Last week I was on vacation with plenty of time on my hands and in the mood to make a serious meal on a Thursday evening. Something that would take a bit more time and effort than usual. I had a few ideas in mind – 1) make homemade pasta, 2) top it with something braised and 3) make use of ‘nduja (the spicy Calabrese sausage introduced to me a while back by a chef friend of mine). Thus was born this homemade pappardelle with ‘nduja and braised rabbit.
- 2 rabbit legs
- 1 large stalk of celery, chopped
- 2 medium sized carrots
- one medium sized onion, chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- 150g of ‘nduja
- pappardelle for 2
- 4 tbsps of fresh green peas
- parsley for garnish
If you’re in the mood to make your own pasta, this is a great recipe to follow. You can’t get simpler than two ingredients (flour and eggs), and the author has laid out the steps in an easy to follow fashion, with a video to boot.
Braised Rabbit (for 2 legs)
- Heat oven to 350F.
- Season rabbit legs with salt and pepper and brown them on all sides in a cast iron pan over medium high heat, about 6 minutes total.
- Remove rabbit legs and set aside. Turn heat to medium, add celery, carrots and onions, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.
- Add garlic and thyme, and cook for another 5 minutes or so.
- Add the white wine and return the heat to high. Reduce the wine by half, this will only take a few minutes.
- Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, then return the rabbit legs to the pan.
Tip: The rabbit legs don’t need to be completely covered but they should be almost fully submerged. If there is not enough liquid just add some water.
- Cover the pan (tinfoil will do if you don’t have an oven safe lid) and put it in the oven.
- Let the rabbit legs braise for 2 hours, flipping them after one hour. After 2 hours the meat will be falling off of the bone.
- Remove the rabbit meat from the bones using a fork (you shouldn’t need a knife) and set it aside on a plate.
Putting it Together
- Heat a pan over medium heat and add the ‘nduja, breaking it up with the spatula.
Tip: this is a highly variable step. Depending on how spicy you like your food you can use more or less of the ‘nduja.
- Once the ‘nduja has warmed and started to melt, remove about 1/3 of it from the pan and set aside.
- Add the shredded rabbit meat to the pan and toss it with the ‘nduja just long enough to warm it.
- Add your cooked pappardelle, some braising liquid, a bit of olive oil and the fresh peas to the pan and toss the entire mixture for about a minute to coat the pasta.
Tip: There is no science here. How much braising liquid and olive oil you add depends on how much sauce you generally like to eat your pasta with. I like mine on the dry side, so I added only a few tablespoons of braising liquid and a splash of olive oil.
- Plate the pappardelle in a nest with braised rabbit on top. If you like your food spicy you can throw a bit of extra ‘nduja on top as well, as I did. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.
Suggested wine pairing: You could go red or white with this dish. I was in the mood for a red and happened to have a great match on hand. A bottle of Arianna Occhipinti SP68 (Nero d’Avola and Frappato) made for a perfect pairing – light and fruity but at the same time with enough body to stand up to the spicy ‘nduja.
This was my kind of pasta dish – spicy, full of bold flavours and just dry enough (i.e. not swimming in sauce). The rabbit meat was as tender and flavourful as you’d expect it to be after 2 hours of braising and my first attempt at homemade pasta was a success as the pappardelle had a great firm texture to it. Honestly, you could omit the ‘nduja and still have a really tasty braised rabbit pasta dish, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The ‘nduja took things up a proverbial notch by adding a great spiciness and depth of flavour to the whole dish. Last but not least, the fresh green peas joined the party to lighten things up just a bit.
But more important than any of that, the girlfriend anointed this dish as my best creation to date; so I think it’s safe to say that it was a hit.