Most of us are so used to that old two-pot method that it comes as a total surprise to learn that spaghetti cookery can be done in just one pot that cooks up both pasta and sauce without bringing water into the equation at all. Imagine—not waiting for the water to boil, not washing a second dish, and not receiving a starchy, steamy facial while you cook.
That’s why you should know about one-pot pasta, also called the absorption method, or pasta-made-like-risotto (pastsotto?).
In 2002, chef Alain Ducasse published a one-pot pasta recipe in The New York Times he said he learned from farm families in rural Liguria, Italy. “They cook pasta like a risotto,” he wrote. “I’ve been doing it for years now, and I would not cook macaroni any other way.” In his recipe, you sauté flavorful, rustic ingredients like onions and potatoes before adding in uncooked pasta. He likes short, twisted shapes for their ability to hold the sauce. Then, as if you were cooking a pot of risotto, you add warm stock by the cupful, incorporating other ingredients, like herbs and sundried tomatoes, as you do. By the time the pasta is cooked, the liquid and vegetables have turned into a thick, flavorful sauce that enrobes every grain of orzo or piece of rigatoni.
Ordinarily, pasta’s starch bleeds into the boiling water surrounding it, then gets tossed out when everything goes into a colander. But here, the starch remains and is key to the dish’s success, thickening up the broth and vegetable juices into a lovely sauce. For Ducasse, the method was more than simply tasty. It also reminded him of what he loved about cooking: the action. “You are participating every step of the way, stirring, seasoning, reducing the liquid, enjoying the warmth and aromas around you, trusting your palate and then sharing what you have prepared with others.”
More than a decade later, Martha Stewart further simplified the absorption/risotto method in a recipe first published in Living in 2013. Where Ducasse’s obsession had caught on among small pockets of food lovers, Martha’s “original one-pot pasta” went viral.
Here’s how the domestic goddess’ method works: you take linguine, tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil and olive oil and place them in a saucepan with water. Then you bring everything to a boil, stirring while the pasta cooks, and serve. The right proportion of water, the smoothness of olive oil, and the remaining pasta starch all come together to produce a perfect pair: rich sauce and perfectly cooked pasta.
Once you get the hang of the method, you can add your own touches to it. Across the internet, bloggers have borrowed the method and added lentils, broccoli and asparagus, and even meatballs right to the pan.
Our Creamy One-Pot Linguine with Fall Vegetables brings the method into bountiful autumn, replacing tomatoes and basil with butternut squash and crimini mushrooms for an earthy variation on the new classic.
And that’s how—and why—you make pasta in one pot.