A few weeks ago, Mark Bittman from the NY Times, introduced me to a concept that I had simply never thought of. Pasta cooked risotto style.
Right. I said the same thing. And then I actually tried it. I shall now list all the reasons why this is an incredibly awesome idea.
- One dish dinner.
- After several attempts at making this, it seems virtually impossible to overcook your pasta. That’s right, beautiful al dente pasta every time.
- It’s fun to say pastotto.
- Possibilities are endless. I went with a spicy sun-dried tomato goat cheese combo, but Mark does a mushroom and chicken version. The point? Do what you want.
- It’s easy and tastes dang good, what more do you need?
As a slight aside, I have to admit that I had every intention of documenting each step to show how easy it really is. Unfortunately, I suffer from self-diagnosed adult on-set ADHD/restless leg syndrome. It’s a potentially lethal combo, but I manage. At the first sign of having a moment of not stirring or chopping, I start to play around with my camera, while walking around my matchbox kitchen. Then I decide hitting something called “format” sounds like a good idea. It wasn’t. Buh-bye pictures taken. Thankfully there weren’t photos from a recent trip or anything, just a bunch of chopped onions. So, we’ll do what we can with what was left.
This is risotto, so we need to start with our base. One clove garlic, one chopped onion, and a few tbsps olive oil. Turn up the heat and let these guys cook for a few minutes. I always add the garlic a few minutes into cooking the onion because while I can live with a slightly chard onion, burnt garlic is a deal breaker, ladies.
Next, the pasta. Originally a full box. Now, no longer. I don’t know why I wouldn’t just use the whole darn thing. And then I remembered…because Mark Bittman said not to. So, I don’t, but I don’t see a compelling reason not to. I might advise using a little more onion though.
Add the pasta to the sautéed onion and garlic and coat with oil. This should only take a second, then cover with wine. You will get a big cloud of steam, the wine will soak up surprisingly quickly and you will have this:
So, once your pasta is looking close to the above, you know it’s time to start adding the broth. I use chicken broth, but for a purely vegetarian option, feel free to use vegetable broth. Remember, this is just like risotto, so add enough to cover and then stir. Once the broth cooks down, add more. There isn’t a magic amount of broth to use, and as annoying as it is to say, just eye it. Once the pasta is ready, it’s approaching ready, it’s not going to absorb liquid as quickly as it did before. Generally, I’ve found it’s about 20 minutes or so.
BUT, before it get to that point, you want to add the fun stuff. About 10 minutes into the cooking process with the broth, I added to dried red pepper flakes. Adding it earlier on, allows for more time for the spice to be soaked up by the pasta.
That’s better. Now, this is the base. Like I said from here the possibilities are endless.
That’s more like it. Half an 8oz jar of sun dried tomatoes soaked in olive oil. Lovely.
Add these in with a round of broth and allow them to simmer. The broth takes on a slightly sweet tomatoey (if pastotto is a word so is tomatoey) flavor offering great balance to the spicy. Now, the really good part.
CHEESE! Wonderfully creamy, tangy, goat cheese. I personally feel it’s hard to over do it on the goat cheese, but you can add to taste. I just buy one of those little pyramids of goat cheese and throw it right now. Before you know it, it melts into the tomatoey broth and you have this.
Yup, that looks right. At this point, I just keep up with the stirring, until the “sauce” isn’t runny and the pasta seems to have soaked up the last bits of broth. Adding chicken like Mark Bittman at the last minute could also be a good way of “beefing” up this pasta, but I think it’s perfect as is. A favorite Italian restaurant near us serves a similar dish with walnuts sprinkled on top. Do whatever floats your pastotto boat.
Me? I just spoon it into a bowl and enjoy.