Ah Pasta!! The kind of dinner that can be made in no time at all and savoured at leisure. The perfect thing to serve on a day when everyone came home late and perhaps some people have to go out afterwards. The perfect thing to serve after a particularly stressful day. Or a particularly unstressful day. Okay let’s face it. Pasta dinners are the perfect thing to serve on any day.
It’s pretty amazing that this is the first time I’ve joined in the Presto Pasta Nights festivities. Because pasta is our dinner of choice on days that we haven’t really been around during the day. As well as on days that we have been around during the day. Yes, indeed, I love pasta!
Very early on in this blog (long before we had a camera), I said that Blackened Chillies and Broccoli was our favourite sauce for spaghettini. It’s still a favourite and we have it often. So often that we don’t even think about getting out the camera – we’re so certain that I must have posted about it thousands of times.
But we have other favourites now. And one of them is “Skyliner Chili” (yes, I know; the real restaurant is called the Skyline but I kept making a mistake early on and can’t seem to correct it).
If we’re really pressed for time, we get my chili out of the freezer. But if we decide early enough in the day, T whips up a variation of Borlotti Pasta Sauce, using smoked sausage and/or ham and lots and lots of Romano beans. I adore this dinner!!
I’ve only been to Cincinnati once and that was before I’d ever heard of the Skyline Diner and I’ve never had real Skyline Diner chili (5-way). So I’ve only had our version of this fabulous spaghetti sauce. I can only hope that the real thing is as good as ours. And trust me, it’s really good. Or… don’t trust me. Make Skyliner Chili and taste for yourselves.
It’s really pretty simple – just chili con carne made with LOTS of beans (usually Kidney and/or Romano beans) tossed in spaghettini and topped with grated cheddar, finely chopped onions, blackened chilis and crackers. (Actually, I usually forgo the crackers but T says they’re essential.)With a green vegetable on the side, this is one of the most satisfying dinners!
- ½ c dried beans*
- cold water
- 1 tsp seasalt
- olive oil
- 1 whole dried chili
- 1 large onion, chopped
- smoked ham or sausage, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 fresh plum tomatoes, chopped
- dried oregano, to taste
- seasalt and pepper, to taste
- cheddar cheese, grated
- onion, finely chopped
- olive oil
- dried cayenne chillis
- soda crackers
- Pasta Sauce The morning before you are going to make the sauce, sort (to remove stones) and wash the beans well. Put the washed beans in a big pot and cover with fresh cold water. Remove any beans that are floating. DO NOT ADD SALT. Bring to a boil. Immediately turn down to a low simmer. Simmer 1 to 2 hours partially covered. After an hour of cooking, check to see if beans are the consistancy (in terms of softness) you like. If not, simmer a little longer. When they are the right consistancy, add salt. This stops the beans from getting much softer. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Heat oil in a large pan to medium hot. Add the chili and fry til dark brown.
- Add ham and saute til the ham is beginning to caramelize. Then add onion and cook til lightly caramelized. Add garlic and tomatoes and continue to cook briefly garlic is very light gold.
- Add beans and their liquid. Cover and let simmer 20 minutes.
- Add oregano, salt and pepper and leave on low heat, uncovered for about 10 minutes.
- Garnishes Grate cheddar cheese, chop onions and put them in two separate bowls and set aside.
- Break soda crackers into pieces. Heat olive oil to medium hot in a frying pan. Add the cracker pieces and fry them til they are golden brown. Remove the crackers and set aside on a plate til they’ve cooled.
- Add a little more olive oil to the pan and add the dried cayenne chilis. Cook them until they are dark brown. Remove the blackened chilis to a small bowl and set aside.
- Spaghettini Put spaghettini in plenty of salted boiling water and cook til al dente. Drain.
- Put it all together Over very low heat, put the drained pasta into the frying pan and add a generous spoonful of chili sauce. Use tongs to toss the sauce in the pasta. This separates the noodles and coats each one.
- Serve the spaghettini on warmed plates, and pour extra chili sauce overtop followed by grated cheddar, blackened chili(s), chopped onions and cracker pieces.
Serve immediately with a green vegetable.Notes:
* Use Romano (aka cranberry, borlotti, saluggia), kidney, pinto or whatever beans you prefer. We think dried beans end up tasting better than canned (and the dried beans are much cheaper). If you don’t have dried beans on hand and imagine that it’s too much work to deal with them (it’s not), use good quality canned beans. The final volume of beans works out to be 1 to 1½ cups
** This might not seem like a presto sort of dinner but if you have chili in the freezer (we usually do because we make it in big batches and freeze it in dinner-sized portions), then the only time spent is in preparing the garnishes and cooking the pasta.
I like my skyliner chili served “4 way”: chili, onions, cheese and just a few blackened chilies. T, on the other hand, likes it “5 way”: chili, onions, cheese, crackers and lots of blackened chilies. (Yes, it might look a bit like dog’s breakfast but put these dishes on a candle lit table and suddenly they’ll look like they’re for a king’s banquet.)
I must admit that the crackers are really really good and lend a lovely bit of crunch. But for me, they also add just that extra bit of richness making the dish just that much too rich (if that’s possible).
And you? How many ways do you prefer? There’s plenty of time still to make this tonight….
Some time ago, Ruth (Once Upon a Feast) created this lovely event for people to share their favourite pasta dishes. Too late for this week’s session hosted by Ruth herself (the round up for 107th session will be posted today), I am submitting this for Marye (Baking Delights) who will be hosting the Presto Pasta Nights 108.
For complete details on how to participate in Presto Pasta Nights (PPN), please read the following: