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As Frederio Fellini once said, ‘Life is a combination of magic and pasta’

For most of us, pasta is synonymous with Italian cuisine. But if you dig a little deeper into history, you will discover that pasta existed long before Italy made it a household dish.

There are historical references that Marco Polo introduced pasta to Italy after his travels to China in the 13th century where he first ate noodles. It’s possible this is true as pasta is an everyday dish in Uyghur cuisine, which is a traditional but lesser known cooking style of the Uyghur community in China.

There are also references that pasta originated well before that and was regularly used in the times of the Roman Empire and that’s how it found its way into cooking in Italy.

Modern Italian cuisine has really made pasta popular and one of our all-time comfort foods. Children love to eat pasta and you will find every household in Australia having a favourite recipe or style for cooking pasta. There are plenty of Indian influenced versions too complete with our tadkas and masalas. And it’s delicious too!

This pasta dish has perhaps become the most famous one of all. There is no one who doesn’t enjoy a bowl of warm, robust spaghetti bolognese – especially in this bone chilling winter season.

But here is a little twist to the all too familiar spaghetti bolognese. We love to Indianise all our dishes – add a touch of heat, a dash of spice to perk up the flavours that our taste buds enjoy. So, that’s what we’re doing – a big bowl of rigatoni chilli bolognese.

The reason for using rigatoni is that I am not a big fan of spaghetti. I can’t be bothered to perfectly twirl the delicate strands of spaghetti around my fork for every single mouthful. The rigatoni is robust and big, perfect to soak up my rich chilli bolognese, it’s all about comfort.

The chilli sauce adds a depth of flavour that takes this bolognese to the next level. Add to it the flavours of bacon and red wine which really helps to bring out the flavour of the meat. For a delicious vegetarian version, omit the bacon and use finely chopped mushrooms instead of the meat mince. And if you do not eat beef, then try this dish using minced chicken or lamb.

So, do yourself a favour; make a big pot of this lip-smacking and flavourful rigatoni chilli bolognese for the weekend and put your feet up for a well-deserved break!

Rigatoni Chilli Bolognese

Ingredient

  • 500 g rigatoni
  • 150 g bacon, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 dry bay leaf
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 beef stock, dissolved in 1 cup water
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
  • ¾ cup chilli sauce (adjust to heat preferences)
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 kg lean beef mince
  • Sugar, a pinch
  • Salt, to season
  • Freshly milled black pepper, to season
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Parmesan, to taste

 

Method

In a large heavy bottom pan, heat the oil; brown the mince in batches and keep aside.

In the same pan, add the bacon and fry for about a minute.

Add the bay leaf and garlic; sauté till the garlic is just beginning to brown.

Add the red wine and cook on low heat till the alcohol burns off completely; about 10-15 minutes.

Then add the beef stock along with the rosemary and basil; bring to boil.

Next, add the chilli sauce and crushed tomatoes along with 1 cup water. Add sugar and season with salt and pepper.

Cook covered on low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the mince and continue to cook covered for another 30 minutes. Add water if the mixture looks dry.

Cook rigatoni in boiling salted water till al dente or follow packet instructions.

Drain the pasta reserving a cup of liquid.

Add to the bolognese along with the reserved liquid. Mix well to combine.

Serve warm with grated Parmesan.

Tuck in!