Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pressure Cooker Pasta Inverno

Pressure Cooker Pasta Inverno

If, like me, you're a fan of different types of pasta dishes, you've probably come across Pasta Primavera, a dish of lightly cooked spring vegetables ("primavera" means "spring" in Italian) with pasta and fresh herbs. It's a wonderful dish to serve as the first spring produce arrives, things like snap peas, bell peppers and scallions are perfect in it.

I was thinking lately that winter vegetables should also have their own pasta dish, so I decided to come up with a version of "Pasta Inverno" (hopefully you've caught on that "inverno" is Italian for "winter").

There's a key difference in cooking winter vegetables from spring ones: the winter ones generally take longer to cook. While spring vegetables are done with a quick blanche or sauté, hearty winter vegetables like butternut squash and cauliflower need a good roast or braise. One of the delights of Pasta Primavera is that comes together quickly. How could I make a similar wintertime dish that wouldn't take all day to make?

Enter the pressure cooker: a wonderful time-saving device that drastically reduces the cooking time for ingredients that would otherwise require hours to tenderize. About a year ago, I did a series of pressure cooker recipes (links for which appear at the end of this article) and it really does reduce cooking times for all sorts of recipes from meats to grains to vegetables.

In this recipe, I used the pressure cooker to shorten the braising time for a winter vegetable pasta sauce composed of cauliflower, butternut squash, kale and canned tomatoes. While it still takes time to prep and sauté the vegetables, the pressure cooking does make this into a dish that can be done in about an hour (the time it takes to bring the cooker up to pressure may vary depending on its size; my 8 quart model seems to take longer than I would often like, but does give me the flexibility to cook a large quantity).

The pressure cooker made nice work of this sauce. I let the vegetables sauté in the olive oil for about 15 minutes. That may sound like a long time, but it's a pretty large quantity of vegetables. Make sure you use a pressure cooker large enough to handle the volume or, if needed, pare down the quantity of vegetables in the recipe. Once the cooker came up to pressure, I cooked the vegetables under pressure for about 10 minutes before using the quick-release method remove pressure. The sauce was very hot, and it continued to cook the pasta a bit after I stirred in the noodles. Because of that, I recommend cooking the pasta a little shy of al dente so that the noodles won't be too soft when served (I like my pasta chewy).

Pressure Cooker Pasta Inverno

1 lb. dried tube pasta (penne or ziti)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 lb. butternut squash, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 head of cauliflower, cored and cut into small florets
6-7 kale leaves, stems removed/discarded and leaves chopped
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
6 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup water
1 tbsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Dash of ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, at table

1. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions for al dente or just a little shy of al dente. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat olive oil in the pressure cooker pot set over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, squash and cauliflower, and saute until softened, about 13-15 minutes. Add kale, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, oregano, thyme, rosemary, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Lock lid and increase heat to medium-high to bring contents up to high pressure (note: adjust cooking temperatures as needed for your cooker and stove, these directions are for my Fagor Duo 8 qt. pressure cooker used on an electric range). Once pressurized, reduce heat as appropriate to maintain pressure (medium-low for me) and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes.

3. Remove cooker from stove and set in the sink. Release pressure with quick release method. Remove the lid and add the cooked pasta. Stir to combine.

4. Serve pasta in shallow bowls with grated parmesan at the table.


Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera with Asparagus Pesto

Equipment: Pressure Cooker

Cooking with a Pressure Cooker

Pressure Cooker Barbecue Spareribs

Pressure Cooker Chicken Paprikash

Pressure Cooker Mole Chicken Chili

Pressure-Cooked Quinoa Salad with Cauliflower

Pressure Cooker Spring Risotto

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