Thursday, October 20, 2016

An Easier Way to Cook Pasta (and requesting your best Mumbai tips)

I've heard the newborn period being referred to quite accurately as the "best worst time" and the "longest shortest time". How true- the days stretched on endlessly in a series of feeds, naps and diaper changes but 7 weeks of maternity leave went by in a flash. I've transitioned into work and the schedule is suddenly very tight. V and I have very minimal ambitions these days, namely to do the least amount of housework required to keep all three kids (baby, preschooler, dog) well fed and relatively clean while leaving plenty of time for snuggling, story-time and walks respectively.

The one thing that the whole family looks forward to is a hot and hearty dinner every evening. The One Hot Stove kitchen is in maintenance mode, churning out no-recipe-needed basic but wholesome fare from fridge and pantry staples.

Pasta is frequently on the menu. To streamline the pantry, I keep only two shapes on hand, one short and one long- white fiber pasta shells and whole wheat thin spaghetti.

Cook pasta isn't exactly rocket science to begin with, but these days I make it even simpler by using a passive pasta cooking method. Read about it exhaustively here and here. But in a nutshell, I boil water not in a gigantic pasta pot but instead, a fraction of the amount of water in a medium pot, add salt, bring to boil, dump in pasta (either the shells or spaghetti broken in half), bring water to boil again (takes only a few seconds), stir and turn the heat OFF with the lid on. Leave it alone for several minutes, check to see that pasta is cooked, then drain. Done. Use in recipe.

Basically the pasta cooks in enough hot water to submerge it rather than in a large pot of actively boiling water.

Once the pasta is cooked, I combine it with plenty of vegetables and some kind of sauce. Some favorites:

1. Peppers, zucchini, eggplant, greens with a red sauce and a splash of cream and parmesan. Often I'll add mock sausage.

2. Peppers, red or green cabbage, sautéed tofu cubes and a peanut sauce.

3. Roasted broccoli and cauliflower with pesto and parmesan.

4. Winter squash with a garlicky cream sauce. Here's a quick recipe for this one:

  • Microwave an acorn squash for 5 minutes to soften it. 
  • When cool enough to handle, peel and cube squash. 
  • Saute onions and garlic, then add cubed squash and saute until squash is tender.
  • Season with freshly ground black pepper, smoked paprika and salt.
  • Add cream and some pasta cooking water and simmer the sauce for a few minutes.
  • Stir in cooked pasta and parmesan
As simple as this is, I swear it tastes like something from a fancy bistro. Not that I remember what food from a fancy bistro tastes like any more ;) 

***    ***    ***
One of my dearest friends is headed to Mumbai for a short vacation in mid-November and asked me for suggestions on where to go and what to do. Edited to add: She will be staying at a hotel in Cuffe Parade, South Mumbai.

I've been friends with her for 15 years and will never forget the times when this all-American girl made me sambar and rice when I was working crazy hours finishing up my dissertation. Clearly she likes to cook and loves to eat Indian food and Bombay/Mumbai being a foodie's paradise, I know she will love the food there (like me, she is a lacto ovo vegetarian.)

Some must-eat foods in Mumbai...what am I forgetting?
Pav bhaji
Paper dosa
Gujarati thali
Batata vada
Coconut water

Does anyone know of good food tours or walking tours?

When I lived in Mumbai (all my teenage and young adult years), what I liked to do the most was walk walk walk all over the city, stopping for snacks here and there and diving into second hand book stores. I was also a culture vulture to the max, taking in as many dance performances, art galleries and Marathi and English plays as I could. But Mumbai was home, and I didn't do much touristy stuff ever.

What am I missing? What's the latest and greatest in Mumbai these days? Please do chime in with your suggestions. Thank you!!


  1. It's so good to see a post from you. It's great to read that you all are adjusting so well to this new phase.Lots to love to Lila, Niam and Vaghoba.

    Mumbai has changed so much. People are eating out all the time and such fancy places too!
    I still maintain that 'Achija' Pavbhaji in Ghatkopar (E) on 90 feet road is the best.
    There is this chain, 'The Village' which has a buffet, you walk in, pay and they have this 'village' set up with rustic looking stuff and stalls of food, a pani puri stall, a jalebi and gulab jamun stand, 'kulhad ki chai', gola sarbat and chass stand, food from different corners of the country.. you can stay there till the bell rings and eat all you want.

    Misal Pav @ Mamledar Kacheri , Thane.THE BEST! (ask for 'light' misal and cold chass / lassi)

    Guju thali, I'm sure there will be many recommendations. My last Guju meal was in Rajdhani. It was fantastic.

    Pancham Puriwalla, it still has the best puri bhaji in VT, Merwan ka meetha dahi,yum! Mathura pedha.

