This is probably one of my all-time favourite pasta dishes to cook. It’s incredibly simple to make and it delivers great rich flavours and smooth, creamy textures. We have had it on our menu at Bistro George, in Jacksons on George Sydney, since opening and we will continue to keep it on the menu as it’s such a hit with our guests.
It’s a simple tomato base sauce that you can eat all year round. A key tip is to cook the tomatoes long enough with the cream and reduce slightly. This is what gives the sauce a rich, creamy mouthfeel and depth of flavour.
I also really like the twist of using gin, rather than vodka, in this recipe. I decided to use gin one day after a trip to the Farmer’s Wife Distillery in Allworth, NSW. You can go classic and use vodka in this recipe, or with tequila it is good also.
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I like to use fermented chilli in this recipe rather than regular chopped chilli as it gives the dish a little extra depth of chilli flavour rather than just heat – but feel free to throw in some extra fermented chilli for extra spice. The fermented chilli needs to be prepared a week and a half in advance.
You can use this sauce recipe to toss through your favourite pasta shape. I like to finish the dish with 24-month-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano grated on top and a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes.
You will need a Kilner jar for fermenting and jars for storing fermented chilli.
Rigatoni alla gin
Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1.5 weeks fermenting
Cooking time: 1.5 hours
50ml extra-virgin olive oil
100g white onion, thinly sliced
Pinch of salt, plus extra for seasoning
8g garlic, chopped
260g tomato paste
¼ tsp dried oregano
600g plum tomatoes, chopped
800ml double cream
520g fresh rigatoni (dried is also fine)
110g unsalted butter, softened
100g Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
Sea salt, to taste (Sinclair uses Olsson’s)
Lemon juice, to taste
Fermented chilli (½ tsp required for this recipe)
400g bird's eye chillies, stalk removed
½ garlic bulb
25g fine salt
To make the fermented chilli, add the chillies, garlic, water and salt to a large sterilised Kilner jar, and leave to ferment for a week and a half outside of the fridge. It should start to bubble after a few days. Every few days open the lid to allow the built-up gas to escape.
Once fermented, strain the contents of the jar, reserving the liquid.
Blitz the the chillies and garlic in a food processor until roughly chopped. Add 200ml of the fermenting liquor (discard the rest) and continue to pulse until the sauce is a coarse consistency and not totally smooth.
Transfer equally between sterilised jars and keep in the fridge for up to three months.
For the sauce, heat 25ml olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and a pinch of salt. Sweat off for 2–3 minutes then add the garlic. Continue to sweat off gently for a further 2–3 minutes until soft and translucent.
Add the tomato paste and dried oregano and cook for 3–4 minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes and stir well. Continue to cook this out for 20–30 minutes until the sauce is reduced by one-third.
Add the double cream, stir well and cook for a further 15 minutes.
Transfer to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve and season with salt to taste, then set aside.
Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and add the pasta and cook until al dente. (For fresh rigatoni this should only take 3 minutes. If using dried pasta, cook to the time on the packet.)
Meanwhile, heat a separate medium-sized saucepan over medium–low heat and add the remaining 25ml olive oil followed by ½ tsp fermented chilli (crank up the heat and add more chilli if you like it hot). Add the gin next – this will flame, so be careful not to burn yourself. Add the blended tomato sauce, stir well and bring up to a medium heat.
Next, add the cooked pasta to the warm sauce, add the butter and toss together to combine well. While you are tossing the pasta, sprinkle the grated parmesan until it’s well emulsified and smooth.
Finish by seasoning with a pinch of sea salt to taste and a splash of lemon juice, then serve immediately.