Rabbit Ragu

By Steven Rinella

Rabbit Ragu

Rabbit ragu is the perfect cold-weather meal, the kind of dish you want to make when it’s snowing outside. 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 ragu.

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.

Serving size: 8-10

Ingredients

Marinade
2 cups dry red wine
1/2 onion, peeled and sliced
5 garlic cloves, smashed
2 bay leaves
1 sprig rosemary
1 tbsp juniper berries

Ragu
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
1 -1/2 cups chicken broth
2 cups tomato sauce
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
1-1/2 lbs fresh pappardelle (or 1-1/2 lbs dry lasagna noodles-see note)
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino cheese

The Method

Quick and Easy “Homemade” Fresh Pappardelle

1. Get fresh pasta sheets from a grocery or specialty store (some sell them for lasagna) and cut them into large, wide, irregular strips. Wonton wrappers can be made to work.

2. No luck finding these? Break up dry lasagna noodles into 3-inch pieces and cook according to the package instructions. Any way you do it, it’s delicious!

The Ragu

1. In a large bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Add the meat and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. Add the bay leaves and thyme. Cover and simmer until the meat is just tender, about 1 1/2 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.

8. 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.

9. 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 ragu. Stir.

10. Stir in the herbs. Serve topped with grated cheese.