove from heat.
- In a large shallow bowl, pour extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and herbs.
- Drain pasta and immediately add it to the bowl. Use tongs to toss hot pasta with the oil, garlic, and herbs until pasta is coated and fragrant.
- Add the spinach-mushroom mixture. Toss with the pasta.
- Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and serve.
Recipe can be doubled.
Encore of my low fat gravy method post:
Several have asked me about my fat-free roux method for making gravy or sauce. Traditional roux is made from browning equal amounts of fat (typically butter) and flour. Although my gravy isn’t fat-free (I finish it with a Tbsp. of butter for flavor and gloss), mine is a lot lower in fat calories. I recently made a batch of this gravy to reheat leftover cooked turkey. The turkey flavored the gravy while the gravy gently warmed the turkey. That’s a win-win!
Start by preheating a quality, heavy-duty skillet. To make one cup of gravy, add two tablespoons flour to the dry skillet over medium heat. Whisk often to cook the flour. Season the flour as desired. When the flour turns light brown and emits an aroma indicating it’s cooked, remove the skillet from the heat.
Add flour to dry, preheated skillet
Whisk flour often to keep it from burning.
Carefully add about a pint of broth or stock, whisking into the roux. Stand back as the hot skillet may steam from the cold liquid (as an additional step, preheat your broth or stock before adding it to the roux). After roux is incorporated into the liquid, return the skillet to medium heat. Whisk occasionally.
Remove from heat and whisk in broth or stock.
Continue to whisk over medium heat to blend together roux and broth.
Allow the gravy to thicken and reduce, then lower the heat. If using the gravy to reheat cooked food such as leftover turkey, place the food in the gravy and let it cook gently until warmed.
Optional: Use gravy to gently reheat cooked meat or poultry.
To serve, remove all food from the gravy and plate for serving. Remove skillet from heat. Stir in one pat (approx. 1 Tbsp.) butter to finish the gravy. Pour into gravy bowl to serve.
I had leftover pork roast and wanted to make pulled pork barbecued sandwiches, but I couldn’t find a bottle of barbecue sauce in either my fridge or pantry. No problem. I made my own, and in the time it would have taken me to drive to the nearest store.
1 cup catsup
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. real maple syrup
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
½ tsp. smoked paprika
Mix together in a small saucepan. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Cool.
Variations: Add 1 tsp. each chili sauce, freshly grated ginger, and lemon zest for an Oriental barbecue sauce; Increase maple syrup to 2 Tbsp. for a sweeter barbecue sauce; Add 1 tsp. cumin for a southwestern smoky flavor.
Yield: 12 ounces
BBQ pulled pork sandwich
This recipe is so easy I’ll never shop for bottled sauces again!