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.
While I embrace using pressure cookers, there are some dishes less suitable for cooking under pressure. I prefer my microwave oven or stove-top steaming for quick-cooking vegetables like asparagus and broccoli.
The best broccoli is green, tender, but still crisp. If you want brownish, limp flowerets, cook as long as you want. But we prefer broccoli cooked about three minutes (depending on the wattage of the microwave oven) in an oven-safe bowl covered with a wet paper towel. The only water needed is what clings to the flowerets or spears when you rinse them before cooking. That’s it. Hasty and tasty!
Thousands of people received an electric programmable pressure cooker for gifts during the holidays, or purchased one during the black Friday sales. Dozens of social media groups offer recipe exchanges and tips. One frequent question that I see on a daily basis is “How do I convert my slow cooker recipe for the _________(insert brand name of electric pressure cooker)?”
As a veteran pressure cooker cook, I feel qualified to address this question. I hope my recommendations help you. Here’s an example: A favorite slow cooker recipe of ours is slow cooker chili, based on Hurst’s HamBeens brand Slow Cooker Chili. I substitute ground turkey for the beef and Rotel for the diced tomatoes. I also use 1 quart chicken broth and 3 pints water instead of using all water, but otherwise I follow the recipe on the package.
First I turned on the pot and browned the onion and turkey. Then I added all other ingredients and sealed the pot. I cooked the recipe on high pressure for 40 minutes, followed by natural release. The beans were tender yet not too mushy, and the chili was delicious. However, the finished product was a little soupy for our preference.
However, it’s always better to err on the side of caution (that is, too much liquid) when cooking dried beans. Also, reheating the leftover chili evaporated any excess moisture. Therefore, the only conversion I suggest is cooking time. Each pot differs in buttons and settings, so you’ll have to consult your own manufacturer’s manual or website to know how to set high pressure for 40 minutes.
Where did I get the 40 minutes? I consulted the cooking chart for dried beans (without soaking) and used that time. Since beans take the longest cooking time, that’s what you should choose. If you’re a Crockpot veteran, you already know there’s a range of cooking time when slow cooking. There’s also a range with pressure cooking, so if I tell you 40 minutes and someone else tells you an hour, cook for the minimum time. It’s easy to check for doneness and bring the pot back to pressure to add cooking time. The contents are already hot, which means your pot returns to pressure quickly.
Note: If you’re using a stovetop pressure cooker, reduce cooking time to 35 minutes followed by natural release. The electric models take a tad longer to cook.
Safety first. The new cookers are the safest yet, but you have to follow the rules. Don’t overfill (2/3 pot for most dishes, 1/2 pot for bean dishes) and always use liquid. Even the shortest cooking time requires a minimum amount of liquid to reach pressure. Read your manual. If instructions are missing, either visit the manufacturer’s site or contact them.
Final word of advice: Cook! Don’t leave your new cooker in a box in a closet. Use it. Experience is the best teacher. Also, join a group or two on Facebook and read through their posts. You’ll find answers to your questions, and you’ll learn there is no one way to cook a dish.
You can buy already made mashed potatoes, frozen mashed potatoes, or–Heaven forbid!–instant dry potatoes. But why would you when it’s easy and inexpensive to make your own?
Before you bail on this post with mumblings about peeling potatoes, keep reading. I have a trick (well…actually I learned it watching Martha Stewart’s Cooking School on PBS) for skipping the potato-peeling chore. Unlike Martha, I use a pressure cooker, and that speeds up the process even more.
Here is my step-by-step instructions for easier mashed (or however you like ’em) potatoes:
- Pour one cup water into the pot of your pressure cooker (or whatever is the minimum liquid for your particular model).
- Place a rack or steamer basket over the water.
- Cut your (unpeeled) potatoes into 1/8ths or equal size pieces and place the pieces on the rack or in the basket.
- Secure the lid and bring to pressure. Cook on High for 10 minutes.
- Quick-release the pressure, carefully remove the lid, and open the cooker. Stand clear of the steam as it’s dangerously hot.
- Remove the potatoes and peel. The skins on cooked potatoes lifts off easily and quickly! What a labor saver.
- Mash or prepare as desired, adding your ingredients of choice.
Potatoes steamed over water instead of boiling in water retain more natural flavor and nutrients. This means less added salt or fat.
I previously posted an oven chicken recipe to make your own rotisserie chicken without a rotisserie. I’ll show you an alternative to that recipe using the pressure cooker.
Note: If you eat the skin of a chicken, you’ll want to brown it first using either the broiler or a large skillet. I skin chicken before eating it because skin is loaded with saturated fat, so browning isn’t an issue for us.
Hasty Tasty Roast Chicken
- 1 whole fryer, approx. 3 lbs.
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. Kosher salt
- ½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
- ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp. dried thyme
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. smoked paprika
- ½ tsp. onion powder
- 3 cups liquid (water, stock, broth)
- Rub whole chicken with the olive oil.
- Combine all spices and rub into the chicken. If possible, loosen the skin and rub the seasonings directly onto the meat.
- Add liquid to bottom of a pressure cooker pot. Place a rack in the bottom to prevent the chicken from resting directly on the pot.
- Secure lid to pressure cooker and bring to pressure. Cook for 20 minutes. If using an electric pressure cooker, select the Poultry setting for 20 minutes. (If chicken is frozen, you’ll need to add 10 minutes)
- Remove from heat (or hit “cancel” on the Keep Warm button) and allow pressure to drop on its own (about 10-15 minutes).
- Carefully open cooker. Use a meat thermometer inserted at the thigh to check for doneness. The chicken’s internal temperature should be at least 160°F (residual cooking will bring it to about 170°F).
