Rabbit Ragu with Rigatoni

Tonight was a very special dish, featuring one of my favourite meats, rabbit. It has a beautiful, delicate flavour and works excellently when slowly braised to create a meltingly tender ragu. Cooked on the bone, the maximum flavour is extracted to create an amazing sauce to cling to the thick rigatoni tubes. It’s a simple pasta dish, but a rather unusual one that really stands out as a bit of a star.

1 large rabbit (jointed – as your butcher)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, (finely chopped)
1 stick celery (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (roughly chopped)
1 cup fresh mixed herbs (coarsely chopped) (sage, parsley, thyme, oregano)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
600ml good quality chicken stock
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a large casserole pan over a moderate heat. Fry the rabbit pieces for 2-3 minutes each side until browned. Remove from the pan. Add the onion and celery to the pan and gently fry for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, bay leaves and fresh herbs and fry for a further 1 minute before adding the tomato puree and mustard. Stir for 30 seconds before pouring in the wine. Let this sizzle for 1 minute then return the rabbit and any juices to the pan. Again, stir well then pour in the stock and season with salt & pepper. Let this come to a simmer then reduce the heat to very low. Cover and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally until the rabbit is very tender.

Using tongs, take out a piece of rabbit and strip the meat from the bone in small pieces. Arrange in a bowl as you repeat with the remaining meat. Reduce the sauce by half by simmering over a higher heat for a few minutes. Return the meat to the pan and stir in the butter and parmesan. Bring to a simmer then remove from the heat and serve.

Cook your pasta to the packet instructions. Drain then stir in enough of the meat sauce to generously coat the pasta. Sprinkle over more fresh parmesan and you’re good to go.

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