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January 17, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Orecchiette With Rabbit Ragu

Filed under: Food,Recipe of the Week,Recipes — Twistie @ 8:30 am

Yes, you read that correctly. I ate Flopsy. Or possibly Mopsy. Or maybe it was Cottontail. I wasn’t acquainted with the rabbit before it arrived in my freezer. If the thought of eating rabbit disturbs you, then now would be a good time to move on. Or you could read the recipe and substitute a small chicken. It would definitely work. If you’re vegetarian, you might even be able to work out a version based on a really meaty kind of mushroom, such as Portobello.

Me? I’m sticking with the original and thanking my lucky stars that Mr. Twistie was out of town this week so I could have my rabbit in peace. Mr. Twistie is not down with Cottontail consumption. That meant all the more for me, and can I just say YUM!  Really, even if you don’t do rabbit, do consider adapting it for something you do eat, because this recipe is Heaven on a plate in a big way.

Where did I find this marvel? In Gourmet Today, edited by Ruth Reichl of the late, lamented Gourmet magazine. This is a brilliant combination cook book and  home hernia kit. The weight is put to good use, too. Not only are there literally hundreds of great recipes, but dozens and dozens of useful kitchen tips as well. Trust me, this one is well worth the price of admission.

And now, without further ado, on to the recipe.


1 3lb Rabbit cut into six pieces

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 Cup plus 3 Tblsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 celery rib, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I’ll use at least three cloves next time, but I love garlic the way Plummy loves a certain Archbishop. Your mileage may vary.)

1 Turkish bay leaf or 2 California ones (As it turned out, I didn’t realize I was out of bay leaves, so I did without. Next time I’ll add it back in, because I can taste in my mind what it would add, and it’s good…but the dish was incredible even without it.)

3/4 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 Cup dry white wine (not finely chopped)

1 28oz.  can whole  tomatoes in juice, drained and chopped.

1/2 Cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth (I saved the bunny bones so that I can make rabbit stock to use next time, but Swanson’s low sodium chicken tasted just fine)

1lb Orecchiette pasta, fresh or dried (I used dried, but next time when I’m not recovering from the World’s Snottiest Cold, I’ll probably be more in a mood to try my hand at making a bajillion fiddly little pieces of fresh pasta)

Accompaniment: finely grated Grana Padano cheese (I just happened, quite gleefully, to have some on hand, but I feel very sure Parmesan would do perfectly well in a pinch)

Pat rabbit dry and rub with 1/2tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper (I didn’t measure, I just guesstimated by eye). Heat 1/4 Cup oil in a deep, 12-inch skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Brown rabbit in 2 batches, turning once, about seven minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate, reserving fat in skillet.

Add remaining 3Tblsp of oil to skillet and heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves, rosemary, and 1/4 tsp  (again, I guesstimated, and you should feel free to adjust to your personal taste) salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are golden brown, about 8 – 10 minutes.

Add wine. Bring to boil, stirring and scraping up  any brown bits, and boil until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, stock, and 1/4tsp salt and bring to a boil. Return rabbit, along with the juices accumulated on the plate, to the skillet and nestle into sauce. Cover and simmer, stirring and turning rabbit occasionally, until both saddle pieces are tender, about 15 minutes.

Transfer saddle pieces to a plate, then continue to simmer the legs until tender, about 10 minutes more. Transfer the legs to the plate, set skillet aside.

When rabbit is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and shred. Return meat, along with any juices, to the skillet. Add 1/4tsp salt and 1/4tsp pepper(taste the sauce first to make sure whether it really needs this addition), and bring to a boil. Discard bay leaves.

Meanwhile, cook the orcchiette. Bring salted water to a boil, add pasta, boil until pasta is al dente, drain.

Move pasta to a serving dish, add sauce, stir to combine. Or you can do what I did and just put the pasta back in the pot, and stir the sauce into it right there. Serve with the cheese.

Serves four as a main dish. The sauce can be made up to three days in advance.


  1. Question: Is buying rabbit in the store like buying chicken, in that you can buy whatever cuts you want in whatever combo you want? Or, is it strictly a case where, in the chicken example, you’d buy a whole chicken or even a chicken cut into halves or quarters? I have to admit that I have never looked for rabbit at my supermarche, but I’m going to take a look just to see..

    Comment by Toby Wollin — January 17, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

  2. Rabbit is not the easiest meat to find, which is another reason to go with chicken in a pinch, but when I’ve found it at the butcher’s counter, it’s usually been a whole beast rather than cuts. Just take off the legs at the joint and cut the saddle in half with a really good chef’s knife.

    It’s my good luck to have some friends who recently got into the bunny business, and who are willing to share with me. I am completely spoilt, and glad of it.

    Comment by Twistie — January 17, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

  3. Rabbit’s hard to find in the supermarket (unless you happen to be near a supermarket that loves to stock “gourmet” meats, like rabbit and quail and cornish hens and capons, and some do). But I’ve been able to find it at butcher shops or at smaller Italian grocery stores where they still have a meat counter, to sell the specialty sausages and various cuts that aren’t so readily found in the larger stores.

    When it is there, the butcher will section the rabbit any way you like, so you don’t have to do it at home. It pays to look for these smaller specialty food stores as a source, just because they can cater to a more particular market.

    ps: thank you for posting this recipe–I’ve been faced with a BIG bag of orecchietti for a while now, wondering what to do with them, and this looks like the perfect solution.

    Comment by chachaheels — January 18, 2010 @ 6:43 am

  4. Oh, this brings back memories!

    25 years ago I was in Air Force basic training. At the mess hall they had the biggest and best whole chicken legs. After eating them for about a week, I asked for them again. I was informed that it was rabbit. Luckily I had no problem with that.

    Comment by susan — January 18, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

  5. Twistie, I am beginning to research pasta mill/machine?? Whatever it is called, I want to make pasta, preferably a hand crank model because I have rotten wiring in my old place. Do you have a recommendation?

    Comment by Bobbi — January 19, 2010 @ 12:51 am

  6. Sorry, Bobbi, but I don’t have a pasta machine and haven’t really done any research into the question as of yet. The reason I talked about sometime trying to make the orecchiette by hand is because they are a sort of shape that wouldn’t use a pasta machine. Basically, you make your dough, cut it into little rounds, then press your thumb into them to make the shape.

    Also, confession: the last time I made pasta by hand was in a deceptively-named Home Ec class in high school (they called it euphemistically ‘On Your Own’) when we were taught to make some fettucini by hand…entirely by hand. No machine.

    If anyone else has any advice for Bobbi, I’d love you to share it with the class.

    Comment by Twistie — January 19, 2010 @ 4:31 am

  7. I just “inherited” 2 pasta machines, both the old fashioned kind, with a crank mechanism and a vise mechanism you can use to secure the machine to something that won’t slip and slide while you work.

    You won’t need a pasta machine for this, though; you just need flour and some warm water, a nice work surface, something to cut up the little discs once your roll the pasta dough into long “snakes”, and your thumbs. They add the technology!

    Here’s a simple recipe

    (it’s workable, but disregard the writer’s advice to “cook the pasta until it’s al dente”–it’s fresh pasta, only dry pasta can cook to “al dente”. It only needs a few minutes)

    and here’s a video:

    good luck!

    Comment by chachaheels — January 19, 2010 @ 7:52 am

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