Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Pasta Method - Pink Sausage Pasta

As you know, I am on a mission to learn new methods to simplify our favorite recipes, described in this post. One of our favorites is a sausage pasta dish that we call Pink Pasta. I got the original recipe from Boston Globe Magazine about 15 years ago:

I made some adaptations over the years, which I will describe in my Instant Pot version. 

Truth: I'm almost embarrased to admit that I was looking to simplify this recipe. It already is ridiculously easy. Six ingredients. Two pans. 25 minutes. Sounds like an easy weeknight meal. But for me, on any given weeknight, even that is too much. Two pans to clean? Not after teaching all day, going for a run, doing errands, walking the dog, taking a shower, tidying up the house... I'm sure you get the idea. So I researched methods for cooking pasta in the Instant Pot.

All of the recipes I saw used pretty much the same basic process:
  1. Use the "Saute" feature to cook vegetables and brown meat (I use Italian sausage not chicken sausage) *Thank you to Jody for telling me I left this part out of the original post!
  2. Add sauce ingredients and mix together with vegetables and meat
  3. Add pasta and stir it into the sauce
  4. Add water to pretty much cover the pasta
  5. Seal the pressure valve, and use the "Manual" setting to cook for 6 minutes
  6. Use quick release to release pressure and open lid
  7. If sauce is thin, saute until it thickens
  8. If pasta is too al dente, add more liquid and saute on low until pasta reaches desired texture
You could follow this method with any of your favorite pasta recipes. Here is how it worked for our Pink Pasta recipe.

First, I sautéed the chopped onion in olive oil on low for a few minutes, then I removed the sausage from its casing, added it to the pan and browned it using high heat.

If you get brown bits on the bottom of the pan, don't panic! Brown bits = flavor! When the sausage is browned, just add a little water and use your spoon to scrape up the brown bits. 

Next, add a whole jar of your favorite sauce or use homemade. Then, add about half a 16 ounce container or ricotta until the sauce reaches your desired shade of pink.

Now is where the method is different from the original. If you were following the original recipe, you would have also been boiling a separate pot of water and making pasta. But now, we cook the pasta right in the sauce in the same pan. Yup. One pan cooking. So add a whole box of pasta and stir it in, then add water to mostly cover the pasta. 

Put the lid on, seal the pressure valve, and use the manul setting to pressure cook for 6 minutes. Use the quick release method to release the pressure, and follow the steps above if the sauce is too thin or if the pasta isn't cooked enough. I found the sauce thickened as it sat. If the sauce is prefect, I would remove the inner pan from the Instant Pot to stop any residual heat carry over. 

It really was, dare I say it, better than the original. The pasta absorbed more of the flavor of the sauce since it cooked in it, and the clean up could not have been easier. Just plop the steel liner right into the dishwasher. I will definitely make more pasta dishes this way. How about you? If you tried it, let us know in the comments. Here is Ollie enjoying the leftovers:

Instant Pot - My Philosophy

As soon as I ordered my Instant Pot, I started searching the internet for recipes. I even bought a pressure cooking cookbook. As I was browsing, I found many recipes that just wouldn't work for my family. Lentil tacos? Nope. Sloppy Joe's with rolled oats in them? Nope. So I took a step back and thought about why I wanted to buy the Instant Pot in the first place. Although I do like to experiment with new recipes, that's not why I bought it. I wanted to simplify every day cooking and expand our week day repertoire by making recipes I know we already like more simple and and quicker. This is my Instant Pot philosophy:

 As a cook, learning a recipe means you now know how to make that one thing. But when you learn methods, they can be applied to any recipe. So from now on, although I may try a new recipe now and then, I'm going to focus on adapting the recipes my family loves for the Instant Pot. Hopefully you will be able to use these methods to adapt your own favorite recipes for easy, quick cooking with the Instant Pot!