There’s something down-to-earth, cozy, and comfortable about one-pot meals. Particularly one-pot meals that include pasta, vegetables, and protein. The Mexican cooks have it all with their sopas secas, which include the ubiquitous “Mexican Rice,” but also include pots of pasta or even lentils and occasionally beans. Sopa seca means dry soup and, to our ears and cooking hearts, just means you only put enough liquid in the dry rice, pasta, lentils, or beans, to cook the ingredients–no more. In other words, if you cooked pasta in the traditional way, you’d cook it in a large pot of boiling water and drain it. Here, you use just enough liquid (broth or water) to get everything tender and creamy without the addition of cream. Though a scoop of sour cream often wouldn’t go amiss.
For Good Friday — or any night when time is of the essence and meat isn’t on the menu — try this quick and easy one-pot dinner I made using leftover salmon the other night. If you have no leftover protein, you can, while the pasta simmers, quickly cook up a small piece of salmon or even a couple of chicken thighs if you’re indulging in “meat.” Alternately, you could put small fresh pieces of salmon into the pot for the last few minutes. (I haven’t tried this, but I’m guessing it would work.)
I’ll give directions rather than a recipe because you absolutely make this with what you have on hand. Basically you’ll cook about four cups chopped vegetables in oil with garlic, add a pound of broken pasta and a quart of broth, and cook it all until it’s done, stirring in already-cooked salmon right at the end. If you have no salmon, or don’t eat fish, skip it; it’ll be a lovely vegetarian meal. Season the whole pot with lots of fresh chopped parsley or basil or whatever fresh soft herb you have. Leftovers are epic. Here’s a clearer idea as long as you remember the vegetables can be switched out for your own choices: