A creamy one-pot paste that pretends to be risotto

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

Mark Bittman shows us how to harness that starchy character in his creamy chicken and mushroom pasta. Its velvety texture comes from cooking the pasta like a risotto, gradually adding stock and wine and stirring often to release its starch. Mark builds the sauce around a solid base of sautéed mushrooms and chicken thighs, but you do it: use peas and shrimp; olives, onions and sausages; baby spinach and goat cheese. Once you have mastered the technique, there is plenty of room for desire 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 recipe in one pot or pan. And for more unique inspiration, you can always browse our all-in-one recipe collection here.)

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In her vegan kale and pesto pasta, Ali Slagle uses the more traditional method of boiling the pasta in a large pot of salted water. But there’s a clever twist: Before adding the linguine to the salted water, she uses it to simmer basil, cashews and kale (stems and all), which she then removes and mix with garlic and lemon to form a mellow, bright green sauce. . Once the pasta is al dente, it is returned to the pot to simmer with the sauce and, of course, a little starchy cooking water to thicken. Serve it as is or enhance it with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast or grated vegan cheese.

Another vegan option to brighten up your week is Yotam Ottolenghi’s Sweet and Sour Barberry Tofu. Inspired by the heady flavors of a Persian barberry khoresh (stew), the combination of orange juice, orange zest, cider vinegar and tangy little barberries gives this colorful dish a Distinctive acidity balanced by brown sugar and deepened by warm spices. If you can’t find barberries, dried cranberries make a dynamic substitute.

Sweet and sour flavors are also featured in Kay Chun’s Hot Mustard and Honey Glazed Chicken. Kay calls for Asian mustard powder (or English dry mustard) as the bracing base for the glaze, which is sweetened with honey and soy sauce. Potatoes and carrots, cooked on the same sheet pan, make this an easy one-skillet meal.

For a tangy, complex fish recipe that’s also super comforting, I love the look of Vallery Lomas’ Blackened Fish with Grits. Using quick-cooking oatmeal keeps this dish weekday friendly and ready in less than half an hour. The tangy blend of pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and paprika gives mild white fish fillets intense heat.

And I can’t 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 drink makes a delicious treat on its own, especially as February draws to a close.

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