I like to cook and actually find it relaxing. Unfortunately, I do not think it̵7;s so nice to clean up the mess that comes with a lot of cooking. Fortunately, a friend introduced me to the concept of one-pot food as a way to minimize that clutter. Yes, I said meals in a pot. If you do not know the concept, you may think it is impossible, but it is not a fantasy. It’s real! And it’s amazing!
A love job versus a love of leisure
I love baked ziti. Whether it’s the chicken ragout based dish I grew up on at Graziano’s in Niles, Ill., The Taylor Street variety in the upscale chain, Maggiano’s (it publishes its recipe online!) Or the spicy Italian choir option at Chicago’s favorite, The Rosebud, there is something wonderfully comforting with this Italian-American staple. I like how it tastes. I like how it heats up for leftovers. I even like how easy it is to do.
The only thing I do not like? You guessed it – the cleanup. It’s awful. This is the pan I use to cook the sausage. Then there is the pot I use to make the noodles and mix everything together. Then there is the pan I use to bake the pasta. And it does not count wood, slits and slits I use to repair or stir. Oh, and the cheese. Good gracious, cheese. So melted, so baked, so much pain to clean. Do you remember how I said that ziti was the way to least cleaning resistance? Yeaaaaaah.
The truth is that many of the meals I cook are like this – delicious but laborious on the back. And while it may be OK, especially if the meals are as good as this ziti is, sometimes I just want something much simpler. Sometimes I want something that does not require me to use a third of the pots or pans, baking trays or plates or cooking spoons in my kitchen, you know? Enter cooking with a casserole (or a casserole).
The idea behind one-pot cooking is simple: You get a full meal prepared with a dish.
Gone are the days when you need to cook your meat separately from your vegetables, separate from your carbohydrates. Nowadays, we are not afraid to consume food in a bowl, so why should we be afraid to cook in a single pot (or in a single box)? I know what you’re thinking: But I always cook my pasta in my own pot or cook my rice in the rice cooker or fry my vegetables in my own saucepan. And if you think about it, you’re also dealing with a bigger mess than you need to deal with. The truth is that you do not need all the hassle.
Still skeptical? I get it. But before you write it off completely, here are some recipes you may want to try that prove it possible.
Chili mac and cheese
I like chili and I like mac and cheese, so this dish is already a winner in my book. Before I consider cooking in a casserole, this meal would leave me with a lot of mess – at least a saucepan, a pot and a slow cooker, to be exact. Unnecessarily! With this recipe with en-chili mac ‘n’ cheese, you can get food on the table in no time, with minimal clutter to clean up.
Chicken and smoked andouille jambalaya
This one-pot chicken and smoked andouille jambalaya recipe cooks vegetables, chicken, sausage and rice in the same. What more do you need?
Chicken, broccoli and rice stew
Cheese, you say? Not only is this cheesy, creamy chicken broccoli rice stew easy to toss together, it’s ready in just about 30 minutes.
This shortcut version of the classic dish is still so creamy and creamy and delicious – but it uses minced meat and swims all in a single pot. It includes the egg noodles, which soak up the taste of lagers, beef and onions when cooking. Try this one-pot beef Stroganoff recipe for a simple dinner.
Curried carrot and potato soup
Most soups are technically one-pot dishes, but to change the pace from chicken noodle, chili and beef, try this recipe with curry carrot and potato soup. It is creamy with coconut milk but if you use veggie stock instead of chicken it is actually vegan. (That being said, if you have chicken left over, you can shred it and add it to the pot too!)
This recipe with chicken puttanesca in a pot is perfect when you crave sharper, saltier flavors (thanks to the sour tomatoes, olives, capers and anchovies); the rice cooks in the same saucepan and soaks up all the brine and salty chicken juices when baked.
Cheesy enchilada rispanna
Mexican food is amazing. One of my favorite things about eating at a Mexican restaurant is ordering a combination plate dinner with rice and beans. If you’re like me, you need to have at least one enchilada on your plate. And if I tried to cook all this at home, I would clean all night. But not with this one-pot cheese-like enchilada rice frying pan recipe. I get all the flavors I like, conveniently made in a pot.
Casserole with Chilaquiles
This chilaquiles stew recipe turns eggs and tortilla chips into a dish that is no different from a salty bread pudding. Use a good sauce in the store to make it faster (and then you have fewer dishes), and add the remaining taco meat or shredded chicken for an extra protein boost if you want.
Beef and egg hash
This simple recipe for steak and egg hash can be breakfast or dinner. It can also take other vegetables you want to add. The eggs are a nice touch, but it would still be good without them. (Also try the kielbasa hash recipe you can see at the top of this page – and use any type ofyou like or happen to have on hand.)
Instant Pot Spaghetti
As we have seen, cooking in a pot is possible on the hob and in the oven, but if you have a jug, it also works well. This spaghetti recipe with a single pot has a lot to do: minimal stirring, fast cooking time and only four ingredients if you do not count water, salt and pepper.
For a stick-friendly one-pot meal, a shakshuka recipe is an excellent choice. The most basic is a tomato sauce with cracked eggs cooked directly in it – but you can add minced meat, extra vegetables and whatever spices you want. Serve with crusty bread or flatbread to scoop everything up.
Sumac chicken with bread salad
One-pot meals with rice and potatoes are not the only options for carbohydrates. Toasting chicken on a bed of bread cubes is a delicious trick (and also a great way to use stale bread without the hassle of filling). You can toss in tomatoes and chopped vegetables and change the spices however you want. You can also use chicken breasts or thighs instead of a whole butterfly.
I understand that. Sometimes it makes sense to cook things separately. But here’s the thing: When it’s just Tuesday, and you’ve already had a tough start to the week, do you need extra hassle with extra dishes when you can make a heck of a meal in a single pot (or pan)? The answer is no, you do not need the extra hassle. So free yourself and try something adventurous. Make a meal in a pot that the whole family will enjoy and minimize the mess.
This story was originally written for CNET’s sister site Chowhound.