- Using tongs or meat forks, move the chicken to a carving platter or large bowl or platter. Tent with aluminum foil and let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Carve and serve.
BONUS: Don’t discard the cooking liquid. It’s rich in flavor. Strain and use to make a quick gravy. Save in the refrigerator or freezer for later use. Or strain, return liquid to the pressure cooker, and cook vegetables in it.
After two chili recipes (previous two posts), I’m ready for a different cuisine. Ratatouille, or a veggie stew of Provence, is versatile and delicious. Originally French, it gets its flavors from Herbes de Provence, a distinctive blend of dried herbs that typically include savory, lavender, marjoram, fennel or tarragon, oregano, thyme, and rosemary .
I’m still playing around with pressure cooker recipes, and this dish is ideal for HASTY TASTY MEALS UNDER PRESSURE (my work-in-progress). It’s also great for meat-free Mondays (or whatever day you want to go vegetarian). When I make ratatouille early in the week, I divide it into batches for weeknight meals. I add chicken and noodles for a chicken veggie stew, or broth and cannellini beans for a quick pasta fazool. I serve it as a stew over rice or puree it as a sauce and serve over pasta with fresh-grated Parmesan cheese.
Note: For my readers who live in higher elevations, keep in mind my elevation here in Florida is about 100 feet. You will need to add cooking time if you live above 2000 feet.
Yield: 8 cups
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 medium zucchini, sliced in ½” pieces
- 1 cup crimini or white mushrooms, sliced
- 1 28-oz. can tomato puree
- 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 6-oz can tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp. dried Herbes de Provence
- 1 tsp. Kosher salt
- Fresh cracked pepper to taste
- (optional) fresh basil
- Heat olive oil in pressure cooker pot over medium-high heat.
- Add onions, peppers, and celery. Saute 2-3 minutes.
- Add garlic and Herbes de Provence. Stir until fragrant.
- Add eggplant, carrots, and zucchini. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add all other ingredients except optional fresh basil. Close cooker lid and bring to pressure.
- When pressure is reached, lower heat but maintain pressure. Cook for five minutes.
- Remove from heat. Allow pressure to drop on its own. (May take up to 25 minutes)
- Carefully open cooker and ladle contents over bowls of rice or pasta, if desired. Garnish with a fresh sprig of basil.
Ratatouille stores well up to three days in the refrigerator. It freezes well and keeps for 4-6 months in the freezer.
We love chili around our house, any variety. Beef or turkey, with or without beans, with or without pasta, with or without corn, Cincinnati-style or Tex-Mex chili, mild or mouth-blistering, we’ll eat it. I like to make chili with a cooked-all-day flavor that takes only an hour. It can be done! All you need is a pressure cooker.
I’m currently at work on my new cookbook, HASTY TASTY MEALS UNDER PRESSURE, experimenting with all our favorites using a pressure cooker. Mine is twenty years old, and has all the safety features missing from earlier models. But newer cookers are available now, including the electric models that have push-button selections and timers. I haven’t tried one yet, but my friend swears by hers.
Here is my latest version of chili using the pressure cooker method. You certainly can use canned chili beans and cut the cooking time, but cooking from dried gives me more control over my ingredients. However, I use canned corn if fresh is out of season (after rinsing and draining).
Don’t want to use a pressure cooker? No problem. Adapt the recipe for your slow cooker and cook on Low for 6 hours, or until beans are tender.
Hasty Tasty Chili
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 1 pound ground lean meat or turkey
- 1 pound dried pinto beans (I make an assortment of pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, and red or pink beans)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon chili seasoning (I use Bloemer‘s brand)
- 1 10 oz. can Rotel® diced tomatoes and green chilies (Pick your heat level)
- 1 16 oz. can tomato sauce
- 1 15 oz. can whole kernel corn or 2 cups fresh corn kernels (Optional)
- 1 bay leaf
- 32 oz. filtered water (or replace some of the water with a bottle or can of beer)
- Kosher salt
- Spray inside of a six-quart/liter pressure cooker pot with cooking spray. Preheat over medium.
- Add meat, stirring occasionally to brown. When meat starts browning, add the onions and garlic.
- Stir in chili seasoning.
- After rinsing and inspecting dried beans for any debris, spread the beans over the browned meat mixture.
- Cover the beans with the contents of the can of corn (optional). Add the filtered water and bay leaf (be sure beans are completely covered with liquid).
- Close pressure cooker, increase heat to medium/high, and watch closely for it to reach pressure. When pressure valve jiggles, lower heat to the lowest setting possible while maintaining pressure. (Most models emit a low hiss when at correct pressure. If your cooker makes a lot of noise, lower the heat)
- Once cooker reaches pressure, time for 40 minutes.*
- Remove from heat and allow pressure to drop on its own, approximately ten minutes.
- Carefully open the cooker (watch that steam!) and check beans for tenderness. They should be a bit firm at this point. Add the contents of the cans of Rotel and tomato sauce. Stir, close cooker, and bring back to pressure.
- Cook an additional 10 minutes under pressure. After pressure drops on its own for 10 minutes, release pressure and open the cooker.
- Test for seasoning and add salt to taste. Stir and serve with your choice of toppings.
*Pressure cookers vary by model. You may need more time if your cooker is 10 psi instead of 15 psi. As you use your cooker, you’ll learn to judge its cooking time. Just remember, it’s easy to quick-release pressure, check your food, and then return to pressure for additional cooking time. Also, the new electric cookers take the guesswork out of timing.
(For my readers who live in higher elevations, keep in mind my elevation here in Florida is about 100 feet. You will need to add cooking time if you live above 2000 feet.)