THE WASHINGTON POST – My husband just finished roasting summer squash from our garden. As he spooned the squash into a storage dish, the alarms blared – carbon monoxide, aka “the silent killer”.
Before he had a chance to text me – I was travelling – he called 911, evacuated the house and waited for the firefighters to show up. If you have ever been in this situation, you know the drill, which involves opening doors and windows, blowing a big industrial fan and using CO detectors more sensitive than the alarms. Soon enough, the verdict was in, and the guilty party was – no surprise – our ageing gas stove.
By the time you read this, we will have spent three weeks without it, awaiting repair from a service that reports being swamped with such jobs. We are not the only household pushing our appliances to the limit during the pandemic.
How would I live without it? There would be salads galore, of course, and I still have tomatoes and herbs coming out of the garden to go in them.
But just as the nights are taking on a chill, I would not be able to undertake my favourite fall cooking techniques: roasting and broiling. And my husband, whose cooking is typically limited to scrambling some eggs for his breakfast, could not even do that.
Takeout has become more frequent. Beyond that, I cycled through other options and combinations thereof – the microwave, an outdoor charcoal grill, even a portable induction burner I previously used solely for cooking demos and videos. And then I realised that I was postponing the inevitable, and I started turning to my Instant Pot.
I was a bit of a late adopter, getting an Instant Pot only a couple of years ago and using it mostly for simple beans and grains that I then added to other recipes. I had not cooked many all-in-one dishes in it, despite the fact that countless cookbooks and websites are devoted to that idea.
So I dove in and started looking around. What I first craved was a way to crank out simple bowls of spaghetti and tomato sauce, and it did not take me long to find just the thing, from Sonja and Alex Overhiser’s blog, A Couple Cooks.
There is one drawback with using the Instant Pot for such a thing: You’re not going to get al-dente noodles. So this recipe doubles down on a nostalgic, American-style appeal, resulting in softer pasta with the benefit that it absorbs so much of the sauce.
Before I was out of other appliance options, I am sure I would have scoffed at such a recipe, thinking that it would not save that much time.
But once I tried the Instant Pot, another obvious-to-everyone-else benefit hit home. It is not about the total amount of time, which in the multicooker includes the 10 to 15 minutes it takes to come to pressure. It is the fact that the time is almost completely hands-off.
That means that while the device was working, I could put away every last ingredient, wash a bowl, clean the countertop and have a few minutes left to call the repair service, learn that a crucial part is on back order – and start shopping for a new stove.
INSTANT POT SPAGHETTI
Active: five minutes | Total:
This hands-off approach results in a nostalgic, American take on spaghetti, with soft (not al dente) noodles that soak up the sauce.
Spinach and chickpeas add nutrition, and a little optional goat cheese stirred in right before you eat will make the sauce creamy.
One (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
Two cups tightly packed baby spinach leaves
One (15-ounce) can no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Eight fresh basil leaves
Two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
One tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Two teaspoons garlic powder
One teaspoon dried oregano
One teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
One pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Two cups water
Eight ounces dried spaghetti
Four ounces goat cheese, for serving (optional)
In a large bowl, stir together the tomatoes, spinach, chickpeas, basil, olive oil, vinegar, garlic powder, oregano, salt and red pepper flakes.
Pour the water into the Instant Pot. Break the spaghetti noodles in half. Working in batches, add the noodles to the Instant Pot in a fan shape so they stack on each other, making as much space between the noodles as possible (to avoid clumping as they cook).
Pour the sauce over the spaghetti, and close the lid. Make sure the steam valve is sealed. Select PRESSURE (HIGH) and set to five minutes. (It takes about 10 minutes for the appliance to come to pressure before cooking begins.)
Release the pressure manually by moving the pressure-release handle to “Venting”, covering your hand with a towel or hot pad. Never put your hands or face near the vent when releasing steam.
Open the lid and stir, removing any clumps. Remove the inner pot from the Instant Pot and allow the pasta to cool for about five minutes as the sauce thickens slightly. (It will continue to thicken as it cools.) Taste and add more salt, if needed. Ladle into bowls, add the goat cheese, if using, and serve.
Nutrition | Calories: 538; Total Fat: 11g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 482mg; Carbohydrates: 92g; Dietary Fibre: 16g; Sugars: 19g; Protein: 22g.