If you’ve been following our blog, you know we don’t make very much Italian food and rarely make pasta. There are two reasons for this. The first, paradoxically, is that Tony LOVES Italian food, which is not surprising, giving that he ate it about six days a week, every week, from the time he could eat solid food to the day he left home for college, and if given the chance, he would revert back to something close to that schedule. The second is that even making a pot of pasta is a bit of a project, at least in small kitchen. You have to bring a big pot of water to boil, cook the pasta, strain the pasta through a colander, and, if you’re doing it right, return the pasta to the pot (or another pan) so you can combine it with the sauce. Making sauce, of course, takes more time and means another pot or pan to wash. (Store-bought sauce out of a jar is not an option; Tony’s Very Italian Mother and Very Italian Father would disown him if he tried.) It’s a surprising amount of work and mess for what should be a simple meal.
So, when we got an e-mail from Food 52 that contained a link to a recipe for Martha Stewart’s One-Pot Pasta, we were intrigued. The recipe, as the name implies, directs you on how to make a pasta dinner in one pot, without having to bring quarts and quarts of water to a full boil or making a separate sauce. Here, Tony tells you how it turned out.
I was excited by this recipe, but also very skeptical. Despite the implied assurance in the recipe that stirring and turning the pasta with tongs frequently during cooking would keep everything from clumping together, I was anticipating the very real possibility of a culinary disaster. I took a page from our cats George and Henry and decided that curiosity – Does this approach to making pasta really work?! – should win out. I’m glad I did.
It only took a few minutes to slice the onion and garlic and cut the grape tomatoes in half, so prep was pretty minimal. The first cooking step for making this dish couldn’t be simpler: put everything – linguine, cherry tomatoes, onion, garlic, red pepper, basil, olive oil, salt, pepper, and water – in a pan. The only catch is that you have to use a “straight sided skillet” (I used our trusty Dutch oven) and that the linguine “should lay flat” (the linguine didn’t lie perfectly flat, as the Dutch oven was a little too small for that, but came close enough). Once the ingredients are in the pot, you bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. I timed it and the mixture took 8 minutes to come to a boil.
As the pasta boils, and as the instructions note, you have to stir the pasta to keep it from clumping together. This wasn’t the near-constant stirring Kim had to do when she made the Red Wine and Mushroom Risotto, but I did have to keep a close eye on things. After about 9 more minutes, almost all the water was absorbed and the pasta was done. I divided the pasta among two plates (for dinner) and two plastic containers (for leftovers), shaved some Parmesan cheese over the linguine, and we were ready for dinner.
Much to our delight, our skepticism proved to be unfounded: the pasta was cooked pretty much perfectly and while I forgot some key ingredients (fresh basil in the pasta and more basil plus olive oil for serving) and didn’t use anywhere near enough cheese, it tasted pretty good too. The onions and tomatoes softened nicely; the onions kept a little bit of their crunch and the tomatoes didn’t get too mushy. The residual pasta water helped the sauce and cheese stick to the pasta.
We will definitely make this again when we need to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes, and will probably experiment with it too. We talked about adding sliced black or Kalamata olives to the cooked pasta to give it more of a Mediterranean flair. We could also see adding cooked sausage or shrimp to the pasta to take it in another direction. I’m also curious to see what happens if all you put in the pot is pasta and water.
We hope you try this recipe at home and have as much success with it as we did. Please let us know if it turns out as well for you as it did for us. Just don’t tell my mom and dad!