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Adventures in Pressure Cooking Pasta - Pennette w Rapini and Sun Dried Tomatoes

One of the most surprising things I have discovered since getting an Instant Pot is how well it does pasta. Because you cook the pasta right in the pot with the sauce, you are not wasting litres of water, it cooks in half the time and the flavours are much more infused and intense, which means I can get away with less and I always like to get away with less when I can. 

                                                            Lobster Mac and Cheese

                                                            Smoky Mac and Cheese

Sometimes, I don't want a heavy pasta full of sausage or cheese and , to be honest, I prefer pasta napped in olive oil and maybe a splash of chicken stock.

This, then, is the ten minute dinner that I can throw together with a handful of leftover this and that and look like a rockstar. Only 1 slice of bacon, a handful of leftover cooked kale and two olives in the fridge? As long as you keep lots of pasta and chicken stock in your pantry, you are about to shock and amaze.

Over the last few weeks I have made a variation on this basic pasta at least five or six times. I have used pancetta in place of bacon, I have used all manner of hearty pasta (I don't like the way spaghetti cooks when pressure cooked and it's too easy to overcook it so just skip it) from rigatoni to cavatappi. I have thrown in leftover cooked greens like this garlicky rapini, frozen peas, frozen shrimp, some cubed, raw chicken, fennel, cured olives, leeks instead of onion - this is basically a blank canvas that you can suit to your taste if you remember the formula:

1) 1/2 lb of dried pasta (this, tiny penne took four minutes and the heartier rigatoni takes 6 minutes. If in doubt, start with 4 minutes at high pressure and if it's a bit undercooked, you can add a splash more stock, hit saute and simmer for another minute or two)

2) 2 cups liquid (usually chicken stock in my case but you can sub in a bit of white wine in there to make up the 2 cups)

3)some aromatics sautéed in good olive oil (garlic, onion, bacon, pancetta etc)

4) whatever vegetables strike your fancy (great way to use up a handful of leftover cooked veg)

5) some sort of protein if you desire - cooked meat or fish should be added after the pressure cooking and left in there for a few minutes to heat up. Same with delicate things like raw shrimp - pressure cooking for 4-6 will turn them into erasers so just stir them in after the pressure cooking is done, put the lid back on for a few minutes and they will be perfect.

The most important ratio to remember is:
 2 cups liquid to every 1/2 lb of dried pasta. This will result in cooked pasta with just enough liquid left to serve as a light, olive oily sauce. 

In the coming weeks I will share some other combos that have worked well for us.

 Pressure Cooker Pennette w Rapini and Sun Dried Tomatoes

serves 2-3

1 slice double smoked bacon, chopped
1/2 small onion, sliced
1 tbls chopped sun dried tomatoes
1 clove garlic, grated on a rasp or minced
225 grams or 1/2 lb pennette
2 cups chicken stock
about 1 cup leftover rapini cooked in olive oil and garlic (you can throw in any leftover green, some peas etc)

freshly grated parmesan, freshly ground black pepper to serve

Hit sauté and when the pot is hot, add in the bacon and cook until it starts to brown. Throw in the onion and continue to cook until the onion softens and just barely starts to brown. At that point, add in the sun dried tomatoes and the garlic and cook for another minute, stirring before adding in the pasta and the chicken stock. Hit manual and program the pressure cooker for 4 minutes on high pressure (if you use full size penne cook for 6 minutes)

When the time is up, do a quick release and remove the lid. Add in the rapini or other leftover green vegetable, stir well and then replace the lid and let it sit for a minute.

Now, open it up and serve the pasta with some freshly grated parmesan and lots of black pepper.

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