    The sandwich wala outside Santacruz station.

    There used to be a Dosa Gaadi outside 'Rakhi's Bunglow' in
    Khar,he had mind blowing Dosas. Even outside Mithibhai College.

    Wadapaav @ Kirti College ( but she can get some awesome local stuff, in the evening, just check which 'gaadi' has a lot of crowd salivating).
    Hope this helps.

    1. Oh my thank you for your super helpful tips!! You;re making me hungry, girl :)

  2. Bombay has my heart. Your friend can check out Khaki Tours ( for walking heritage tours as well customised walks. Also, do go to Prakash, Aaswad and other hole in the wall eateries in Dadar for authentic Maharashtrian fare.
    And you missed out on chaat - bhelpuri, sevpuri, dahi puri etc.
    Happy travels to your friend!


    1. Aarti- Thanks!! How did I forget chaat- she'll have to try that! Great idea about the heritage walks.

  3. Akuri at Ideal Corner (Fort) - pretty amazing! Thali at Thakkar Bhojanalay (also very yummy), Bun Muska, pani puri at Trupti..A play at Prithvi Theatre would probably also be a nice experience. There is this blogger who does amazing food tours - I wasn't actually able to go but I've heard great things about them. I can't seem to recall his name so I'll report back once I remember.

    Like you, I no longer use a big pot to boil pasta. I just use a medium saucepan..:)

    1. Oh and misal pav at Ladu Samrat (Parel) is yum!

    2. Lavanya- thank you!! My aunt lives very close to Prithvi and I loved going to plays there.

  4. It's great to get these suggestions on Mumbai tours. Would be also helpful to know which of these places are for 'natives' (who have immunity) and which ones may need to be approached with caution :-) Especially with items such as pani puri, I have heard stories of visitors who ruined their trip due to food borne illness. I love to sample food, but stay away from many foods (like pani puri or street food) just to be safe. So, I feel that I miss out on some amazing food exeriences. Thanks, Meena

    1. Meena- Confession: I've never eaten actual street food in India, ever, even growing up. Physician parents were too wary. Restaurants, even small hole in the wall ones were fine.

  5. I have no suggestions for the Mumbai part of the post.
    But do you have the Instant Pot? It is an ABSOLUTE life saver! Especially when you have a new born. Check out the Facebook group 'Instant Pot for Indian Cooking'. I make pasta in the IP. I dump pasta, sauce, veggies etc set timer for 6 mins and walk away. I come back and it is done. I also make baby/toddelr food in it every day. I could go on and on but I swear I have no affilitaion towards the IP. Just one tired mom sharing tips with another :).
    I Am going to try the winter squash in my IP soon! Thanks for the recipe.

    1. Sangeetha- I've heard so much about the instant pot- very glowing reviews. Glad to hear you are loving yours! I can't justifying buying one right one because I own so many other things that do the same thing- pressure cooker etc. But maybe some day!

  6. Not sure if you've heard of one pot pasta. I've made it several times and quite like the simplicity of it. Just google Martha Stewart one pot pasta.
    I have not been to South Bombay in the last 12 years since I moved to the US. My visits to Mumbai have been limited to my parents and in-laws homes in the suburbs so, sadly can't recommend much. However, ask her to contact Kalyan Karmarkar at to ask about food tours.

    Much love to the kiddos and doggie.


    1. Yes- Kalyan Kamarkar was who I was referring to! Thanks Anu!

    2. Yes, I have heard of Finely Chopped and did suggest that to her. Food tours would be a wonderful way to sample a megapolis like Mumbai. Thanks Anu!

    3. Was about to refer your friend to the finely chopped blog!! He is a Wikipedia when it comes to Mumbai food scene

  7. Hi Nupur good to hear you are all doing well.

    For your friend since she is going to be staying in Cuffe Parade she will find the following places easy to explore on her own and fitting her food preferences.

    Kailash Parbat, Colaba for chats, ice cream falooda, pav bhaaji etc.
    K. Rustom's for icecreams
    Thakar Bhojnalay at Kalbadevi
    Kamat at Colaba for South Indian snacks
    Veg Lagan Nu Bhonu at Jimmy boy, Horniman circle
    Sassanian bakery and boulangerie at Marine Lines for Parsi lagan nu custard, bread pudding, mawa cakes.
    Fruit juice at Canteena, Colaba and Kandeel at Fort.
    Gupta sugarcane juice center at Dhanraj Mahal, Gateway of India.
    Tibb's Frankie at Cusrow baug

    Hope she enjoys her time in Mumbai.

    1. Oh yes Rustoms ice creams are delicious!! Sorry I seem to be all over the comments, Nupur!

    2. Anjali- I can tell you're a South Bombay gal ;) Thank you SO much for this amazing list. I will give her your e-mail ID in case she would like a Koli cooking class. Assuming you're still teaching those?

