Growing up I was not much of an adventurous eater, but to be honest, my Mom was not much of an adventurous cook. Although she could make a great pot roast, delicious cabbage rolls, and always nailed the roast turkey at Christmas, our usual meals included meat, a starch, and a vegetable, often canned. Marrying into an Italian family really opened up my eyes and palate, although I have to admit I never developed a taste for chicken feet or tongue. I do remember my first experience eating rabbit at my Mother-in-law’s table, and although I was a little squeamish about it, I really liked the flavor.
Fifteen years after we married we moved our family to Milan, Italy for eight years and I jumped into experiencing Italian cuisine with both feet. Rabbit ended up becoming one of my favorite dishes, especially if properly cooked. I remember one experience in San Gimignano when we were running through the streets in a torrential rainstorm looking for somewhere to eat and to get out of the severe weather. We found a little trattoria, and after being seated in front of a roaring fire, we were told that rabbit slow cooked in olive oil, garlic, and rosemary was the daily special. That dish was one of my favorite rabbit experiences ever, and although I’ve tried to replicate it many times, I just can’t seem to get it exactly like the one I remember from San Gimignano.
Along with roasted or braised rabbit, I genuinely adore a hearty rabbit ragu. Rabbit isn’t the meatiest animal, so using it to make a flavorful sauce works out really well. I like to cut the meat off the bone which takes some patience along with a sharp knife, but you could also cut the rabbit into pieces and pop it into the sauce with the bones and remove them after. It is messy, but it works as well. This ragu is lovely on just about any type of pasta either fresh or dried, long or short, but is also tasty on a bed of creamy polenta. I am presently trying to lose a few pounds and have cut down on carbs so I served our ragu on a bed of mashed cauliflower, prepared in the same manner you would mashed potatoes. The sauce was thoroughly delicious, and I had enough sauce leftover to freeze some to serve to any helpers during our olive harvest. I have also used this same technique to make a goose ragu or sugo d’oca which is also very tasty, and I like to serve this version on potato gnocchi which is very popular here in Umbria.
I have to admit that I was slow to appreciate my Instant Pot, but now use it several times a week whether I am making bone broth, yogurt, soups, stews, or sauces. The Instant pot works perfectly for this recipe and breaks down the rabbit into tender morsels of deliciousness. If you do not have an Instant Pot, you could use either a slow cooker or even a Dutch oven on the stovetop or in the oven.
Deborah Mele 2018
Instant Pot Meaty Rabbit Ragu
- 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 (3 Pound) Rabbit, Meat Removed From Bones And Coarsely Chopped (See Notes Above)
- 1 Medium Sized Onion, Finely Chopped
- 3 Celery Stalks, Finely Chopped
- 2 Carrots, Finely Chopped
- 6 Garlic Cloves, Minced
- 1 Cup Dry White Wine
- 2 Cups Tomato Pasta (Puree)
- 1 (14 Ounce) Can Chopped Tomatoes
- 3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
- 1/3 Cup Chopped Parsley Leaves
- 2 Teaspoons Finely Chopped Fresh Rosemary
- 1/4 Cup Finely Chopped Fresh Basil
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- 1/2 Teaspoon Red Chili Flakes
- Set Instant Pot to Saute mode and preheat.
- Add the olive oil, and once sizzling, add the rabbit meat in batches, and brown.
- Transfer the meat to a plate and add the onion, celery, carrots, and garlic to the pot, and continue to cook until the vegetables soften about 10 minutes.
- Add the wine to the pot and cook until almost completely evaporated, stirring the bottom of the pot to release any browned bits.
- Next add the tomato puree, chopped tomatoes, and tomato paste, along with the herbs and seasonings and stir well.
- Continue on the Saute function until the sauce comes to a simmer.
- Return the meat to the pot.
- Close the lid, set the pressure valve to the sealed position, and set the Manual Mode at High Pressure for 60 minutes.
- Once the cooking time has completed, depressurize slowly.
- Remove the lid and turn back to the Sauté function to thicken the sauce if needed.
- Use a pair of tongs or two forks to shred any large pieces of meat.
- Taste, and adjust salt and pepper as needed, then serve on top of pasta or polenta.