Yeah, that is right, the 9 minute one pot pasta dish from Puglia that is taking the internet by storm. It surely can’t be good, can it? I mean, really?
I gave it a try and I was pleasantly surprised. I will make it again, and again. I am obsessed with pasta and all the good carbohydrate things (hello potato!), but I like to do things properly, and well. This doesn’t mean that they need to take a long time. I love geekery and tricks, I love surprising new ways of doing things. I like to cook something really good in just a few minutes (my first book has a chapter on Speedy Suppers which are a regular feature of my week).
It is easy to be suspicious of simplicity, but I think we are all agreed that simple good things, taste really, well, good. My curiosity around this pasta dish was based mainly in the fact that nothing was sautéed first. Wouldn’t that affect the flavour? Most dishes require a little bit of sauté, whether that for pasta is simply starting with a speedy hot oil bath for garlic or pancetta to release their joy and goodness.
It was in Asia that I first realised that this is not essential for flavour. I have cooked with home cooks and restaurant chefs there who don’t sauté a thing, not even the meat, and the finished dishes don’t miss a thing. What about the lack of sauté here? Well, you don’t get any browning and the garlic slices leave a pungent (and gorgeous) taste, but when this dish is finished, you top it all off with some glorious extra virgin olive oil and parmesan. When you use good tomatoes, the flavour is so round, you don’t miss a thing.
Cooking pasta by absorption, another great pasta trick and one that is similar to what is used here, is a superb way of cooking pasta. In Italy this is called pasta risottata (cooking pasta like risotto), and it simply means that in the same length of cooking time and with a little more care, you can create a perfectly textured pasta dish by adding hot water a little at a time and letting the pasta absorb it. The flour that coats the surface of the pasta remains in the sauce instead of in the water in the pot that you throw away. For this, you need very good pasta for it to work well.
The advantages of this dish? Speed, flavour, and it really delivers. But you must use good pasta, you must pay attention and stir it regularly, and ensure you finish just as the pasta is al dente and no later. Like all simple dishes, the quality of your ingredients will determine the end results, so best tomatoes and best everything else. I always have a stash of great pasta in my pantry, it is a worthwhile investment, and there is no going back once you start using it. Hit your local Italian deli and ask their advice, or seek out Rustichella d’Abruzzo* (which you can buy from Odysea in the UK) or Pastificio dei Campi (which you can buy online from Food in the City). Both cost a little more but are worth every penny.
*I visited Puglia with Rustichella d’Abruzzo recently but this did only served to reinforce my faith in their product. I highly recommend it. They have lots of gluten free pastas too but more on that soon.
Nine Minute One Pan Linguine with Tomatoes, Chilli and Basil
Based on the original Martha Stewart One Pan Pasta recipe, as told to Nora Singley in Puglia. The story of which is detailed nicely here on Food52 (along with 7 further recipes).
Adapted to serve 2 people (generously) and with metric measurements, I didn’t include onion in mine
200g cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered if large or a diced peeled great tomato
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
a pinch of chilli flakes (to taste)
2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
500ml water (you may need to top it up a little – I didn’t – have some water boiled just in case)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
a large pan that will fit the linguine horizontally, I used my sauté pan
Combine the dried pasta, tomatoes, garlic, chilli flakes, basil, oil, 1 teaspoon salt, a pinch of pepper and the water in a large shallow pan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil the mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until the pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes. But keep an eye on it.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide among 2 bowls, and garnish with fresh torn basil. Serve with a drizzle of oil and Parmesan.