Mietta’s Rigatoni with Cauliflower

Serves: 6

Mietta (O’Donnell) was a bit ahead of my time.

She was one of those 80s and 90s doyens that drove food and fine dining in Australia out of the dowdy 70s and much closer to the amazing foodie place we have now; first by opening an Italian restaurant of the kind Australia had never seen: then, by starting Australia’s first serious review of restaurants.

Her contribution to Australian food cannot be overstated, certainly by everything I have read.

Sadly, Mietta was killed in a car accident in 2001.

Last Mother’s Day, I purchased Mietta’s book for Nat and gave her the back story.

We have been meaning to cook something from it since then and geez, I wish we had done so earlier.

I’ve said that unique, restaurant-quality pastas really excite me.

This is one of them.

The quality of food – at home and out – is remarkable in Australia. My mother occasionally talks about how expensive chicken was 30 years back.

It was people like Mietta that laid the foundations for such extraordinary change in the culinary scene in Australia over the last 20 years and this pasta really sums up how the simple things she introduced us to led to the amazing foodie place we live in today.

Ingredients

1 medium onion, sliced and soaked in milk
30ml olive oil
1 medium cauliflower, cut into flowerets
100gm pancetta or bacon, julienned
A little chilli
90ml tomato sauce
500g rigatoni
Parmesan, grated

Tomato sauce

300ml olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
80gm ham, chopped
12gm flour mixed with 5ml oil
800gm canned Italian plum tomatoes, drained
Pinch of sugar
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Method

  1. For the tomato sauce: Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and add the chopped onion and ham and brown over a fairly high heat for 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix well; turn down the heat to moderate and add the canned tomatoes.
  2. Season with the salt, pepper and sugar; add the thyme and bay leaf.
  3. Cook for about 45 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  4. For the rigatoni: fry the onions in oil and add the cauliflower flowerets.
  5. Put the lid on the pan so that the cauliflower can cook through the add the pancetta or bacon and then a little chilli. When the cauliflower is just cooked, add the tomato sauce.
  6. Boil the rigatoni until cooked and strain. Toss the cauliflower mixture through the pasta and serve, sprinkled with plenty of grated Parmesan.

Rigatoni with Chicken Ragù and Green Sauce

Serves: 4 – 6

I really didn’t see this one coming, though what a great – and unique – pasta.

This recipe from Gourmet Traveller is excellent and something you’d find in a good Italian restaurant. It has a quality, a richness and yet a dryness: it is hard to put your finger on why it is just so moorish: could be the butter, could be the contrast with the green sauce, could be that you’re eating pasta, something we don’t do as often as we would like.

We are always on the lookout for unusual, restaurant-quality pastas and this one definitely ticks that box.

As Nat put it, served alongside a red pasta, this would make for a really fun lunch.

So much so that Tom (7) asked us to make sure we typed this recipe up so he could have it handy for when he was cooking for his girlfriend in due course.

You should try.

(We upped the mince to 1kg and we’d do it again. And very minor changes to the original recipe which we have reflected below.)

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 baby fennel bulb, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
600gm coarsely minced chicken
2 tbsp coarsely chopped rosemary
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
250ml dry white wine
300ml hot chicken stock
20gm butter, diced
20gm Parmesan
400gm dried rigatoni
200gm kale leaves, roughly chopped

Green sauce

1 garlic clove crushed
1 tbsp coarsely chopped parsley
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup basil, coarsely chopped
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil

Method

  1. Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large saucepan and add the onion, garlic and fennel and sauté until starting to soften: 2 – 3 minutes. Add the chicken mince – increasing the temperature to high – and fry until starting to colour: 5 – 7 minutes.
  2. Stir in the rosemary, nutmeg and the wine and bring to a simmer; add the stock, reducing the heat to medium and simmer until slightly reduced: 5 – 7 minutes. You only want a little liquid remaining.
  3. Stir in the butter and Parmesan and season to taste.
  4. For the green sauce, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and season to taste.
  5. Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente; a minute before finishing, add the kale to the pasta and wilt.
  6. Drain and combine the pasta and kale with the sauce.
  7. Serve, topped with the Green sauce and extra Parmesan.