Pressure Cooker Pasta(perfect al-dente!)_... and Creamy Mac and Cheese. You know, I 'm not much of a pasta person... ok, let me back up a bit. I do like pasta, but somehow I tend to associate it with too many calories. Maybe it's the pasta with the cream sauces. And as I'm writing this, I sound like I don't like a good bowl of creamy alfredo or any pasta coated with lots of butter and cream, but I do! The thing is, I really can't have it often, otherwise I'll really put on the pounds:). So I stay away... On the other hand, I do like a good noodle dish with lots of vegetables... this one is a favorite! However, I'll admit that once in a while I crave a good mac and cheese... one that is creamy and quick to make without being too heavy.
So for this post, my original intention was to share a recipe that uses the pressure cooker... to cook pasta in half the time it would normally take otherwise, attaining that perfect al dente texture. But as I was cooking the pasta, I thought about the possibilities of turning it into a one pot meal... just to bring about a quick meal. Why not make some creamy mac and cheese? I could hardly remember when I last had a good bowl of macaroni and cheese. It's been years, I'm sure.
Some time ago, I had come across the idea of using evaporated milk to make a creamy stove-top version of mac and cheese. The recipe was made popular by Alton Brown and Cook's Illustrated... it cut down calories and sort of rivaled the boxed mix. Both Alton Brown and Cook's Illustrated versions use evaporated milk. The thing with evaporated milk is that it helps with emulsification of the sauce... eliminates the grainy texture. But because I don't use canned evaporated milk, I was sort of stuck. I mean, I wanted a creamy mac and cheese, and at the same time I wanted a lighter version, calorie-wise.
So I opted to use a dry non-fat milk powder as a substitution, figured it was a better alternative to the canned version.... not by much I'm sure:). But it worked. I had creamy mac and cheese in a matter of minutes:). But I also know that using heavy cream and cheese will also yield a creamy cheese sauce, so that's another option if you don't want to use the evaporated milk or the dry milk for that matter.
Even if you don't want to make macaroni and cheese, cooking the pasta in a pressure cooker is so totally worth it! You cook it in half the time, use less water, and have perfect al dente texture every time. Hope you enjoy...
Note: A good rule of thumb for cooking pasta in the pressure cooker... cook it for half the time it says on the box and add enough water to just cover pasta. Most smaller type of pastas such as elbow macaroni will take 6 minutes, some pastas can take an extra minute or two, like the penne. But here's a great chart that can be useful. And every brand of pasta is different, so you'll probably need to experiment a bit until you know what works for you.
Tip: The mac and cheese is ready to be served immediately.... but if you make it ahead, and the mac and cheese cools down and clumps up, slowly heat it up again while adding enough liquid (be it water, milk or cream) until it loosens again and becomes creamy.
You will need: Makes a smallish batch for 2-3 people. You can easily double recipe.
PASTA can use other shapes similar in size to the elbow... penne would be great.
1 1/2 cups elbow spiral macaroni
2 cups water (you can substitute some chicken stock, if you like)
1 TBS oil*
couple of big pinches of salt
*I didn't add, but it's supposed to help with reducing foaming, which can clog valve
CHEESE SAUCE inspired by Alton Brown and Cook's illustrated. The evaporated milk and egg help with emulsification... so you have a creamy sauce. Alternately, you can use a bechamel sauce if you like... or substitute cream for the dry milk and water. Regular milk will tend to make the cheese sauce grainy.
1 TBS butter
1/2-1 tsp yellow mustard
1-2 tsp hot sauce, optional
1/3 cup dry milk powder
1/4 cup water
4-6 oz grated cheddar cheese*
salt and pepper as needed
extra water/milk/cream for thinning sauce if needed(adding cream will make it creamier)
* I used a vintage white cheddar, but you can use a combo of cheeses you like that will melt nicely.
1. Get the cheese sauce ready. Grate cheese and set aside.
2. In a measuring cup add water and dry milk. Whisk to combine. Add egg, mustard, salt and pepper to taste, and hot sauce( if using). Whisk until combined. Set aside.
3. Cook pasta by placing all pasta ingredients in your pressure cooker.
4. Securely lock lid, heat on high and wait for pressure to reach. When pressure is reached, lower heat to low and cook for 6 MINUTES.
5. Remove from heat and release pressure. You will notice there is still a bit of pasta water ( maybe about 1/2 to 3/4 cup. You can drain at this point if using pasta for other dishes. If using for mac and cheese, do not drain.
6. Place pressure cooker pot back on low heat and add butter. Stir to combine.
7. Add the reserved milk mixture and stir. Heat thoroughly.
8. Add cheese( you may add it a bit at a time while stirring to prevent clumping)... and stir until it melts. You may remove from heat, while adding the cheese, if it gets too hot... you don't want to overheat the cheese as it can get grainy.
9. You may add a bit of hot water/ milk or cream to thin out sauce, if needed... especially if you like the sauce thinner. Serve immediately.