I am a big fan of rabbit, and one of my favorite ways of preparing it is in a terra cotta casserole in the oven slowly braised in white wine and rosemary. I also love using rabbit in a slow cooked ragu as I did in this recipe, which can be used to top any pasta shape, or even a bowl of soft polenta. We are lucky enough to be able to buy fresh rabbit in many of our grocery stores in Umbria, but here in Florida it is a little more difficult to find rabbit. My husband recently came home with a nice sized frozen rabbit from our butcher and stated he thought we should turn it into a nice ragu sauce for pasta.
I still had some artisan pasta to try from Premiata Fabbrica di Paste Alimentari Giuseppe Afeltra . This company from Gragnano, Italy, has been in business since 1895, and sells a variety of pasta varieties made with the bronze die method. This pasta is a long, thick twisted pasta called fusili, and I decided a hearty rabbit ragu made in my slow cooker would be perfect to top this pasta, though this type of ragu works well paired with almost any pasta type from pappardelle to penne.
I love making ragu sauce for pasta in my slow cooker as I simply prepare the rabbit and vegetables when I get up in the morning, throw it into my slow cooker on low and let it simmer all day long. You could use beef, turkey or pork in place of the rabbit if you prefer, and the sauce will be just as tasty.
Deborah Mele 2013
Slow Cooker Rabbit Ragu For Pasta
- 1 (3-pound) Rabbit, Cut Into 4 Pieces
- Fine Sea Salt & Black Pepper
- 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
- 1/4 Cup Diced Pancetta or Bacon
- 1 Large Onion, Finely Chopped
- 1 Carrot, Finely Chopped
- 1 Celery Rib, Finely Chopped
- 4 Garlic Cloves, Finely Chopped
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 1 Cup Dry White Wine
- 1 (28-ounce) Can Diced/Chopped Tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
- 3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
- 1 Cup Water
- 1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
- 1 Pound Pasta of Choice
- Grated Pecorino Cheese
- Pat rabbit dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Heat 1/4 cup oil in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown rabbit in 2 batches, turning over once, about 7 minutes per batch.
- Transfer rabbit to your slow cooker, reserving fat in skillet.
- Add pancetta, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, oregano, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta and vegetables are golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes.
- Add wine and boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits, until most of liquid is evaporated, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, and water, and bring to a boil.
- Stir in the parsley and basil, then pour the tomato mixture over the rabbit pieces.
- Turn the slow cooker on low for 4 to 5 hours.
- Transfer rabbit pieces to plate, and when cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones, discarding bones and gristle, and shred the meat.
- Return meat along with any juices to sauce to the slow cooker, taste, and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
- If this sauce hasn’t thickened, turn on high for 30 minutes and cook without the lid.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until al dente.
- Drain in a colander, and return pasta to pot.
- Add half the sauce to the pot, and stir well to mix.
- Serve in individual bowls, with a scoop of additional sauce on top.
- Pass the cheese at the table.