One-Pot Pasta

While on summer break, I did a lot of recipe reading, testing and tasting. In the process, I stumbled across a handful of “one-pot pasta” recipes and had been admittedly skeptical. Overcooked, mushy pasta…not my thang. Plus, how hard is it to have one pan for sauce and a second pot for boiling water? I’m all in favor of shortcuts but at some point aren’t we just being lazy?

Well, maybe that’s just it. Maybe I needed to be in full-on “lazy mode” (a.k.a. hiding away at my parents’ house) to give this pasta cooking method a try. And when I finally did, it was an instant transformation from skeptic to believer.

Having only one large pot to clean (nevermind the absence of a colander) was nice, I suppose, but it was the flavor that won me over.  In this recipe, which I adapted from Joy the Baker, the pasta cooks in a sweet onion broth, absorbing the flavor in a way that can’t be replicated with traditional pasta cooking methods. And mushy? Not a chance. Just follow the timing outlined below and you’ll end up with perfectly al dente pasta.

This dish is a real winner so start heating your olive oil and slicing those onions. When the bowls are licked clean and your one pot is washed and put away, let me know if you’re a believer.

One-Pot French Onion Pasta
Serves 4
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  1. 3 medium yellow onions, peeled and sliced
  2. 3 Tbls olive oil
  3. 1 Tbls unsalted butter
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  6. 3 tsp fresh thyme or 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  7. 2 c water
  8. 3 c chicken broth (can substitute vegetable broth)
  9. 1 lb uncooked spaghetti
  10. a bag of baby spinach or arugula (about 4 cups)
  11. salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  12. Parmesan cheese
  13. crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  1. Place a large stockpot over medium heat.
  2. Add the olive oil and butter and stir until butter is melted.
  3. Add the sliced onions all at once.  Stir to coat the onions in the fat.  Allow onions to cook, undisturbed, for about 4 minutes.
  4. Add salt, pepper and thyme and stir.  Allow the onions to cook for about 4 minutes at a time, before stirring.
  5. Lower the heat if the onions are browning too quickly. The onions will begin to brown, break down, and caramelize.
  6. When onions are entirely browned and completely soft (anywhere from 30-60 minutes depending on how low and slow you're cooking the onions), add the water and chicken broth to the pot. Using a wooden spoon, scrape any burned bits off the bottom of the pot.
  7. Return to medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add the pasta and stir to submerge in the liquid. Place the lid on the pot and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  8. Remove the lid to toss and stir the pasta, for about 3 minutes--(You can taste the pasta at this point to reassure yourself that it is not overcooking).
  9. Return the lid and allow to cook for another 5 minutes.
  10. Remove the lid and add the spinach or arugula, stirring to incorporate. There will be just under an inch of liquid in the pot.*
  11. Taste the pasta for doneness and allow it to cook a couple of minutes more if the pasta is still crunchy. It should be al dente and if not, very close.
  12. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as desired.
  13. To serve, spoon into large bowls, top with parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper flakes, if desired.
  1. You want to take the pot off the heat while there is still a bit of the broth remaining. The pasta will absorb more of the liquid while it sits for a couple of minutes before serving.
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Adapted from Joy the Baker
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