    3. Yes I still do. Sure do share it with her. She can reach out to me for any help she needs here :)

  8. I see that the inexpensive food end is covered already by Anjali. I'll add Soam at Babulnath and Swati Snacks at Tardeo to the list and sugarcane juice at either of these two to the food list.

    If she wants to venture to Dadar then Aswad at Shivaji Park is a must visit.

    If she wants a splurge/concept meal - go to Masala Library at Bandra Kurla complex - make a reservation and be ready to spend about $40-60. It's worth one visit but not more if that is too much for a meal fine to skip.

    Love your pasta method!

    1. Vishakha- thank you! Yes, sugarcane juice and coconut water are must haves. Love your idea of one splurge meal.

  9. Hi Nupur, my cousin runs Authenticook with a few other people, and it involves eating meals at people's homes. I wonder if that might be up your friend's street. They have home cooks of quite a variety of Indian cuisines, and I'm regularly drooling over the pictures on Facebook. They've got a FB page and a stand alone website. They do have vegetarian fare too. X

    1. Monisha- what a fun concept- I'll ask her to check it out! Nothing like eating in a local's home.

  10. Everything at Swati Snacks, Tardeo is fantastic! It is a veg, gujju place.

  11. Hey Nupur,

    This blog may help your friend who's visiting Mumbai:


  12. Nupur,

    I studied in NMIMS and if she does go to Prithvi for a play, she should check out Amar juice center in Vile Parle for pav bhaji after that. It is heavenly.
    Bombay is such a foodie's delight and India is probably the best place in the world for a vegetarian. When I went back for a vacation after 4 years, it was wonderful to finally have an entire menu to chose from rather than the 2-3 items token vegetarian dishes here in suburban US.
    I hope your friend has a safe and memorable trip.


  13. Nupur, if your friend can manage the heat, I would really recommend the grilled sandwich on coal fire that they sell on know they stuff potato, cheese and green chutney in bread and then grill it enclosed in metal mould over charcoal's HEAVEN!!

  14. There's a lady by the name of Hemali who conducts tours in Mumbai. I haven't experienced it, but remember reading fantastic reviews about her. I happened to bookmark it and so thought of telling you.
    I am from Mumbai and just got back after a 3 month vacation. Some of my recommendations-
    Sardar pav bhaji
    Chaat from Elco in Bandra
    Thali from Golden star- charni road
    Falooda from baadshah
    Ice cream from K Rustoms in churchgate
    Veg grill cheese sandwich in Santacruz from Sandwizzaa

  15. Nupur ,
    There is so much to do in Bombay and otherwise.
    For gujju food there is Swati snacks /Soam
    Naturals ice cream
    chaat at Kailash parbat
    for a splurge meal Masala library is good but so is Farzi café which would come to around 1500 for 2 ppl.
    If she wants to have a evening watching the sunset at marine drive then Dome is a good place to go for snacks/drinks...its a little high end though
    colaba causeway is also a good place to go for some street shopping.
    Sweet Bengal for Bengali sweets
    chaats/sweets at tewari brothers/ gangaur ...good if she wants to try Kolkata style chaats over the weekends
    Ramashray /Madras café for south indian food.
    Ashok vada pav near kirti college ...walking distance from sidhivinayak
    I hope this helps and she has a great time there..

  16. So many foodie things to do in Mumbai. I have never visited Mumbai but this makes me want to go there

  17. I agree with comments on has much more than Gujju food. Pavbhaji, pav vada, missal etc. and I have never fallen sick. Highly recommend Swati.

  18. Mumbai recommendations:
    Britannia in Ballard Estate for incredible Parsi/Irani food. The Berry Pulao and Dhansak are to die for. As a bonus, the 90+ year old owner is fun to chat with.

    Badshash in Crawford Market for their Royal Falooda.

  19. ragda petti!!!
    dal dhokli (generally NOT included in gujju thali)
    keri nu shaak with pooris! also tindora batata nu shaak!

  20. Really appetizing and really looks so flavourful!
    Ashi Verma

  21. Tried this new method of boiling pasta on the red lentil penne we bought at Costco and worked like a charm. Adopted some of the other recipes ideas too and sauteed some acorn squash and broccoli in avocado oil, seasoned with harissa powder, added a splash of coconut milk and this amazing hot tomato oil/sauce from pastabilities ( best pasta place in Syracuse) and a dusting of dry herbs ( oregano, thyme etc) ... Like most of us today haha, a post-modern mongrel of a dish with international flavours but satisfying, quick and yes makes you feel like you're eating at a fancy restaurant.

    Thank you Nupur for sparking my imagination!


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