Ragu al Cinghiale – Traditional Tuscan Wild Boar Pasta Dish

wild-boar-pasta-009The more Laura and I have the pleasure of traveling though Tuscany, meeting with our villa owners and seeking out new experiences, activities and accommodations for our clients, the more we get to dig in deep to the local culture. We made a very conscious decision to choose villas off the beaten path from the large, well-known cities throughout Tuscany. We want our clients to experience the richer, deeper, more truthful meaning of Italy, where the locals speak only Italian, the wine is from their backyard (well, their vineyard…in the backyard) and the food is authentic and traditional, typically they don’t stray even a single ingredient from their ancestor’s recipes.

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One of the most delicious and unique dishes we have tasted is the Ragu al Cinghiale. It is a meat sauce of wild boar, served over al dente Pappardelle pasta and it is incredible. It is light, even though you might imagine it to be rich with such a gamey ingredient, but the meat is very lean and finely ground and prepared. It takes a while to prepare this dish, given that the longer you simmer the meat, the more tender and better the flavor.wild-boar-ragu In fact, I came across a recipe that called for the “short form”, also named Semi-Ragu (no less than two hours and 15 minutes simmering time). Tuscans serve this meal only in the Fall and Winter months, so now that the Fall chill is in the air, try your hand at a classic Tuscan dish, guaranteed to warm your belly and your heart.

Buon Appetito!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large Spanish onion (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds boneless wild boar meat (cut for stew)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 dried chili peppers (crushed)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 3 anchovies or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • Fresh or dried oregano, basil, and sage
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • N/A
  • Pasta (pappardelle or fettuccine)
  • Grated pecorino cheese (Parmigiano is an acceptable substitute, but pecorino, being sheep cheese, complements game)

PREPARATION

In a large cast-iron pot, sauté the onion in olive oil until translucent.

Add the boar meat and brown. (That is, cook the meat over high heat, turning frequently, just until it’s cooked on the outside.)

Add the canned tomatoes and the bay leaves.

Add the wine.

Gradually add the garlic, dried chili, cinnamon stick, cloves, sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies (or anchovy paste), oregano, basil, sage, red wine vinegar, and salt and black pepper to taste.

Simmer on low on the stovetop with the lid of the pot slightly ajar, and stir occasionally for at least two hours — or longer if possible. The longer you simmer this, the more tender the meat will become. The ragù is ready to eat when the meat has totally fallen apart and most of the liquid has been absorbed by the meat. Take out the cinnamon stick and bay leaves before serving.

Serve over the pasta and top with grated cheese. Accompany with some crusty peasant bread and a good red wine, preferably a strong Italian, like Amarone or Barolo.

Mangia!

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

(Recipe taken from Epicurious)