Published January 1, 2013.
For a one-pot pasta dinner that was streamlined without sacrificing flavor, we started by browning Italian sausage, onion, and green bell pepper just until the sausage was no longer pink. Then we stirred in tomato sauce, water, and our pasta. Using jarred sauce kept things simple, while a tubular pasta like ziti proved to be the best match for the pressure cooker—we learned that strand pasta turns into unappealing clumps of noodles when cooked under pressure. Cooking the ziti for 5 minutes was the best approach to ensure we didn’t accidentally overcook the pasta (a likely problem when cooking pasta under pressure since you can’t check for doneness along the way). After 5 minutes, we quick released pressure and let it all simmer for a few minutes to finish cooking the pasta through and concentrate the sauce’s flavors. A sprinkling of basil at the end made the right fresh finish for our saucy, meaty ziti dinner.
1. BUILD FLAVOR: Heat oil in pressure-cooker pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Stir in sausage, onion, and bell pepper and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until sausage is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, water, and ziti.
2. HIGH PRESSURE FOR 5 MINUTES: Lock pressure-cooker lid in place and bring to high pressure over medium-high heat. As soon as pot reaches high pressure, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes, adjusting heat as needed to maintain high pressure.
3. QUICK RELEASE PRESSURE: Remove pot from heat. Quick release pressure, then carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.
4. BEFORE SERVING: Bring mixture to simmer over medium-high heat and cook, stirring often, until pasta is tender, 2 to 5 minutes. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
Cooking Sausage in a Pressure Cooker
Italian sausage is sold in several forms, including links (which is most common), bulk-style tubes, and patties. If you purchase links, you just need to remove the meat from the casing before cooking so that it can crumble into bite-size pieces.
1. Hold sausage firmly on one end and squeeze sausage out of casing through opposite end.
2. Before cooking under pressure, cook sausage with onion and bell pepper, breaking up sausage with wooden spoon into bite-size pieces, until sausage is no longer pink.
Can I use other types of pasta?
Another large tubular pasta, like penne, ziti rigate, and rigatoni, will work fine here. Do not use strand pasta, such as spaghetti or linguine, because the strands clump together into a sticky mess when cooked under pressure.
Can I use chicken sausage?
Yes, you can substitute raw turkey or chicken italian sausage, removed from its casing. If the sausage is not raw, simply slice it into 1/4-inch-thick rounds and increase the amount of oil to 2 tablespoons and continue with the recipe as directed.
Do I need to alter the recipe for a 6-quart electric pressure cooker?
Yes, instead of relying on the cooker’s built-in timer to keep track of the pressurized cooking time, use your own timer and start the countdown as soon as the pot comes to pressure. After the 5-minute cooking time, quick release the pressure immediately; do not let the cooker switch to the warm setting. Use the browning (not the simmer) setting to simmer the pasta in step 4.