A few years ago, the one-pot pasta recipe hit the digital airwaves and became an instantaneous viral sensation. The idea that you could put some basic ingredients in a pan with water and pasta and end up with dinner in about ten minutes was revolutionary, and the fact that it tasted great didn’t hurt.
The science behind why the technique is so great is simple. Instead of cooking pasta separately and then bringing it together with the addition of some of the starch-enriched pasta cooking water, this method leaves the starch right in the sauce as it cooks, and the flavors absorb into the pasta beautifully. You end up with a glossy, flavorful sauce that coats the pasta, with flavors that belie the quick cooking method.
And if you think these one-pot dishes are easy and effective on the stovetop, wait until you try them in your multi-cooker. The beautiful part about these one-pot recipes is that the recipe already contains the right proportions of pasta to water to sauce ingredients, so there is only an adjustment needed in the cooking time and technique.
Why shift these already easy one-pot recipe to the multi-cooker? What exactly do you gain?
One, if you think the pasta absorbs flavor when cooked in the liquid, you will be really impressed with how the pressure of these vessels improves it even further. Sort of like the difference between marinating something in a shallow pan of marinade, versus sealing it in your vacuum sealer. The pressure created helps to pull the sauce and seasonings into the pasta for deep and complex flavor.
Two, if you have kids that are starting to learn to cook but aren’t quite ready to stand at a stovetop stirring a spitting pan of lava hot pasta, this is a dish that they can make all on their own, or with the help of a babysitter. Easier, faster, and less expensive than ordering a pizza, and a good skill to start building in your offspring.
Three, if you don’t have access to a stove, it's incredibly useful. Whether you are in a dorm or sharing a space where access to a kitchen is limited, all you need to make these dishes is an electrical outlet, and you can still have a delicious home-cooked meal. Ditto if it is hot as blazes and you have no air-conditioning, the idea of turning on a stove and standing over it for 15 seems impossible.Multi-cookers put off very little residual heat, and once they are off, they are off, plus there is no watching or stirring needed, everything is happening magically in the pot!
As with the one-pot recipes, multi-cookers work best with either small shapes of pasta (elbows, bowties, fusilli, penne and the like) or thicker strands like linguine or fettucine. Unlike stovetop, if you are using strands, you’ll need to break them in half to use in the multi-cooker. Do not try and cook thin strands like spaghettini or angel hair in a multi-cooker, they will turn to mush.
Take any recipe for a one-pot pasta, dump all the ingredients into your multi-cooker, and give it a stir to ensure the pasta doesn’t stick together. All of these recipes include a large enough amount of water or other liquid to properly cook the pasta, so you don’t have to worry about burning.
Close and lock the pot, and use this handy formula to determine cook time: Take the number on your package directions for the pasta of choice, divide by two and then subtract one. So, if your package of rigatoni says to cook for 14 minutes in boiling water, divide by two, which is seven and then subtract one, which will give you a cook time of six minutes. This little formula takes into account the cooking that will start to happen as the pot builds pressure and will continue as you do the release. If your pasta says to cook for an odd number of minutes, round down and not up, because you will always want to err on the side of al dente, especially since pasta continues to cook a bit as it sits before serving.
Set your machine for high pressure for the number of minutes you have determined, then wait. Do what I call a semi-quick release, opening and closing the steam vent for five to ten seconds at a time until fully released. You don’t want to natural release, your pasta will overcook, but a full quick release can get sputtery, so I treat it more like opening a bottle of carbonated liquid you just dropped on the floor.
Once the release is complete, open the lid and taste the pasta. If it is slightly too al dente for you, quickly put the lid back on and let rest, covered, for two to three minutes. Add any seasoning adjustments, fresh herbs and cheese and give a good stir and serve! That's it. You've got a one pot pasta dish from the Instant Pot.
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