A simple pantry staple gets even simpler

We didn’t need pasta to get any simpler. But here it is: asking even less of our attention, patience, and time; dropping steps; and getting even better as a result, and we certainly aren’t going to complain.

Because there were still a couple of things slowing us down in pursuit of our favorite weeknight meal: waiting for a big pot of water to boil, and constructing a sauce of some kind.

This pasta dispenses with both. It cooks entirely in one pan (without boiling water first) and makes its own sauce, all in less than 10 minutes.

How? You pile dry pasta, a measured amount of water, and a few flavoring agents into a skillet, then boil the liquid away. The ratios are perfect for cooking the pasta and sauce at once, without risking too-soft (or too-crunchy) noodles or leaving a watery puddle behind.

The only thing you need to remember to do is futz with the pasta now and again with tongs or a fork, to keep it from cooking into a brick of linguine.

This recipe was first published in Martha Stewart Living in June 2013, after some savvy member of their team spotted a chef using the method in a small town in Puglia. The technique made the rounds in the blogosphere and has inspired a number of spinoffs, some of which have gone beyond pasta, like Deb Perelman’s farro riff.

So the method has shaved time, energy and dirty dishes from our pasta cooking experience, but it comes with a number of other compelling benefits, too. For one thing, because you’re cooking the pasta directly in ingredients that quickly condense into a sauce, the flavors absorb into the noodles as they cook, rather than just sitting on top.

At the same time, the pasta is giving off starch, thickening the sauce and making it creamy, despite being entirely vegan (minus the finish of Parmesan cheese). You don’t need to remember to reserve a cup of pasta water (or know what to do with it).

Though it only cooks for 9 minutes, the sauce is intensely flavored with not just fresh tomatoes, basil, and garlic, but a sweet-savory backbone of cooked onion too — which we needn’t sauté in oil first, as we always do. Here, its effect is more like a concentrated stock or soup, and not dissimilar to our other favorite pasta sauce, Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce simmered with butter and an onion.

This can be your pantry meal for the rest of the summer, but don’t stop there. Take these basic proportions and swap in canned tomatoes, or any number of other ingredients you have on hand. Try crushed green olives or capers, peppers or prosciutto or a chopped up bunch of greens. Fortify the liquid with stock, wine or Parmesan rinds. One-pan pasta is too good to limit to a single recipe, or season.


Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart Living (June 2013).

Serves 4

12 oz. linguine

12 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large

1 onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)

4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

Coarse salt & freshly ground black pepper

4 1/2 cups water

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and water in a large straight-sided skillet (the linguine should lay flat).

Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs or a fork, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide among 4 bowls, and garnish with basil. Serve with olive oil and Parmesan.

This article originally appeared on Food52.com: http://food52.com/blog/10952-martha-stewart-s-one-pan-pasta

Food52 is a community for people who want to eat well and live better. Follow them at Food52.com, and check out their kitchen and home shop, Provisions.

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