I have been experimenting with, what to me is, a revolutionary cooking method for pasta that uses the gluten released by the pasta as a creaminess enhancer. I was inspired to try this method by a fellow vegan whose details I’ve now misplaced and by preparing my Lady Assassin Spaghetti.
As you will see from my Basic Pasta Cooking tips, generally you cook pasta in lots of water that you have first brought to a roiling boil. That traditional method is still the way to go for many, or even most dishes, but this new method is good for dishes for which you want dense, creamy texture (with or without using vegan cheese). The results are phenomenal and guilt-free (low-fat and inexpensive, yet nutritious). This is probably the only mac & cheese about which you can feel virtuous, if you’re so inclined! Recipe after the photo. Serves 2.
Variations: you may also choose to cook broccoli and cauliflower in the same pot and simultaneously with the pasta for added creaminess and nutrition (see this recipe) OR to merely parboil the broccoli in the last 3-4 minutes of the cooking time for the pasta if you want quickly cooked greens (see photo at bottom).
- 250g pasta (a short variety like penne, fusilli, farfalle, shells, orecchiette, etc.)
- 2-3 teaspoons salt for the water
- glug of olive oil (optional)
- 1 Tablespoon flax meal (optional)
- 1 head of broccoli, chopped into small florets (optional)
- 3-4 Tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes (more or less, as you prefer)
- salt & pepper to taste
Place the raw pasta in a medium saucepan. Add just enough water to cover the pasta. Add the salt and a glug of olive oil. Place a lid on the saucepan. Turn the heat up high and let the pasta and water come to a boil. Stir from time to time.
Once the water is boiling, lower the heat to simmer. Because there is so little water in the saucepan, you will need to stir the pasta and water more frequently than you normally would. Keep stirring so you make sure that the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.
As the pasta cooks, you will see that its appearance becomes creamier. You may add more water if you think it’s necessary, but remember to do so incrementally. The point here is for the pasta to absorb the water and to release its gluten into the water. That will give you the creamy base. So, if you add too much water and the pasta can’t absorb it, you will lose the creamy effect.
If you are choosing the quick cook broccoli option, then you will want to add the broccoli florets when just a little water remains and the pasta is a little more raw than al dente. You are basically just using the heat from the pasta and water to par boil/steam the broccoli (see photo below for this dish including the broccoli).
In any event, keep stirring!
After a few minutes, which could be anywhere between 5 and 12 minutes, depending on your pasta, taste to see if the pasta is cooked to your preference.
Once the pasta is cooked you should have no water to drain. Stir in the nutritional yeast flakes, flax meal (optional) and a little more olive oil, if you fancy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately (although left overs are delicious too).