This is the perfect cold-weather meal, the kind of dish you want to make when it’s snowing outside and you’re settling in for a long winter. I make mine with Chianti or another dry Italian red. The wine doesn’t have to be fancy; as long as it’s something you’d want to drink from a glass, it’s good enough for the ragù. Tuck into this one, and for at least a few hours you’ll be thinking that winter ain’t so bad after all.
My favorite way to serve this is on top of some fresh pappardelle, but it is also good when served over a nice batch of soft polenta.
• 2 cups dry red wine
• 1⁄2 onion, peeled and sliced
• 5 garlic cloves, smashed
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 sprig rosemary
• 1 tablespoon juniper berries
• 2 rabbits, skinned and cut into 4 legs and 2 loins each (about 2 pounds total)
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 large onion, peeled and diced small
• 2 carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and sliced into 1⁄4-inch half-moons
• 2 stalks celery, cut into 1⁄4-inch slices • 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1⁄2 cup dry red wine
• 11⁄2 cups chicken broth
• 2 cups tomato sauce
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 sprigs thyme
• 11⁄2 pounds fresh pappardelle (or 11⁄2 pounds dry lasagna noodles—see note)
• 1⁄4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
• Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino cheese
In a large bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Add the meat and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
When ready to cook, remove the meat from the marinade and set aside. Discard the marinade. Pat the rabbit dry with paper towels. Season the rabbit pieces liberally with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, sear the rabbit pieces on all sides until light golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the meat to a plate.
Add the onion to the pan and cook until just softened. Add the carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Let the wine reduce slightly and then return the meat to the pot.
Add the chicken stock and tomato sauce. The liquid should come halfway up the sides of the meat; if it doesn’t, add enough water (or additional stock) until it does. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Skim off and discard any scum. Add the bay leaves and thyme. Cover and simmer until the meat is just tender, about 11⁄2 hours. Do not overcook. A good way to tell if the rabbit is done is to pick up a hind quarter and try to bend the knee joint. If it moves easily, it’s done.
Remove the meat from the pot and set aside on a platter. When the rabbits are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones. Return the picked meat to the pot, stir, and season with salt and pepper to taste. (At this point the sauce can be cooled and stored in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 6 months.)
Bring 8 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (cooked, but still has a bite). Drain the pasta and add to the ragù. Stir.
Stir in the herbs. Serve topped with grated cheese.
This post was initially published as part of The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game: Small Game & Fowl by Steven Rinella