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.
I try to cook with fresh ingredients. Usually. But sometimes–you know those times when you’ve been working and suddenly you’re faced with a hungry family without a dinner plan–you’re tempted to order pizza. Again. Been there, my friend. So without apology, I present the emergency one-dish meal using (gasp!) canned condensed cream of whatever soup.
All you need in addition to the soup is pasta or rice, some leftover (or canned) meat and/or vegetables, and cheese. There are endless combinations, and any combo produces a reasonably healthy meal in a short time. If you make it in one pot, cleanup isn’t overwhelming, either. One-pot meals are a great use-up of leftovers, too, like that one serving of green beans or that half cup of corn kernels you just couldn’t bear to put down the disposal.
I use a pressure cooker, but I’ve also made this dish in an electric skillet. Whatever works best for you.
Here’s an example, but feel free to substitute ingredients you have available.
Chicken and Mushroom Pasta
- 2 cups cooked chicken
- 1 10½ oz. can condensed cream of chicken soup
- 10 oz. chicken broth or water
- 1 cup dried cavatappi or similar size pasta
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup fresh asparagus, sliced in 2″ pieces
- ½ cup mushrooms
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
- (optional) fresh basil, chopped
- Layer the cooked chicken in the bottom of the pot of a pressure cooker. Spread pasta on top the chicken.
- Pour the soup and broth or water over so that all pasta is submerged in liquid. Scatter the minced garlic on top.
- Close lid, bring to pressure, and cook 4 minutes. Immediately remove from heat (or hit Cancel on electric models) and release pressure. Carefully open lid and stir in the vegetables.
- Cover and let the vegetables cook in the residual heat. There’s no need to return to heat.
- After about 10 minutes, open and sprinkle cheeses over the top. Cover for another 3-5 minutes or until cheeses have melted.
- Serve garnished with optional fresh basil.
You’ve had a long day. All you want to do is collapse in a chair and be served dinner. But you’re on a budget and trying to eat healthy meals, so you prefer eating at home instead of a restaurant. What a dilemma.
Sound familiar? Been there, done that. So I keep a few speedy-to-the-table meals in my cooking arsenal, including Hasty Tasty Spinach-Chicken Pasta. This one uses leftover, cooked chicken (but you could substitute other cooked meats or chopped Portobello mushrooms) and a package of triple-washed spinach. I also use a jar of light Alfredo sauce from my pantry (I stock up when my local grocer has a BOGO–Buy-One-Get-One-free). My recipe serves two, but you could easily double it. It’s thirty minutes, max, until you’re sitting down to enjoy your meal.
Even with the prepared sauce, this meal is fairly light and packed with nutrition. Don’t feel guilty for using prepared sauce when you’re eating almost two servings of iron- and fiber-rich spinach. Busy schedules call for compromise.
Note: For this recipe I used my Fasta Pasta microwave oven cooker to prepare the farfalle while I made the dish using my 12″ Gourmet electric skillet (by Kitchencraft). Use whatever cookware works best for you.
HASTY TASTY SPINACH-CHICKEN PASTA
- 2 ounces (1 serving) dried bowtie (Farfalle) or shell pasta
- 2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
- 1 package (3-4 servings) spinach salad mix, washed and ready to eat
- Kosher salt
- 1 jar prepared Alfredo sauce, your choice.
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 clove garlic, grated or pressed
- 2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
- Cook pasta in a separate pan or in a microwave oven pasta cooker until al dente. Salt generously.
- In a large covered skillet or electric skillet, wilt fresh spinach over low heat (225°F)
- Add the cooked chicken, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the jar of Alfredo sauce, stir, and cover. Heat through 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in cooked pasta, season with the grated garlic and nutmeg. Turn off heat.
- Divide and serve, garnished with Parmesan cheese.Enjoy.
Tip: Cooking for one? Leftovers taste great cold, too. Save half to take for lunch.
