Sunday, January 23, 2011

Perfect Pasta in the Pressure Cooker

Pasta with beef prepared in a pressure cooker
I use my Kuhn Rikon 7-qt pressure cooker in fits and starts, but at least once a week to make Wednesday night's dinner which is usually a south of the border bean dish.  This weekend, I rediscovered all the other wonderful things I can prepare in a pressure cooker including cheesecake and perfect pasta!  I've tried and loved  most Lorna Sass's Pressure Perfect recipe.

I annotated my Lorna Sass recipe book with "Best recipe in book" a few years ago
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground meat - lamb, pork, beef, turkey
1 chopped onion
1 tsp whole fennel seeds
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
12 ounces of short pasta that normally cooks in 9 to 13 minutes - not spaghetti noodles
28 ounces of crushed tomato
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup grated parmesean or romano cheese plus more for serving
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
pinch of sugar

Heat the oil in a 4-quart or larger cooker.  Add the ground meat and brown over high heat, stirring frequently to break up the clumps.  Stir in the onions and fennel seeds, and continue cooking for a minute.

Stir in the wine and scrape up any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the cooker.  Boil over high heat until some of the liquid has evaporated, about another minute.  Stir in the water, salt, and garlic.  Bring to a boil.  Add the pasta and pour the tomatoes on top.  Do not stir after adding the tomatoes.

Lock the lid in place.  Over high heat bring to high pressure.  Reduce the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 5 minutes (it takes me 10 minutes).  Turn off the heat.  quick-release the pressure by setting the cooker under cold running water.  Remove the lid.

Stir in the parsley, cheese, and crushed red pepper flakes.  Add another tablespoon of oil and the sugar, if needed to round out the flavors.  Break up any pasta that is tuck together and release any that is clinging to the bottom of the cooker.

Let the dish rest uncovered in the cooker for 3 to 5 minutes.  If the pasta is not uniformly tender, replace the lid during this period and set the cooker over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is done.

Serve in large shallow bowls.  Sprinkle cheese on top of each portion. 

Prepped ingredients, ready for the cooker
Now it's enticing to read that this recipe only takes 10 minutes in a pressure cooker but do not be lulled by "false advertising".  This still took an hour to prepare.  There was the prep work, the pre-pressure browning of meat, the getting up to high heat, pressure cooking, and final futzing with seasoning and doness.  It's still a really good meal and I love it.  I've made it many times but it's not something that you would just throw together in 20 minutes.  This is more of a "get your Italian grandmother's famous pasta dish that took her 5 hours in about an hour" sort of dish. The flavors really combine well and worth the hour's time in the kitchen.

The original recipe said this made 3 to 4 servings but this seems overly generous to me.  I turned it into 6 large servings, as you can see.

Weight Watchers PointsPlus:  the total pan without the added sugar, second tablespoon of olive oil or extra parmesean for serving is 66 points.  For 6 generous servings the points are 11 per plate, without the extras.  Maybe I've gotten used to smaller portions but this still seems like a plate full of food.  This could easily be turned into 8 servings for 8 points each.


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