There are few things more delicious than Italian food. It’s so simple yet so soulful, with an exacting focus on fresh, quality ingredients that is rivaled by few other cuisines. And though I wouldn’t necessarily say that, on average, the best Italian food comes from Tuscany, I can absolutely say that one of my favorite dishes does – Tagliatelli with Wild Boar Ragu. Tagliatelle is a wide, long pasta that looks much like a thick ribbon while ragu is a traditional Italian meat sauce. And, as I’ve mentioned previously, wild boar (cinghiale in Italian) is a Tuscan staple. This rich, savory dish may just be the ultimate in comfort food, and will pair perfectly with the big complex flavors in the Badia di Morrono Teneto. In short, there was really never any question that it would be this week’s CorkPopper recipe.
As you can imagine, wild boar can be difficult to find, so it’s probably easiest to order it online. I got mine from Broken Arrow Ranch, a specialty site that sells only wild boar, antelope, venison and elk meat, and if the sausage is any indication, the loin I ordered for this dish should be amazing. So, without further delay, here’s the recipe. Be sure to start the sauce several hours before dinner so that it has time to really simmer. If you don’t want to make your own pasta dough, the fresh pasta you can buy at the grocery store is fine, although you’re unlikely to find tagliatelli (fettucini will probably be the widest you can get).
Tagliatelli with Wild Boar Ragu
Ingredients for the Sauce:
1 3/4 pounds wild boar loin
1/4 pound pancetta, cubed
1 large brown onion, chopped
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 bottle dry red wine
1/3 cup Italian parsley, chopped
8 basil leaves, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper and salt
Preparation for the Sauce:
Season the boar with salt and pepper and dust with a bit of flour. Brown the boar on both sides and set aside.
In another pan, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until almost smoking. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook a couple minutes longer before adding the carrot and celery. Cook until the vegetables are soft. Add the boar and pancetta to the pot and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, wine, parsley and basil. Simmer for several hours if you can, stirring occasionally. After a couple of hours, start trying to pull apart the boar meat. (Leaving it in large pieces will make it dry.) You should be able to do this just with a wooden spoon.
Ingredients for the Pasta:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten lightly
3/4 tablespoon olive oil
Preparation for Pasta:
In a food processor blend the flour, the eggs, the oil, and 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water until the mixture just begins to form a ball, adding more water drop by drop if the dough is too dry. (The dough should be firm and not sticky.) Blend the dough for 15 seconds more to knead it. You can prepare the dough up to 4 hours ahead of time. Just keep it covered in the fridge. It needs to stand, covered, at room temperature for an hour before being rolled, however, so keep that in mind.
To roll pasta dough, set the smooth rollers of a pasta machine at the widest setting. (If you don’t have a pasta roller, you can use a rolling pin; it’ll just take some elbow grease and you may not be able to get it very thin.) Divide the dough into 3 pieces, flatten one piece into a rough rectangle, and cover the remaining pieces with an inverted bowl. Dust the rectangle with flour and feed it through the rollers. Turn the dial down one notch and feed the dough through the rollers. Continue to feed the dough through the rollers, turning the dial one notch lower each time, until the dough has reached the desired thinness. The dough should be a smooth, long sheet about four or five inches wide and about 1/16-inch thick. Roll the remaining pasta dough in the same manner.
Using a knife, cut the sheets of pasta into 1-inch wide ribbons. Once you have all your tagliatelle cut, cook in a large pot of boiling, salted water. Fresh pasta only takes a couple of minutes to cook, and it’s done when it floats to the top, so be sure that you’ve already set the table and are ready to eat.
Drain the cooked pasta and divide into large pasta bowls. Cover with sauce and sprinkle with some freshly grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese. Serve with crusty grilled bread and a simple side salad.