One of the world’s simplest meals is pasta using sauce from a jar. Boil water, cook pasta, drain, add sauce.
Barilla’s Pronto pasta makes it even simpler by eliminating the pain of draining.
Noodles (they come in many shapes) go into a skillet with water, then cook until they absorb all the liquid and are nicely al dente. Pour sauce over and stir until it’s all hot.
Why is this necessary? Because sometimes circumstances are limiting (maybe you only have one pan and no sink), or maybe you just want to make life a tiny bit easier.
And of course you can improve the end result by making your own sauce. No law against that.
But the question arises: Can regular pasta be cooked in this no-drain manner? I tried, with a small amount of fusilli and a large amount of spaghetti and — surprise! — both cooked nicely, absorbing nearly all the water in the pan by the time the noodles were done. So it works with at least some types of pasta. Nice to know.
Pronto, though, makes it all a little more foolproof.
How it works: You’ll need a skillet, not a pot, as the process requires a wide, shallow cooking surface. Pasta and water go into the cold skillet, heat goes on high, timer is set to 10 minutes. The box tells you how much water to use, although you might need to add more or lower the heat during the process, and timing can vary depending on the efficiency of your stove.
The product is advertised as “no boil,” but of course in 10 minutes on high, water is going to boil. It’s just that you don’t have to wait for it to boil before adding the noodles.
Does it work? Yes. I tried several shapes and all cooked nicely. Taste and texture were equal to Barilla’s regular pastas.
Pros: As advertised, no draining. True one-pan cooking.
Cons: You do have to stand at the stove for the entire cooking time, stirring so the noodles don’t stick to the the pan (and there might still be some sticking). Also, because there’s no draining, the noodles will be starchy. This will thicken any sauce you add — not necessarily a bad thing.
Cost and availability: About $3 a box at Safeway, the same as regular pasta under the Barilla brand.
Worth it? It doesn’t cost any more than Barilla’s other pastas, so yes. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to find it.
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