Creamy Rabbit Ragu

I’ll never understand why people don’t eat or like rabbit. There seems to be some kind of perception amongst those I talk to that rabbit is a dry, tasteless and tough meat, when in reality it’s the opposite of all those things. Like with any meat, you have to know how to cook it properly, or of course it runs the risk of resembling an old welly. Low and slow is the key with rabbit, and if you cook it like that then I reckon your opinion of this tasty meat might just change.

I tried rabbit for the first time during my days as a waitress at Jamie’s Italian. In fact, this dish itself is inspired by a favourite of mine from the four years I worked for the company. Similarly to my recipe, the rabbit was slow-cooked with herbs, pancetta and veggies before being tossed through with pasta and a decent amount of lemon and mascarpone, and it was the best pasta dish I’d ever eaten. And I eat A LOT of pasta!

After leaving Jamie’s I said I’d attempt my own version one day. Nearly three years on and I’ve finally given it a go. I’m pretty pleased with it, plus I managed to persuade my girlfriend to try it… and she loved it! If you’ve never tried rabbit before then I urge you to give it a go. And for those who have had the displeasure of eating badly cooked rabbit at some point in their lives, maybe it’s time to give it a second chance.

photo of rabbit ragu with pasta

Ingredients:

(serves 4)

Olive oil
500g fresh pasta, whatever shape you want
1 rabbit, jointed (ask your butcher)
200g pancetta, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsps plain flour
175ml white wine
500ml good quality chicken stock
A few sprigs of thyme
Juice and zest of lemon
3-4 tbsps mascarpone
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Freshly chopped parsley
Parmesan
Salt and fresh black pepper

Method

  1. Begin by heating a large over a medium heat, heavy-based saucepan with a drizzle of olive oil. While heating, put flour on to a small plate and season well. Coat the rabbit in the flour and set to one side.
  2. In batches brown the rabbit in the saucepan until it begins to colour a little and then remove from pan and set to one side. Continue until all the rabbit is browned.
  3. Add the pancetta to the pan and fry for 5-10 minutes, or until it begins to crisp. Turn down to a low heat and add in the chopped onion, carrot and celery and gently fry for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally so it doesn’t colour too much.
  4. Next, add in the garlic and thyme and fry for a further 2-3 minutes before pouring in the wine, increasing the heat and bringing it to a boil.
  5. Once the wine has reduced by a third, add the rabbit back in and pour over stock. Reduce the heat, cover and leave to simmer for an hour and fifteen minutes.
  6. After this time the meat should be beginning to come away from the bone. If not, leave to simmer for a little while longer. Carefully remove the rabbit from the pan and with two folks gently shred the meat, making sure to remove all bones. Add the shredded meat back to the pan and cover again.
  7. Fill another large saucepan with water and season with salt. Bring to a boil and then add in your fresh pasta.
  8. While the pasta is cooking add the lemon juice, mascarpone and Dijon mustard into the rabbit and stir well until the mascarpone melts in. Add in as much fresh parsley and parmesan as you want and then season well with salt and fresh black pepper.
  9. Drain your fresh pasta making sure to reserve a little of the cooking water in a cup. Add the pasta to the rabbit ragu and mix well. use the cooking water to loosen the sauce a little if needed.
  10. Dish up into bowls and sprinkle with lemon zest, more fresh parsley and of course, more parmesan!

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