Pasta potstickers, an Asian take on boring old filled pasta from the supermarket – a quick dinner made rather delightfully special!
What are potstickers?
I have only recently found this strange and wonderful name for dumplings or gyoza cooked in a skillet with and then without steam, which is a very clever cooking method too.
In my ignorance I thought you only either boiled the dumplings or deep fried them. I even ran it past a Chinese friend of mine, but a bloke, so he hadn’t known potstickers either. What did I expect?
It turns out that prepared dumplings, or jiaozi, or gyoza which is a Japanese loan off the Chinese from the times of the Japanese invasion of China in the late 1930s, can be cooked by the fry-steam-fry method which is only just short of genius in my view.
Fry them in the skillet or wok, add water for a burst of steam under a lid, then cook off the water and crispen again. What’s simpler, and what’s not to like?
How were potstickers invented?
The story has it that a Chinese chef left dumplings boiling on the hob and walked off, letting the water to all cook off and the dumplings to stick to the bottom of the pot getting deliciously crisp.
Serendipity is the mother of good recipes – why does it hardly happen to me? If I leave something on the hob and walk off, it’s invariably ruined.
As soon as I learned about the sticking to the pot, I wanted to try it out.
But make wonton skins and fill with minced pork, shrimp and cabbage? Maybe not right now. A bag of filled pasta in the fridge? Why, that will do just great.
And it must be said that my potsticker pasta was such a stonking success I’m cooking it almost every week. Begone, boring boiled tortellini with boring pesto and cream - it’s now a Chinese-Italian fusion.
Which is quite a historical justice: after all Marco Polo allegedly stole the idea of pasta off the Chinese.
Fresh or frozen pasta?
Deb of Smitten Kitchen who inspired my version of the dish uses frozen pasta. Which is fair enough and completely successful, it just takes much longer, obviously, for the potstickers to stick to the pot.
Fresh pasta will colour straight away and the steam hit is provided by frozen peas. It’s quicker, and everyone’s a winner.
What kind of pasta?
Ready-filled pasta comes in all shapes and sizes and the fillings are varied and diverse but let me tell you a secret: they all taste pretty much the same unless you spend a fortune on some artisan, truffle-filled raviolo.
My advice is, forget the filling, go for something innocuous like cheese or ham or spinach, and the flavour will come from the pancetta added to the frying pan.
If you want to skip the meat element, I suggest to fry a few mushroom slices instead and proceed in the same way.
More rounded shapes will work better so tortellini, tortelloni (a size up from tortellini) or cappelletti rather than ravioli which are flat, so might stick to the pot a little bit too much. The difference in textures around the pasta shape is what we aim for.
How to make pasta potstickers?
The absolutely best version of my fusion potstickers is with crispy pancetta, frozen peas and copious Parmesan.
You need a frying pan, sauté pan or skillet large enough to preferably fit all the pasta in a single layer, and with a fitting lid. But if there’s not matching lid, you can use a baking tray to cover the pan – which is a trick I also use when cooking paella.
First cook the pancetta on both sides till crisp, which won’t take any time at all. Take it off the pan and set aside.
Now add the pasta to the pancetta fat left in the pan, with an addition of a little butter and oil. Let it crispen over reasonably high heat, and when it smells gorgeous, hit that heat (hehe) with frozen peas and a splash of water, and immediately put the lid (tray) on.
This steaming stage will take but a minute before the potstickers, now plumped up with steam, start frying again briefly.
When all the liquid is gone and the fat in the pan starts fizzling again, it’s ready. Break up the pancetta slices and stir them in, with lots and lots of Parmesan.
Variations of pasta potstickers
One mentioned already, a vegetarian version with mushroom slices replacing pancetta. Fry them until crisp, scoop out of the pan and continue like above.
Use frozen sweetcorn instead of peas, in which case I’d add a drizzle of maple syrup and a spoonful of smoked paprika to the dish.
You can also swap peas for a frozen vegetable mix, and top the dish with crispy shallots instead of Parmesan.
Or, in a complete twist on textures, drizzle double cream over the potstickers to turn them both crispy and saucy.
More pasta recipes
Pasta fritta, fried pasta with asparagus, garlic and mint, the best thing to do with leftover pasta. Any pasta shape can be made into pasta fritta. Make it without eggs or go for frittata pasta – with eggs mixed in.
Leek and mushroom penne pasta bake with mascarpone and mozzarella. It's easy, it's cheesy, it's veggie, it's crispy - it's an ultimate comfort pasta bake.
Best mac n cheese with leeks - elbow pasta shapes with braised sliced leeks baked in cheesy creamy sauce. Macaroni cheese is sometimes called pasta Mornay, the name of the cheese sauce. It's a simple vegetarian pasta bake and ultimate comfort food.
More Asian noodle recipes
Crispy ginger beef noodle stir fry with pickled radish is Tom Kerridge’s take on a takeaway-style ginger beef and it’s amazing.
Sesame noodles, a simple and easy dish of egg or rice noodles with takeaway-style flavours. Sesame noodles with spring onions and beans, make-your-own sesame paste, served with chopped peanuts and cucumbers. Ready in 15 minutes.
Five spice shrimp salad with crispy noodles. Recipe for homemade crispy noodles and prawn and pak choi stir fry salad. Chinese five spice seasoned prawns in a warm layered salad served with crispy fried noodles.