Pasta may not be the first thing you think of preparing in a pressure cooker, but don’t overlook the culinary benefits of this technique. Pressure cooking speeds up cook time and produces a more flavorful pasta dish since the noodles cook in the sauce.

A pressure cooker isn’t a new piece of kitchen technology, but it isn’t one that most home cooks are familiar with. Pressure cookers come in two types:

  • Stove top models are essentially a heavy stock pot with a locking lid and a pressure release valve.
  • Countertop units incorporate a heating element similar to a slow cooker around the locking cooking vessel.

Both designs use the same principals to cook food faster than conventional methods. They heat liquid until it evaporates, then trap the steam inside the cooking vessel. This raises the pressure inside the pot, allowing the temperature to rise quickly with very little extra heat.

Early pressure cookers were known for their tendency to release hot steam unpredictably. Modern ones incorporate safety features that make them more reliable and convenient.

Some dishes work well in a pressure cooker because the pasta cooks in the sauce, absorbing its flavors. Others aren’t as well suited for this method of cooking. It all comes down to the size and shape of the pasta.

Any short or medium cut pasta made from hard semolina is a good candidate for pressure cooking, as long as it takes a minimum of 8 minutes to cook.

Some good options for pasta shapes include:

  • Rigatoni¬†
  • Penne
  • Ziti
  • Shells
  • Elbow macaroni
  • Farfarelle or bow-tie pasta

As a general rule of thumb, cut the cooking time printed on the package in half. If the package instructs you to cook for 8 minutes, it will take 4 minutes in the pressure cooker. Pastas that cook in less than 8 minutes on the stove aren’t good candidates for pressure cooking.

Once you’ve mastered the art of cooking pasta in the pressure cooker, you’ll be ready to start experimenting with new flavors and combinations.