It’s 7 p.m., and dinner is on the table: a large, one-dish centerpiece for everyone to dig into. We call it a “one-pot wonder” for a good reason, and that is its incredible ability to connect ingredients and humans alike. Centuries of cooking in underground pits or stone-built hearths have shaped our instincts to both get together and throw it all together.
My experience writing recipes definitely confirms this: One-pan dishes are by far the most popular. The sense of contentment people experience when they gather around one is akin to the comfort they get when they taste it. Ingredients that have been left to sit alongside one another for a long while simply lose some of their sharp edges in the process for the sake of a greater good, in much the same way as individuals morph into a family.
There is something else at play here, I suspect, something much more prosaic: cleaning up. Modern-day cooking and feeding are wedged in between a whole host of other activities that make up our busy schedules. Skipping a couple of extra saucepans and serving straight from the pot is attractive proposition for those strapped for time.The dried pasta is roughly chopped, so you end up with some shards, which become lovely and crisp, and some tubes, which hold the sauce very nicely.CreditAndrew Scrivani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Iah Pinkney.
All this doesn’t mean, though, that one-pot cooking is necessarily simple or easy (though it definitely can be). Putting all your ingredients in one dish might seem like a shortcut for a more complicated approach. But, in reality, I find that to create the flavor and texture bombs that make food delicious you are often required to break down the process, adding components at different stages, playing with temperatures or scattering a garnish or salsa over the top at the end.
This works particularly well when you use a roasting pan as your vessel. The large surface area allows you to stir, crush, broil or garnish your dish more effectively, and makes it look so much better.
For all these reasons, 2019 is shaping up to be my dinner-cooked-in-a-roasting-pan year. The first attempt has already yielded a magical surprise. In a single pan, I made a ragout that would normally take a few watchful hours on the stove; as a bonus, the pasta cooks in the sauce as it becomes thicker and richer.
The result will bring out the crowds in the way that pasta dishes always do, but the tools are, more or less, as old as time: heat, a vessel and one hungry cook.
- 1 ½ pounds/680 grams ground beef(beef mince), at least 15 percent fat
- 1 pound/450 grams ground pork(pork mince)
- ⅓ cup/90 grams tomato paste
- ¼ cup/70 grams harissa paste
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- ⅓ cup/80 milliliters olive oil
- 2 ounces/60 grams Parmesan, finely grated (about 1 cup)
- 2 ounces/60 grams Pecorino Romano, finely grated (about 1 cup)
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 carrot, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced
- 1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 large plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 cups/750 milliliters chicken stock
- ½ cup/100 milliliters heavy cream(double cream)
- 1 (8-ounce/225-gram) package dried manicotti or cannelloni, pasta roughly chopped in half crosswise
- ¼ packed cup/10 grams roughly chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
- Heat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit/245 degrees Celsius. Add the first 7 ingredients to a large roasting pan (roasting tin) about 15 by 10 inches/38 by 23 centimeters in size, along with 3 tablespoons oil, 2/3rds Parmesan and Pecorino Romano, 1 3/4 teaspoons salt and plenty of pepper.
- Add the carrot, onion, tomatoes and garlic to a food processor and blitz until finely chopped. Add to the roasting pan and mix to combine. Transfer to the oven and bake until browned on top and sizzling, about 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit/190 degrees Celsius.
- Use a fork to break the meat apart thoroughly, stirring it into the liquid that has been produced. Pour the chicken stock and cream on top, then add the pasta. Stir the pasta into the sauce until thoroughly coated; you want to get all of the pasta wet so it doesn’t burn. Push as much of the pasta under the surface of the sauce as possible (you won’t be able to submerge it all).
- Bake until pasta is tender, about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking.
- Remove from the oven, stir in the 1/4 cup parsley, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and Pecorino Romano and drizzle with the remaining oil. Bake until the top is crisp in parts and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle over some additional parsley and let cool for 10 minutes, so the excess liquid soaks in, before serving.