Bigoli are very similar to spaghetti – long strands of pasta once made at home and later commercially made and extruded through a bronze die with a rough edge so as to trap the sauce better. It is from the Veneto area of Italy where they eat polenta and risotto and not as much pasta as in the south of Italy; Bigoli have now become an artisan product and most commonly dressed with a duck pasta sauce. Eggs are sometimes incorporated in the pasta dough.
Bigoli Nobili (noble) Bigoli suggests something greater and they are. The pasta is made with the usual durum wheat but has red radicchio in the mixture; the pasta is therefore darker in colour. The Bigoli Nobili are far less common than the plain Bigoli and I bought several boxes of Bigoli Nobili in South Australia; I have not found this type of pasta in Melbourne but will continue my investigations.
I usually cook Bigoli with red radicchio, borlotti beans and pork sausages, a recipe that originates from around Bassano which is about two hours drive from Trieste where I spent part of my childhood. In some households the borlotti are not the standard addition to this dish. Cooking the same recipe with Bigoli Nobili accentuates the taste of the radicchio. There are different types of Radicchio (differentiated by their shape and colour) and they were all originally grown in the northern part of Italy: Chioggia, Castelfranco, grown in the fact of Treviso, Chioggia, Castelfranco, Trieste or Verona. The best known is the red one from Traviso. Radicchio has a bitter taste and can be eaten raw in a salad or cooked in various ways. The radicchio loses its red colour when it is cooked.
I have cooked Bigoli Nobili many times for friends, but have not taken a photo. When the pasta is ready to be dished out it is not an appropriate time having to announce to the guests:
“Hold your horses… I need to take a few photos before we eat!”
When I took this photo I did not have enough Bigoli Nobili so I mixed it with plain Bigoli- no guests, just us. It tasted just as good. And really, a good quality spaghetti will also produce great results.
For 6 people500 grams of bigoli (or spaghetti)
6 Italian pork sausages 2 medium heads of radicchio 2 cups of cooked borlotti beans – 1 cup soaked overnight and then cooked in cold unsalted water, covered and cooked until soft (or 2 tins, drained) ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil 1 large lump of butter, to taste 1 onion, cut finely
1 clove garlic, minced
fresh rosemary, a few sprigs ½ cup chopped parsley
½ glass of red wine
salt and pepper to taste Squeeze the sausage meat out of the skins and separate it into small lumps with your fingers.
Slice each radicchio into halves, then quarters, then eights. Sauté the onion in the extra virgin olive oil; add the sausages and brown them gently. Add the radicchio and gently toss it around it until it is wilted. Add the red wine, rosemary, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper, cover and braise the contents for about ten minutes. Stir the beans gently through the other ingredients until warmed through. Add the butter last of all – this will enrich and give a sheen to the sauce. Cook the pasta in salted water and drain it when it is cooked. Place the cooked pasta into the sauce and serve.