Memories of Montalcino: Wild Boar Ragu with Fresh Pappardelle

While pregnant with Fin, Big N took me on a “babymoon” to Italy.  We started in Florence and travelled north in our Fiat Panda, stopping in Parma, Bologna, Milan, and ending in the breathtaking  Lake Como area.  On the journey, we lost ourselves in some of the most amazing countryside I have ever experienced.  Italy by car is the way to go because while the cities boast basilicas, duomos, art from the masters, and high fashion shopping, the villages and the countryside make up the heart and soul of Italy.  Highlights of our trip included exploring the amazing outdoor markets in Florence, the FOOD (Big N enjoyed the wine, I couldn’t partake), and our favorite stop, Montalcino.

Italians keep food fresh and simple, and a traditional meal has five courses. The antipasti will usually be cold cuts, vegetables, or a simple plate of beans, flavored to perfection. Next comes primo, which is usually a small portion of soup, pasta, or risotto. Pasta is rarely the main part of the meal. Next is secondo, the meat, poultry or fish course, accompanied by contorni, or side dishes, usually a vegetable. Finally, dolce, dessert.  Travelling through Italy you need to check your diet at the door and be prepared to feast on the amazingly fresh Italian fare.

While meandering our way through Tuscany, we stopped at wineries here and there to sample wines and cheeses and to take in the breathtaking provincial scenery.  Tuscan countryside We found ourselves at Le Ragnaie, an agriturismo guest house that sits on 28 hectares of organic sangiovese vines.  The caretaker was warm and inviting and took us into the celler to steal a sample of the wine in barrel.  We stayed two nights.  Le Ragnaie By day we explored the town of Montalcino, and during the evening we searched for family owned trattorias to sample typical Tuscan fare.  By far the best meal we had was at a small basement trattoria with a chalk board menu.  Husband was cooking in the kitchen, wife was bussing tables, and teen-aged children were waiting on guests.  We were the only patrons at the time.  The “house” jug wine was local Brunello de Montalcino, which would have been a $100 dollar bottle in any restaurant stateside.  I still remember my meal perfectly, zuppa di funghi with crusty bread and large portobello and wild mushrooms mixed in with the broth (to-die-for) and wild boar ragu with fresh house-made pappardelle (wide noodles).  The pasta coarse was so amazing I skipped secondi just for that night.  (I was pregnant, and eating for two after all).  So busy was I marveling at how such simple dishes in this unknown trattoria off the beaten path could be so fantastic, that I neglected to capture the moment on film.  But this meal lives on in my memory as one of the best I’ve ever experienced.

Until recently, the only time I’d had boar was in Montalcino.  But on a trip to my local butcher, Harmony Farms, I found wild boar in the case and purchased it on a whim.  In my freezer it sat, until Big N and I were talking about that Tuscan meal we had before Fin was born and I was inspired to give it a shot.  I probably used more boar than necessary, and my version of the boar ragu turned out thick and super meaty, but absolutely heavenly.  Wild boar ragu

Boar ragu is richer, more flavorful, and definitely more exciting than pasta made from plain old ground beef.  Big N helped me roll the pappardelle pasta from scratch, which added another layer of tradition and flavor to a simple dish.  I think even the Italians would treat wild boar ragu as a main course just this once.

Pasta rolling Making your own pasta is simpler than it seems (see my easy instructions below) and is an indulgent treat.  You’ll need a pasta roller (if you have a Kitchenaid stand mixer, these attachments work great because you don’t need an extra hand to turn the crank), and you can purchase a good one for under $70.  Well worth the investment to have fresh pasta any time you’d like.

Wild boar ragu with fresh pappardelle pasta topped with a generous helping of grated Parmesan- the sure-fire cure for any winter blues.

Wild boar ragu

Wild Boar Ragu

Serves 4
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 1 hours, 30 minutes
Total time 2 hours
Meal type Main Dish
Region Italian

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb Wild Boar (Shoulder and Shank cuts work well)
  • 1 Onion (Brown or Spanish)
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 stalks Celery
  • 2 cups Dry Red Wine (2 buck chuck Cabernet)
  • 2 cans Tomato Sauce (15 oz cans, organic is best)
  • 1 can Canned Peeled Roma or Plum Tomatoes in Puree (I like San Marzano or Carmelina brands, 28 oz can)
  • 3-4 cloves Garlic
  • to taste Herbs (Thyme, Rosemary, Oregano, Basil (your choice) plus 1-2 Bay leaves. Fresh is best)
  • to taste Salt / Pepper
  • to taste Parmesan (fresh grated is best)

Optional

  • to taste Chili flakes

Note

Adapted to my liking from Mario Batali's recipe.

