That is the sound I hear in my head with the image of Lady and the Tramp slowly making their way through a strand of spaghetti. Both gazing intensely into each other’s eyes (in my memory at least!). And then, just like that, the huge bowl of spaghetti with the inviting dollop of red sauce on top is finished and I can’t help but think: ‘I wish there were more’. There is something very comforting about a big bowl of warming spaghetti bolognese twisting around a fork on a cold, rainy day. I am not quite a lady, so I will have to settle for a fork and spoon when it comes to eating spaghetti.
Many years ago, friends of my parents invited us for dinner at their home. The lady of the house’s daughter-in-law was Italian and she made us the most memorable spaghetti dish I’ve ever had in my life; it had chunks of lamb in a rich tomato and basil sauce. The lamb was tender and literally fell of the bone when you touched it with your spoon. The spaghetti was homemade and cooked to a perfect al dente. The sauce was dripping off our faces, the fattiness of the lamb glistening on our cheeks and chin. I didn’t know it then, but looking back, I know that was the day I fell in love with the Italian Cuisine.
25 years on, I finally had the chance to visit Italy for myself. The food was every bit as delicious as that lovely evening. I honestly couldn’t get enough of the culture and cuisine and I cannot wait to go back!
I am not going to tell you today that Instant Pot spaghetti is better than the real thing, because, let’s face it: it will be an utter lie. However, in it’s own way it brings comfort on a gloomy day. It cheers you up when you are feeling down or ill and, as an added bonus, it is super quick to make! Not to say that it is rather delicious…
You’ve probably read it on Facebook or heard it on Youtube a million times, but to make IP spaghetti successfully, you must stick to the layer-order given in the recipe. If you don’t follow the recipe exactly, you will find that your pot will often end up giving you a burn notice or the pasta will clump together so much that it will be virtually inedible (although I quite like it from time to time!). When layering your spaghetti, ensure that you scatter it in an even, flat layer and then place the next layer of spaghetti perpendicularly to the first. This will ensure an even cook with very minimal clumping.
Deglazing is probably another term you may be very familiar with. Deglazing is when you use a clear liquid to scrape off all the stuck on bits from the bottom of your pot. Step 1 of my recipe would be to sauté some ingredients together. This allows for a lovely depth of flavour and gives the meat and vegetables colour, but it is also a slight problem when some bits are stuck to the bottom of the pot. This is here when you pour in your cooking liquid and take a wooden spoon and scrape the bits off the bottom. Not only will this add flavour, it will also ensure that you don’t get a burn notice.
The cooking time will vary slightly from person to person. It will all depend on what type of pasta you are using and also your height above sea level. A great indication for me is to look at the pasta’s cooking instructions: whatever the stovetop time has been indicated, halve it and add two minutes. Thus far, for me, this has worked every time.
We don’t always want to eat the same dish over and over, so it is fantastic if we can add a bit of variety to the old classics. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I only long for the classic dish but there are days that I would like to ‘switch it up’ and here are a few ideas on how to achieve this:
The basic recipe is exactly what it says on the tin: basic. It consists of gently frying some soffritto (a blend of chopped onions, celery, garlic and carrots) before adding in the mince and frying this until it is lightly browned.
Next you add in your water/stock/wine and deglaze your pot whilst the IP is still set to Sauté mode. Ensure that you have about a cup and a half’s worth of liquid once you’re done deglazing. You don’t want so much that your pasta turns to soup, but you also don’t want so little that your pasta is undercooked.
Next, layer your pasta as described above in a criss-cross pattern. Lastly add your tomatoes. I normally use a tin of chopped tomatoes or if I have it, some bottled pasta sauce on a lazy night. DO NOT STIR. I cannot emphasise it enough: don’t stir the pot. Season it well before placing the lid onto your Instant Pot and set the High Pressure timer for 8-10 minutes.
Once the time is up, do a quick release. Now you can stir to your heart’s content before leaving the pot on Keep Warm for 5 or so minutes for the liquid to thicken a little. If, after 5 minutes of resting, the liquid hasn’t been soaked up you can thicken it with either a little corn starch paste or with tomato paste.
Now you can stir in any dairy (if you are using any) and fresh herbs if you are using any. Stir, serve and enjoy!