Game Ragu with Pappardelle

The thing I love about this recipe is its flexibility. You can use different types of game and ask your butcher to prepare them for you. If you cut the meat big and chunky this makes a delicious stew, but if cut smaller, and cooked until it falls apart, it makes an amazing pasta sauce. I'm using pappardelle here, but any other robust pasta like rigatoni, tagliatelle or broken-up dried sheets of lasagne work well too. In Italy, this sort of stewed meat would traditionally have been eaten on toast for breakfast by hunters or manual laborers who would have been up at the crack of dawn. It's probably a bit more appropriate for lunch though! PS Red wine and game is a classic combination, but I'm using white wine here to lighten the flavors.

TOTAL TIME: 2 hr 10 min
Prep: 30 min
Inactive Prep: --
Cook: 1 hr 40 min
 
YIELD: 6 servings
LEVEL: Intermediate

ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 rutabaga, peeled and diced
  • Sprig fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
  • Small bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 rabbit or hare, boned and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 11 ounces venison haunch, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
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Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Pour a glug of olive oil into a casserole type pan and put it on the heat. Add the onion, carrots, rutabaga, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves and cook gently for 10 minutes. Stir in the meat and the flour, pour in the wine and add a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Pour in the stock, there should be enough to just cover the meat. Bring to a gentle boil, put a lid on and place in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours, until the meat falls apart easily.

When the stew looks good, bring a very large pan of salted water to the boil and stir in the pappardelle. Cook according to the package instructions.

While the pasta's cooking, you can get your ragu sauce rockin' and rollin'! Remove the bay leaves from the sauce and add the butter to it. Beat in half the Parmesan and half the orange zest, just a hint will make all the difference. Place the lid on top. Pick and chop your parsley leaves now, you want them to be nice and fresh, with as much color and flavor as possible, so don't do this any earlier.

Drain the pasta in a colander, reserving some of the cooking water. Get everyone around the table, then toss the pasta with the sauce and the chopped parsley (you may have to do this in batches), adding some of the reserved cooking water if need be, to make the sauce silky and loose - very important for good texture. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve with the remaining grated Parmesan and orange zest sprinkled over and a drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil. What an incredible pasta dish!

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  • on February 03, 2012

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    First time I ever encountered a rutabega- hah! try cutting that sucker without a meat cleaver. I tasted it raw and thought - blah - better add a potato. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the finished product. Rutabega is like the vegetable world tofu. It soaks up the flavors of the ingredients it's cooked with. The potato was totally unnecessary. The orange zest really set it off! I couldn't find pappardelle, so I used broken lasagna noodles, which I had on hand. I cooked the whole pound, but only added half. The meat was melt in your mouth tender! Next time I'll use a bigger cut of meat and make a stew with dumplings. So, if you are going to make this dish,tweak it if you will, but the rutabega and the orange zest are a must!

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