There's nothing wrong with using good quality canned tomatoes.  Canned tomatoes are picked and canned at the height of their freshness.  If you're making sauce when tomatoes aren't in season, canned is your best option.

Directions

1. Cut boar into 1 inch cubes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sear in Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot until browned on all sides in sizzling hot olive oil. Remove boar from pot, keeping oil and all browned bits in pan.
2. Dice (1") onions, carrots, and celery and add to hot pan and saute until onion starts to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add finely chopped garlic and saute another minute.
3. Deglaze with wine, scraping up all the browned bits that have stuck to your pot with a wooden spoon. Reduce wine slightly to burn off alcohol, about 3 minutes.
4. Add canned tomato sauce, canned tomatoes with the puree (squeezing with your hands to crush if the tomatoes are whole), herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Return boar to pot.
5. Boil and simmer, partially covered (put lid on pot but leave gap to allow steam to escape), about 90 minutes, until boar meat is fork tender and falling apart easily. Halfway through the cooking check your seasonings to see if it needs more salt, pepper, or chili flakes.
6. Remove as much boar meat as you can with a slotted spoon and remove the bay leaves. Cool 10 minutes, then place remaining sauce in a food processor or blender and barely pulse until you don't see large pieces of carrots or celery any more. You want your sauce pretty thick. For the boar meat, you can leave it in cubes, or pull it apart with your fork, or give it a quick pulse in the blender until you reach your desired chunkiness.
7. Serve boar ragu over fresh pappardelle pasta (recipe follows) with grated fresh parmesan cheese on top. I added a couple of fried basil leaves for garnish.

Basic Pasta Dough

Serves 4
Prep time 40 minutes
Region Italian

Ingredients

  • 1 pinch Salt
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups Flour (All purpose or semolina or a combination)
  • 4-5 Eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil (extra virgin)

Note

This is a basic pasta recipe.  If you can find semolina flour (a high-protein flour made from durum wheat), try using it instead.  My preference is to use  50% all purpose and 50% semolina.

You want your pasta to just come together but be fairly dry.  Too much moisture and you'll have a hard time getting it to stay together when rolled.  Experiement with your flour to egg ratio.  This is just a basic recipe to get you started but can be adjusted to your liking.  The amount of oil and eggs you add to get the right consistency may need to be adjusted depending on how humid it is that day.

Directions

1. Sift flours together with salt. On a clean work surface, make a mountain out of your flour with a deep well in the center.
2. Crack the eggs into the well and add olive oil. Whisk eggs gently with a fork to break yolks. Using your fork, gradually incorporate the flour from the sides of the well. When it becomes too thick to use a fork, begin kneading with your hands.
3. On lightly floured surface, knead dough for a full 10 minutes (don't cut this step short) with your hands (push with the heel of your palm and use your other hand to fold it back on itself, then push again).
4. Wrap dough in plastic and let it rest for a full 30 minutes (important)
5. Break dough into 3-4 pieces, keeping the remaining pieces wrapped in plastic to prevent from drying out. Using a rolling pin, roll into a rectangle to about 1/4" thick. Then transfer to your pasta machine and roll through on the thickest setting. Roll through each setting twice, gradually turning the knob one crank until it gets thinner and thinner.
6. Cut pasta by hand for wide noodles, or with spaghetti/fettucini cutter for narrow noodles. Toss cut noodles by hand gently with a little flour to keep from sticking, then hang to dry. Repeat with remaining portions of pasta.
7. Bring large pot of water to boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook pasta until tender but not mushy (1-8 minutes depending on thickness). Drain immediately and toss with favorite sauce. Fresh pasta cooks much faster than dried so test it often.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Wow! Sounds amazing! Can’t wait to try this. I’m dreaming of Tuscan wild boar ragu that I tasted years ago. I had to settle for beef though and it is presently simmering on the stove. I am saving your recipe so that I can try this one day when I can find wild boar!

  2. Tremendous things here. I am very satisfied to look your post.
    Thank you a lot and I am taking a look forward to touch you.
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