Italians are serious about food, especially when it comes to pasta. While some chefs may settle for a couple versions and shapes of pasta, Italians seemingly have a different pasta for each dish. To the Italian palette, it makes a difference. Take rigatoni, for example.
Rigatoni is a tube shaped pasta with ridges. Rigatoni in Italian roughly means “lined ridges”. Rigatoni pastas are larger than ziti and penne and slightly curved, but not as curved as elbow macaroni. The ridges on rigatoni make for better adhesion for sauces and grated cheese than do the smooth-sided pastas like ziti. This pasta goes nicely with a number of sauces and I recently stirred up my own version of rigatoni, and it was quite good. Better yet, I made it in my slow cooker, meaning I could spend more time playing golf and less time watching the pots boil in the kitchen.
This is a simple dish, economical, easy to assemble and easy on the food budget. I call it Kielbasa Beef Rigatoni.
Proportions are not critical in this dish, so use what you have. Begin by boiling a one-pound box of rigatoni. Make sure to salt the water and I add a splash of olive oil. Some cooks don’t. Cook about 12 minutes, till al dente, remove and drain. Next, brown a pound and a half of ground sirloin and one chopped onion. Drain any excess fat, and add a 48-oz. jar of pasta sauce (I like Prego Traditional, but use your favorite) to the pan. A little wine doesn’t hurt, either. Pour in a bout a half-cup of cabernet if you have a bottle open.
Next, add one pound of Polish Kielbasa along with an 8 oz. jar of sliced mushrooms. Pour the cooked rigatoni in the pan and add 16-ounces of shredded mozzarella. Put the entire concoction in a slow cooker on the low setting for 4 to 6 hours, add some kosher salt and coarse ground pepper and it’s done when you’re ready to eat.
You’ll find that the kielbasa adds a marvelous flavor and texture.
Kielbasa Beef Rigatoni
1½ pounds ground sirloin
1 pound Polish Kielbasa sausage
16 oz. box rigatoni
48-ounce jars of pasta sauce
½ cup dry red wine
1 chopped onion
1 8-ounce jar sliced mushrooms
16-ounce bag of shredded mozzarella
Salt and pepper to taste