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This is going to be another post for the eyes. Where words take a backseat to the photos. This is mostly because it’s freezing at the moment, and my frozen fingers are less inclined to sit here tapping away than they are to be wrapped around a mug of something warm. So click the images below to make them big and feel the warmth radiating back at you.
I made this dish a few weeks back after Domenic, man of the land, hunter, and all round nice guy, brought me a couple of rabbits that he’d recently caught while on a farm down south. I’m not entirely sure what it says about me that I get most happy when friends bring me dead animals as presents, but the sight of a freshly killed rabbit was a beautiful thing.
Bunny lovers beware, you’ll find no sympathy on this site. Wild rabbits in W.A are very much in the unwanted visitors category, having been introduced by English settlers a couple of hundred years ago who wanted to bring a touch of the English countryside to Australia and carry on with their Sunday afternoon hunts. The result of which was a massive population explosion that has led to significant loss of native plants, and a large contribution to erosion of top soil from the land.
Not that I need to justify anything, because the only real reason to eat rabbit is that they’re delicious. When the meat is fresh and the rabbit is young there’s a gamey sweetness that you can’t help but appreciate. And so my great rabbit ragu plan was hatched.
The basics of the dish are really very simple. Take one rabbit, separate the legs from the body, remove and debone the saddle, and cut it into pieces. Sear the rabbit quickly in a hot pan til it’s brown all over and set it aside. Make a mirepoix (onions, carrot, celery) and cook it down in olive oil and a little butter, then when it’s getting soft, turn up the heat, add a splash of wine (white or red both work), then put back the rabbit, a can or two of crushed tomatoes, a teaspoon of sweet paprika, a bay leaf, some thyme or rosemary, and enough stock to cover the meat (chicken or rabbit stock work well). Then put the lid on, turn the heat down to a simmer, and let it cook for a good couple of hours.
After that length of time, the meat on the legs should be falling off the bone, so take them out, put all the meat off and shred it up, then turn up the heat a little, reduce the sauce, and stir the rabbit meat back through.
The pasta I served this with was not the worlds greatest pappardelle, so perhaps use someone else’s recipe. My basic pasta making method is 200 grams of flour, 2 eggs, a splash of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a tablespoon or two of water (if the eggs don’t give enough moisture). Then knead it all together into one consistent ball, flour up your bench and roll it out as thin as you can.
Unfortunately my pasta roller is broken since I tried to take it apart and clean it last year (note to self, never take things apart), and so I was left to do it Nonna style with an olive oil bottle as a rolling pin . I didn’t get it to quite the thickness I was after, but otherwise it tasted fine. After flattening it out into sheets I just rolled it into a tube and used a knife to cut thick slices out for very “rustic” Pappardelle.
Then cooked it for a few minutes in salted water and tossed it through the rabbit ragu at the last minute. A little fresh parsley and a glass of pinot, and the result was one of the best meals I’ve cooked all year.
 I’m not assuming all (or any) Nonnas still use an olive oil bottle to roll out pasta, I’m sure many of them have machines to do that.