Too much cooking and too much eating have led to too much weight! While I hate the word diet, I’m on one now to drop pounds. A recent addition to my kitchen gadget collection is a vegetable spiral slicer. Many brands are available. I chose a handheld model by Spiralife.
The spiral slicer creates several long strands of vegetable pasta.
I love pasta dishes, so the concept of creating vegetable ribbons as a substitute for spaghetti appeals to me. Vegetable noodles save me approximately 200 calories per serving when substituted for my whole wheat or semolina spaghetti. What a fun way to sneak more nutrition and fiber in my diet. 😀
For my first adventure in spiral slicing, I steamed a squash medley for a side dish. Using one yellow squash and one zucchini, I produced enough “noodles” for two pasta dishes or three side dishes. I tossed with a tablespoon of butter for a side, but next time I plan to use a pesto sauce for an entrée.
Steam pasta over low heat just until tender. Or you can boil it if you don’t have minimum-moisture cookware.
A side of squash medley served with chicken and mashed potatoes.
The handheld Spiralife® is great for round vegetables, like carrots, zucchini, and yellow squash. It isn’t designed for onions or broccoli, which is no problem because a pasta substitute should have a mild taste. I enjoy a medley of flavors, so I blend squashes with a carrot. In the past, I’ve created veggie curls using an ordinary vegetable peeler. This new gadget speeds up the process.
Bottom line: The Spiralife is worth the purchase. I may even consider upgrading to a fancier model!
Handheld vegetable spiral slicer by Spiralife
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.
Pasta e Fagioli
Not only is pasta e fagioli hasty and tasty, it’s inexpensive and healthful. Also known as pasta fazool, this dish provides plenty of protein and fiber because it contains beans, vegetables, and whole wheat pasta. The tomatoes and Italian seasonings give it great flavor. Try this dish for your next meat-free meal.
PASTA E FAGIOLI
- 1 14 oz. can chicken broth
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning spice
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
- 1 15½ oz. can cannellini or navy beans, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup frozen seasoning blend (Chopped onion, celery, bell pepper, parsley)
- ½ cup whole wheat elbow macaroni
- ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
- (Optional: ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped or torn, for garnish)
In a 2 quart saucepan, heat the broth over medium heat. Stir in garlic, seasoning blend, Italian spices, tomato sauce and paste. Bring to a low boil.
Add beans, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add macaroni, cover and simmer for 7 additional minutes.
Remove pan from heat, stir, and check macaroni. Should be cooked al dente.
Sprinkle each serving generously with the Parmesan cheese and garnish with fresh basil, if desired.
Yield: 3 servings
©2011 Cheryl Norman, Recipes for Recovery
In a perfect world, we cook everything from fresh and make our own sauces, etc. But real life often challenges us with unexpected company or a rushed schedule. There’s no need to resort to take-out, not when you can fake out. Take a little help from the store and keep a few cheat items in your pantry and freezer. Here’s a favorite emergency dish I make in twenty minutes. I read labels and shop as wisely as possible to ensure my fake out is as healthful as possible.
Few ingredients needed for this recipe.
Add cooked pasta to gently heated sauce.
Fresh herbs make this jar sauce a star sauce!
Penne Alfredo Fake-out
• 2 cups whole-wheat penne pasta
• 1 jar reduced fat Alfredo sauce
• 1 cup frozen vegetables
• ½ pound medium shrimp, with veins and tails removed
• ½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
• ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
1. Cook penne pasta according to package instructions in salted, boiling water.
2. In a 2 quart covered saucepan, gently heat shrimp and vegetables over medium-low heat until shrimp turns pink and sauce is bubbly (approximately 10 minutes)
3. Drain cooked penne and toss with the shrimp sauce mixture.
4. Serve, garnished with chopped parsley and shredded cheese, if desired.
Yield: 4 servings
Variations: Chill leftovers for a tasty pasta salad.