When I was at University we used to go to the movies every Tuesday night. We would first go to Panarotti’s (pizza restaurant) before seeing the latest blockbuster. At the pizza restaurant we always ordered the same pizza: a Californian. It came smothered with thick cut bacon, nutty avocado slices and oozing with chunks of feta cheese. Those flavours quickly became a favourite combination and was the inspiration for this creamy and decadent Instant Pot pasta dish.
Bacon and avocado goes hand in hand; like beans on toast or peanut butter and jelly! With this recipe I’ve served it as a main course for dinner and therefore had to bulk it up a little with some chicken thighs. Now, if you are like me, I rarely take out the chicken to defrost since I simply forget! I then have to scramble to either defrost the chicken by leaving it in a dish with water or, if I’m using my Instant Pot, I simply pop it into the pot to do its magic. There is really no need to defrost the chicken then, in fact, I think it comes out much juicier!
To make my life a lot easier, I prefer to chop, slice and dice everything first before I start cooking. This way I can fully concentrate on adding the correct ingredients at the right time to ensure everything is cooked exactly the way I like.
When cooking pasta in the Instant Pot, layering and the correct order of the layers is crucial to ensure you don’t get a burn notice. It is very important to note that neither pasta nor tomatoes should ever be left on the bottom of the pot as this will guarantee a burn notice.
The first thing I did was to put the chopped red onion and frozen chicken thighs in the Instant Pot’s inner pot. I then seasoned the meat, poured in a cup of water and set the pot to High Pressure for about 5 minutes. I did a quick release once the pot was finished. This will not cook the chicken all the way through, but it did allow me to chop it into bitesize pieces before returning to the pot and adding the next lot of ingredients.
Once the chicken is chopped, place it back into the water (add about ½ cup extra) and put the chopped courgettes on top of this. Do not stir. Now scatter your rigatoni in an even layer over the courgettes (zucchini) and top your pasta with the fresh tomato and sliced spring onions (scallions), reserving some of the green parts for a garnish. It was at this stage that I have also put some sea salt flakes over the whole lot to ensure the pasta is nicely seasoned as it is cooking.
I’ve set the Instant Pot to High Pressure and set the time for 10 minutes. I find that my brand of rigatoni is quite robust and therefore it takes a bit longer to soften up. Of course you can adjust your timer to suit the pasta you have in your pot. If you are not sure, then look at the packaging and half the time it states for stovetop cooking. Then add two minutes to this if using dried pasta. If you find it is still not fully cooked, simply put your pot to the Sauté function and cook a while longer or leave your pasta on the Keep Warm function until it is cooked through.
Whilst the Instant Pot is doing it’s thing, I was free to pan fry the bacon and get the plates ready. It also allowed me to quickly wash the dishes as I don’t have to constantly stir or watch over a pot.
Once the timer went off, I left the Instant Pot to naturally release its pressure (NPR) for around 5 minutes, before doing a quick release (QR). I will never do this with any other pasta as I don’t want it to be over cooked, but rigatoni can be a bit forgiving! Once the pressure was released, the first thing I did was to check if all the pasta was cooked through by testing a piece from the top as well as a bottom piece without stirring the whole lot. Once I was happy with the result, I switched off the Keep Warm function, poured over the creme fraîche, the crispy bacon, half of the blue cheese and halve of the avocado. Now you stir it for the first time. Check the seasoning too and adjust if needed although this shouldn’t be necessary with the salty bacon bits. Serve warm, scattered with the remaining blue cheese, avocado and reserved spring onion.