Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tuscan Wild Boar Ragu

Last Sunday, our feast of epic proportions started with a decadent soup and as a main course, we feasted on Wild Boar Ragù served over fresh tagliatelle.

But first, a short rant: There's "ragu" (pronounced "ragooooo") and then there's ragù. One comes in a jar with a gaudy label and calls itself "America's favorite pasta sauce." How can that be?? Am I that out of touch!? The label even has the accent facing the wrong way, which matters the least but I think bothers me the most! Jarred tomato sauce with sugar versus a luscious meat-based, slow-simmer sauce. I'm sure you can guess which one I'm about to tell you about.

This recipe is from a lovely cookbook called Olives and Oranges, Recipes and Flavor Secrets from Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Beyond, by Sara Jenkins and Mindy Fox. It was a gift in September from my uncle and I've been pouring over the recipes wanting to make everything.

This is slow food at it's best. I shopped for the meat on Thursday, marinated it for 24 hours, simmered it for three hours on Friday, let all the flavors deepen on their own on Saturday and then served it on Sunday. If you can't find wild boar (honestly, here in Rome my butcher said it's very hard to find and we're only 2 hours from Tuscany), ask for pork shoulder. Make sure you order in advance and ask them to cut it into 1 inch pieces (bone-in) because they have the tools required to do this.

During every step of the preparation, I got more and more excited about the sauce. This ragù is a dish that makes you feel like you're sitting in front of a fireplace in a stone house in the Tuscan hills and it's snowing outside, with a pot simmering on the stove full of all the flavors of the countryside.

Tuscan Wild Boar Ragù
From Olives and Oranges
Makes about 6 servings.

It was nice to be able to make this ahead. This was the first meal I think I've ever served where every course was done ahead of time, and there was no stress the day of. If you marinate overnight, count about 4 hours to make the sauce from start to finish. Serve it over the highest quality tagliatelle or pappardelle you can find (or make yourself if you're really ambitious).

Marinade Ingredients:
1 carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves
1 shallot, quartered
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
8 juniper berries
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 1/2 cups dry red wine (that's good enough to drink...)
2-2 1/2 pounds bone-in boar shoulder (or pork shoulder) cut into 1 inch pieces (have your butcher do this!)

Combine the above ingredients in a large bowl and add the boar. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, or overnight.

Ragù Ingredients:
1 carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, quartered
1 garlic clove
1 fresh sprig of rosemary (leaves only)
Fine sea salt and coarsely ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups water
1 tablespoon tomato paste (double-concentrate if you can find it)
1 28-ounce can of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, with their juices

For the ragù:
In a food processor, pulse the carrot, celery, onion, garlic and rosemary until finely minced.
Drain the meat, pat dry and discard marinade. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot, over medium-high heat. Add boar, slowly feeding it into the pot to keep pan temperature from dropping too much, and cook until you have a good sear on one side (about 10 minutes, **this went faster for me). Move browned pieces to side of pot and continue until all meat is seared. Transfer meat to a plate.

Add vegetable mixture and 1 teaspoon salt to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables start to brown, about 7 minutes. Return meat to pot, add water and tomato paste, stirring to dissolve paste. Cover and simmer gently for about 2 hours.

Add tomatoes and their juices and simmer for another hour, until the meat is very tender, gently breaking meat into chunks with a wooden spoon as it becomes tender. Remove from heat and let cool.

Remove meat from the pot and shred with your fingers (this gives a county style ragù that will coat your pasta in the appropriate way). Return meat to the pot and reheat gently before serving, or let cool and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 6 months.


  1. That looks amazing, but I can imagine that wild boar will also be hard to come by in New York, too! I like the suggestion for using pork shoulder. Or, I could just cave in and grab one of the porchetta sandwiches that Sara's team puts together at the New Amsterdam Market on Sundays.

  2. Sara Jenkins opened a tiny restaurant in the East Village a couple of years ago, Porchetta, which serves only porchetta. It is a great place but really a take out spot. She has just opened a new restaurant Porsena where she features pasta, pasta, pasta (and more). I am really looking forward to going. (I walked by it this afternoon, and it looks very nice).

  3. Hi - I'm going to be traveling to Rome in a couple of weeks and wondered if we could meet in person. It would be great to swap Italian stories.


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