Quick Pressure Cooker Ragu (Meat Sauce) – Lesson 3 – Brown, De-glaze and Reduce
How quick? Only 5 minutes under pressure quick! The rest of the cooking is done without the pressure cooking lid combining traditional cooking techniques with your super-fast pressure cooker.
You will want to serve this sauce with a “bumpy” or “grrovy” pasta, so that all the little sausage pieces can get stuck inside and onto the pasta. I recommend Orechiette (pictured), Fusilli, or Miniature Penne. Any long egg pasta, which is naturally groovy, will also do.If you have a pressure cooking set with a smaller sauce or fry pan, this would be the pan to use for this recipe – though a bigger one will also work. The smaller internal area will allow the pan to reach pressure faster, and help avoid any complications related to tomatoes in the pressure cooker.
When making tomato-based sauces in the pressure cooker, I always recommend using canned chopped or whole tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes roughly chopped with all of their juices and skin, instead of the puree because the liquid is available to vaporize immediately as opposed to a thick puree’ that needs to reach a boil to release it’s vapor. This will result in a more rustic sauce. But, if members in your household threaten to leave at the sight of tomato pieces, you can always smooth out the sauce later with an immersion blender.
For many, the pressure cooker is their first foray into the world of stainless steel pans – which work differently than non-stick so you will need to make some adjustments and tweaks to your cooking style:
- Preheat the pan. This is a big no-no for non-sticks! Put the pan on medium-low heat completely empty, without the top, for 2-3 minutes. Do not be alarmed if the pan starts making little clicking sounds while it is preheating – that is the metal expanding and is completely normal.
- Add Cold Oil or Butter. A magical non-stick coating will form on your stainless steel pan once the cold oil, butter, or both, hit the hot pan and begin to “shimmer” – that is what happens right before they bubble and boil.
- Adjust the cooking temperature. The bottom of your pressure cooker is nice an thick and distributes heat very well. So lower the temperatures you’ve been using to force food to brown in your non-stick pans. If you were using high heat, go medium, if you were using medium go medium-low. You will need to experiment to find just the right amount of heat for your food to begin browning and not burning.
- Stir a little more. Don’t leave anything sizzling too long in one place give everything a good whirl a little more often than you’re used to.
- Un-stick. If things start to stick, add a tablespoon of water and watch them magically peel off the bottom as you give them a light scrape.
Don’t walk away and forget a simmering pressure cooker! Check back often and twirl everything around to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom.
Browning in Electric Pressure Cookers
Most electric pressure cookers have a “brown” or “simmer” button that allow you to operate the pressure cooker without its lid (check your manual for details). In the case that you have an early or economical model without this function, you should follow these steps of the recipe in a separate pan, and then add the browned food to your pressure cooker and proceed with the recipe.
I’ve only heard of a couple of models of electric pressure cookers without a non-stick coated insert, if you have one of these, you don’t need to read further, otherwise:
Never preheat an empty non-stick pressure cooker!
- Specifically, do not put your pressure cooker on “simmer” or “brown” mode when it is empty. Add oil or butter first, then watch it carefully and quickly add the ingredients indicated in the recipe and begin cooking.
More flavor magic happens when you de-glaze – add liquid to a sizzling hot pan to un-stick and incorporate the caramelized (not burned) pieces of food into your recipe. You can de-glaze your pressure pan with any liquid, including tomato sauce, broth, wine, lemon juice even balsamic vinegar can give your recipe that extra zing.
When using high-alcohol liquors and wines for de-glazing on a gas stovetop, turn off the flame so that you do not flambe’ the contents of the pan, or yourself!
Nothing too complicated about reducing liquids in your pressure cooker. First, open the pressure cooker in the quickest method possible – Quick Release for stove-top models and Normal Release for electrics. Then, put the pan back on medium to medium-low heat without the top to reduce the recipe to the desired thickness. Most electric pressure cookers will allow you to put the pressure cooker on “simmer” much like browning mode without the top for reducing – if your electric pressure cooker does not have this function, you will need to move the contents into a separate pan to reduce.
Pressure Cooker Recipe: Quick Pressure Cooker Ragu’ (Meat Sauce)
This sauce is enough for one 16oz or 500g package of pasta. You can substitute pork for turkey sausage and use any herb, or combination of herbs you prefer!I like to put on the pot of boiling water for the pasta once I have everything locked in the pressure cooker. The sauce can stay warm in its covered pan for almost an hour, but pasta waits for no man! Only toss the pasta in the boiling water once you have finished the ragu’ and it is simmering and reducing.
10oz or 300g Italian Sausage, removed from casing
Remove the sausage from it’s casing and place it in the cold pressure cooker, with the top off. Now, put the pan on the heat at the lowest setting. When the sausage begins to sizzle, break it up further and stir it around with a spatula, or wooden spoon, to allow any liquid evaporate (about 4 minutes).
Bring the heat up to medium and add the onions, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper . Continue browning the sausage and aromatics unil the onions have softened (about 5 more minutes). De-glaze your pressure cooker by adding the chopped tomatoes and stirring well to scrape any delicious brown bits stuck to the the bottom of the pan. Close the top immediately so that the liquid from the tomatoes does not evaporate. If your pressure cooker is 6qt or larger or the older-style jiggle-top and weight modified valves you may need to add and additional 1/2 to 1 cup of water – use the least your pressure cooker will let you get away with so that you don’t have to reduce too much after cooking!
Lock your pressure cooker lid. Turn the heat to the maximum. When the pressure cooker reaches pressure (with the model I’m using, the pressure cooker has reached pressure when the indicator lifts to display two red lines), turn the heat down to minimum. Count 5 minutes cooking time under pressure.
When time is up, turn off the heat and remove the pressure cooker from the burner. Open it with the quick-release method -bring the pressure cooker to your sink, and run cold water over the top (without getting any on the indicator or valves) until you see the indicator go back to it’s “no pressure” position, and shortly thereafter, hear a release sound (like a sigh). Shhhheeeeeew! Older generation, weight-modified and jiggle-top pressure cookers may not make this sound.
Check the thickness of the sauce, it will likely need to be reduced to thicken up a bit. Bring the pan back to the cooktop and without the top on, with medium-low heat so that the sauce simmers with small bubbles popping up and dissipating – if tomatoes are splashing all over you cook-top the heat is too high! Stir occasionally and check for consistency (about 5 minutes).
When you are satisfied with the consistency of the sauce, pour it and mix it into a hot pot of freshly-drained pasta. Mix well, sprinkle with herbs and serve immediately with grated cheese.
Now that you can brown and de-glaze, you can try…
- Quick Italian Pate’ Spread
- Calamari Sauce or Side Dish
- Spicy Eggplant Sauce or Side Dish
- Peperonata Sauce or Side Dish
- Caponatina Siciliana – Veggie Medley
- Italian-Approved 7 minute risotto
- Traditional Bolognese Meat Sauce – it’s not too difficult, just time consuming!
Pssssst! Do you want to learn more about the pressure cookers that I’m using? See them described on my About page!