Ever get home from work and just NOT feel like cooking? Then the thoughts of cleaning up after dinner flood in and you are so tempted to order out that you start digging for a take-out menu, trying to decide if you should get pizza or Chinese. STOP. Just because you can find gluten free options on the take out menu, doesn’t mean you should! I implore you—if you follow my secret formula, you will only need one pot and a little bit of inspiration to have a satisfying dinner for four on the table in less than an hour! The formula is simple, but the possibilities? ENDLESS! In a large stock pot or dutch oven:

Meat + Sauce+ Veggies + Pasta =

the Perfect One Pot Pasta dish!

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The Meat- This part is optional, but I suggest about 1/2 lb to a pound of lean ground or cubed meat (the amount really depends on how meaty your family likes their food and how many people you are feeding—in my house 1lb of meat made the dish more meat heavy than we like it). Brown the meat in your fat of choice being careful not to overcook, as it will stay in the pot throughout the cooking process. I do NOT drain my meat at this point, hence the suggestion to use a lean meat.

The Sauce- Are you in the mood for Italian? Grab a jar and a half of your favorite marinara sauce or a big can of diced tomatoes, your favorite stock and some fresh herbs! Want something rich on a cold night? How about a cheese sauce– throw in 3 cups of milk (dairy or almond would be my first choice) and after the veggies and pasta are cooked add your favorite shredded cheese.

The Veggies- I literally use what I have in the fridge—so if you got the All Local Bin delivered Saturday (any have anything left), I would use some of the spinach, 2 carrots and a mushroom or 2, depending how big they are. I am careful to add the veggies that may take longer to cook (like carrots or peppers) first, and wait 1-2 minutes until I add things like greens, mushrooms or younger veggies.

The Pasta- I have experimented with no less than 5 brands of gluten free pasta that are made up of a variety of flour combos, but I always come back to Ancient Grains Quinoa Pasta Pagodas. The flavor, consistency and way it cooks up mimics glutinous pasta so much so that I question if it is really gluten free (it is, but my brain doesn’t believe it)! At this point I dump in the whole box of pasta and adjust the amount of sauce if needed.  Now give it a good stir so everything is coated in the sauce, cover and let it cook for about 7 minutes (or the shorter time suggested by the directions from your pasta of choice) on medium to high heat, as you do want it to start to boil.

At around the 7 minute mark, I check the pasta to see how cooked it is and make sure it is not boiling to fast, recover the pot, turn the heat down to a touch below medium and let it continue to cook. I stir and check every 5-10 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the veggies and pasta are tender.

And that’s it– serve and enjoy!

Notes:

~ I usually chop my veggies while the meat is cooking, but if you are really pressed for time (who isn’t!?) you can grab fresh, pre-chopped veggies from Pure Sprouts!

~When I skip the meat, I throw the veggies and sauce in at the same time—I really like the flavor of my sauce to soak into the pasta and veggies, so I prefer not to sautéed them first.

~The first few times I played with this formula, I was afraid to add too much liquid and turn it into a soup instead of a pasta dish. Don’t. Be. The pasta really sucks up a LOT of liquid, so be pretty liberal with it (about 3 cups, maybe even a bit more depending how thick you want your sauce to be). You will nearly cover what is in the pot with just some pasta and veggie “icebergs” poking out at the surface.

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(I even added a little more milk after I took this photo, so if you feel your pasta is not cooking evenly, just add more sauce or some stock to the pot and stir)

Did you try this recipe and get adventurous with the meat/sauce/veggie combos? Share your combos and pictures in the comments– we would love to see what you are doing in your kitchen, too!

~Jenn Gizerian, The Locavore’s Lunchbox

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