Italians treat game with reverence and it is eaten seasonally – even if it is farmed – and by way of a celebration. Wild boar, venison, hare and wild rabbit all work well in stews or cooked down to make a sauce for pasta. Venison, the meat of deer, is usually saved for special occasions in Italy. It’s also very low in fat, though packs a punch in terms of that meaty, gamey flavour.
Game, such as boar, rabbit, hare and venison, has long been enjoyed in Italy, with consumption and farming dating back as far as the Roman times - game appears in many of the Apicius’ ancient recipes, namely venison and wild boar. Ancient Romans hunted the wild fauna in enclosures known as ‘leporaria’, a term that derives from the latin root ‘lepus’ meaning ‘hare’. Venison - known as ‘il cervo’ in the vernacular, is a particularly lean form of game, but has a notably rich, gamey flavour.
To this day, venison (and game in general) is a celebrated ingredient, eaten seasonally, often as part of a celebration. Our venison ragù celebrates this rich culinary heritage. This recipe is typical to the region of Friuli, in Northern Italy. Here, venison is combined with pancetta, in order to retain the meat’s moisture. Stewed slowly in red wine and tomato, this gamey ragù is often served atop either pasta or polenta, another popular export from Italy’s north. We pair our venison ragù with fresh strands of pappardelle pasta, which deftly capture every last drop of this delicious sauce.
Pappardelle with venison ragù recipe
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 90 mins
Calories per serving: 679kcal
- 600g fresh pappardelle (for ingredients, see our simple pappardelle guide)
- 800g - 1kg venison, cubed
- 80g pancetta
- 500ml red wine (we love to use a full-bodied Barolo here)
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 stick celery, finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 400g chopped tomato
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Parmigiano Reggiano, to serve
- Take the cubed venison, and steep in the red wine, along with the bay leaves and rosemary. Allow to marinate for around 1 hour.
- In the meantime, prepare your fresh pappardelle following our easy fresh pappardelle tutorial:
- In a large dutch oven, add the olive oil, and heat on medium. Add the onion, carrot and celery, and gently fry until translucent. Add the garlic, and continue to fry until fragrant, being careful not to burn anything.
- Add the pancetta, and continue to fry. You should notice a large amount of fat renders from the pan at this point - you may remove some of this if you wish, though traditionally, the excess fat remains.
- Increase the heat slightly, and add the venison meat, ensuring to reserve the leftover wine marinade. Brown the meat on all sides, before deglazing the pan with the red wine. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir until well combined.
- Reduce the heat, and allow the mixture to simmer for around an hour, stirring occasionally until thickened.
- After this time has elapsed, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, before adding your fresh pappardelle. Cook for around 3 minutes, or until al dente (test a piece before straining).
- Drain the pasta, ensuring to reserve a little (1 tbsp or so) of the starchy cooking water. Remove the herbs from the ragù, before adding the pasta to the pan, along with the pasta water, and stir the contents until the pasta is well coated in the sauce.
- Plate and garnish with a generous sprinkling of parmigiano reggiano. Buon appetito!
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