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A Creamy One-Pot Pasta That Pretends It’s Risotto



The secret to the silkiest pasta sauces is not oil, cheese or even copious amounts of butter and cream. It’s the starchy water the pasta cooks in, which, when added back to the pan after draining, binds and melds the ingredients during their final simmer.

Mark Bittman shows us how to harness that starchiness in his creamy one-pot pasta with chicken and mushrooms. Its velvety texture comes from cooking the pasta like a risotto, gradually adding broth and wine and stirring often to release its starch. Mark builds the sauce around a solid foundation of sautéed mushrooms and chicken thighs, but you do you: Use peas and shrimp; olives, onions and sausage; baby spinach and goat cheese. Once you have the technique down there’s plenty of room for cravings and creativity.

(Watch this space for more easy meals with easy cleanup. Today’s featured recipe kicks off our new One Pot, Once a Week feature highlighting a one-pot or one-pan recipe. And for more one-and-done inspiration, you can always browse our collection of one-pot recipes here.)

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In her vegan kale-pesto pasta, Ali Slagle uses the more traditional method of boiling the pasta in a large pot of salted water. But there’s a smart twist: Before adding the linguine to the salted water, she uses it to simmer basil, cashews and kale (stems and all), which she then scoops out and blends with garlic and lemon to form a fluffy bright-green sauce. Once the pasta is al dente, it’s returned to the pot to simmer with the sauce and, of course, a splash of starchy cooking water for thickening. Serve it as is or boost it with a sprinkling of nutritional yeast or some grated vegan cheese.

Another vegan option to brighten your week is Yotam Ottolenghi’s sweet and sour tofu with barberries. Inspired by the heady flavors of a Persian barberry khoresh (stew), the combination of orange juice, orange zest, cider vinegar and tart little barberries gives this colorful dish a distinctive acidity that is balanced by brown sugar and deepened with warm spices. If you can’t find barberries, dried cranberries make a vibrant substitute.

Sweet and sour flavors also star in Kay Chun’s sinus-clearing hot mustard and honey-glazed chicken. Kay calls for Asian mustard powder (or English dry mustard) as the bracing foundation of the glaze, which is mellowed with honey and soy sauce. Potatoes and carrots, cooked on the same sheet pan, turn this into an easy one-pan meal.

For a fiery, complex fish recipe that’s also very comforting, I love the look of Vallery Lomas’s blackened fish with grits. Using quick-cooking grits keeps this dish weeknight-friendly and ready in under half an hour. The piquant rub with pepper, garlic powder, cayenne and paprika gives mild white fish fillets an intense spiciness.

And I cannot wait to make Naz Deravian’s frothy, cinnamon-scented champurrado. This traditional Mexican hot chocolate is thickened with toasted masa harina, making it substantial and soothing. Churros are the classic accompaniment, but this bittersweet beverage makes a delightful treat all by itself, especially as February draws to a blustery close.

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