Saturday, October 4, 2014

One pot pasta comfort food or Un-recipe for pasta pottage

I've been in desperate need of comfort food lately, and when it comes to comfort food, there is nothing more soothing than pasta for me.

The trouble with pasta (aside from me eating too much) is that it's fussy.  Pasta wants specific timing, and water and sauce, and draining.  All of which requires my attention and additional dirty dishes.

As soon as I realized that it was possible, I set about finding a way to this recipe my own.  For starters, I cut down on the volume so that it's just enough to feed one hungry farmer.  I even started cooking it in the bowl I would eat it in - a special korean ceramic bowl specifically for cooking on the stove.

The beauty of this is that it's simple, doesn't mind being left cooking for an extra two hours, and of course, it's delicious.

My un-recipe for Pasta Pottage:

  1. Get a small handful of pasta from the cupboard and put it in the pot.  Add water so that all the pasta is covered.
  2. Go to the garden and fetch something that looks yummy.  Beans, tomatoes, whatever.  Chop them up and toss them in.
  3. Go to the cupboard and/or fridge and fetch something that looks yummy.  Sundry tomatoes, capers, olives, pre-cooked chickpeas or lentils, can tuna drained, leftover chicken breasts.  Chop it up and toss it in.
  4. Spice it up.  Salt.  Pepper.  Fresh or dry herbs.  A few drops of Spicy Rooster sauce. All of the above.  Whatever floats your boat.
  5. Put a lid on it.
  6. Cook on medium low for at least 20 minutes, or it comes to a boil and the pasta is tender.
  7. Add cheese.
  8. Mix it all up.
  9. Enjoy.
There you go, nine simple steps to delicious pasta.

It is an awful lot like an old fashioned pottage.  Only, unlike the pottage of old, this cooks up in as little as 20 minutes, not 6 hours.  Although, I have been known to leave it cooking for up to 3 hours.  The pasta is a bit mushy by then, but the flavour is great.

Affordable?  I think so.  Because I cram so much extra veg and stuff in the pot, I don't use much pasta.  Maybe a quarter cup at most.  And as for the additional ingredients, when I do the purely store bought stuff, I use two sundried tomatoes, half a teaspoon of capers, quarter teaspoon of chopped olives, and a few drops of spicy rooster.  Unless I have some other protein in it, I use about two tablespoons of cheese.  Somewhere between 50 cents and a dollar for a hearty meal.  Include leftovers and garden veg, replace some of the pasta with pre-cooked chickpeas, and the price plummets.  

Healthy?  That all depends on what gets tossed in the pot.  I use wholesome and simple ingredients, most of which were living plants just prior to cooking.  Of course I'm sure there is a way to make this unhealthy, but you would probably have to try really hard.  

I think this would be great for camping.  One dish, everything tossed in together: This really should be called pasta pottage.

How about allergy friendly?  A simple un-recipe like this is very simple to modify for dietary needs.  Chances are the pantry is already stocked with things you can eat, and probably also things you like to eat.  It's just a matter of going to the cupboard and finding something good.  By the way, pickles taste great in this for some weird reason - if you can find a pickle you can eat.

I think this is a fantastic dish for making use of local resources and therefore a great transitional food.  Of course when the balloon goes down, or up, or whatever they say, I imagine that dry pasta would be harder to come by as it's manufactured and shipped from far away.  But when that happens we can go back to the more traditional pottages of beans with a smattering of fresh pasta tossed in at serving time.