Boat Food: Basic One-Pot Pasta

Several folks have asked me what I eat onboard. In fact I cook pretty much the same stuff that I’d eat ashore with a few modifications. To some these mods may seem like laziness but there are good reasons for taking certain shortcuts.

Onboard there are some critical supplies that are limited. Chief among these are water, fuel, and time. I tend to favor dishes that use very little water, preserve cooking gas, don’t require hours of preparation or fiddly pot-watching, and minimize clean-up (which saves both water and time). Also, because the galley is in the center of the living area its important to minimize the generation of heat and steam. Excess heat is an obvious concern in warm climates. Steam (for example, from boiling water) can be a real concern when its cold as it exacerbates condensation on the inside of the hull and in poorly-ventilated lockers.

I tend towards a vegetarian (or at least pescatarian) diet and eat a lot of pasta. At home this pasta would be cooked first in a big pot of salted water (until the dog tells me its ready) and then drained and topped with a sauce that was cooked separately.

On the boat that approach would violate almost all of the concerns raised above. Instead I cook pasta directly in a very loose sauce in one pot on one burner. Is the result perfectly al dente pasta? No. But it saves water, fuel, dirty dishes, generates less steam and tastes really good.

Here’s how I do it:

Gently saute half an onion, several cloves of garlic and a good pinch of red pepper in hot olive oil until the onion softens and starts to color.
Optional, but recommended: Add a nice squirt of anchovy paste (or 3-4 fishes from a tin) and saute a few minutes longer. Adds a ton of flavor.
Add a 15oz can of crushed tomatoes then fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot. See what we did there? We diluted the crushed tomatoes 1:1 while also washing all the tomatoey goodness out of the can without having to measure anything. Add a good palm full of dried oregano and basil and 10-15 grinds of black pepper.
Bring the resulting mixture to a boil. It will be very loose and look more like tomato soup than tomato sauce. In fact, at this point it IS tomato soup. You could probably stop here and enjoy with a grilled cheese sandwich if that’s how you’re feeling.
Add about 2 cups of dry pasta to the boiling liquid. Stir it around and reduce the heat to a gently bubbling simmer.
My stove burns really hot so I use a flame tamer to allow a lower simmer. You want to keep the liquid bubbling but don’t want to scorch the bottom or cause it to boil over.
Make yourself a gin & tonic.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is done to your liking and the sauce has thickened up. For me this takes somewhere between 1.5-2 gin & tonics. I suppose this could vary depending on the size of your glass and how vigorously your pot is simmering. Figure 12-15 minutes.
Add some grated parmesan and enjoy.

And that’s that. One pot, one bowl, one spoon and one fork to clean. No water wasted. Texture is as good as can be expected but wasn’t perfect to begin with so reheated leftovers taste just as good tomorrow. And the boat smells fantastic for hours afterwards.

Basic formula: 2 cups (15 oz +/-) of crushed tomatoes + 2 cups of water + 2 cups of pasta feeds 2 normal people.

4 thoughts on “Boat Food: Basic One-Pot Pasta”

  1. I loved seeing your recipe for the pasta dish. Very clever to cook it all in one pot like that. The only thing that I would hesitate to use is anchovy paste. Anchovies are not something I like so they might have to be left out. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Glad you liked the recipe. Anchovies are sort of a magic ingredient. Once you add them to dish they no longer taste fishy at all — they just add a lot of complex salty flavor that makes everything else taste better.

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  2. Dang, you must pound those G & Ts down! I, too, make one pot pasta a lot. Cacio e Pepe is a favorite. Just pasta cooked in water, then add pepper and grated Pecorino.

    I think you could make a niche boat foods cookbook!

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