Wood pigeon ragù

Wood pigeon ragù

Ragù al colombaccio

By
From
Tuscany
Serves
8
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

Fabrizio Biagi was a hunter and made pici, the hand-rolled pasta, to go with ragù made from his catch. Now his time is taken up cooking and painting so he leaves the hunting to other men.

Fabrizio showed me the juniper berries that he collected in the woods nearby. Apparently they are harvested in an upturned umbrella – the locals bang the branches and the berries fall into it. Antonella took me to the window and pointed out where the pigeons came from on a nearby farm as well as the olive trees that provided the cooking oil. Between them they could point out the provenance of nearly everything we were about to eat.

The ragù, also known as ragù dell’aia (meaning what was roaming around the farmyard earlier!), works for other birds such as pheasant, quails or partridge, as well as other types of pasta. My favourite is fresh pappardelle or, if using dried pasta, spaghetti would work well. Fabrizio feels that the time, wine and aroma (flavourings) used for marinating are the most important part as the flavour is developed then. He likes to use a local Chianti wine.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

For the pigeon

Quantity Ingredient
4 pigeons, quartered
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
120ml extra-virgin olive oil
3 slices rigatino or unsmoked bacon, roughly chopped
500ml Beef bone broth
Fabrizio’s hand-rolled pasta strands, to serve (optional)

For the marinade

Quantity Ingredient
1/2 red onion, peeled and roughly sliced into wedges
small handful parsley
handful sage leaves
2 bay leaves
5 sprigs rosemary
15 juniper berries
fresh red chilli, to taste
2 celery stalks
1 carrot
750ml red wine

For the battuto

Quantity Ingredient
small handful sage leaves
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked
1 fat garlic clove

Method

  1. Wash the pigeons in cold water to get rid of the blood, then dry them with a clean towel. Put them in a large bowl with all the marinade ingredients and leave them to marinate in the fridge for 1–2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, make the 'battuto' by using a mezzaluna or a sharp knife to finely chop the ingredients together. After the birds have marinated, drain them, keeping the marinade and fishing out the vegetables. Put the pigeons onto paper towel to dry it out or, as Fabrizio kept saying, scollare bene (pat dry with the towel). Season them with the salt and pepper.
  3. Put the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and, when hot, sauté the birds with the battuto. Brown them all over for about 10 minutes. Wash the vegetables from the marinade briefly in cold water, cut them into small pieces, then add them to the pan with the rigatino or bacon. Fry for 10–15 minutes or until soft. Add 200 ml of the marinade. Cook over a medium heat until the scent of wine has disappeared and the sauce has reduced. Pour in the stock to almost cover the meat. Bring to the boil and cover the pan. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1–1 1/2 hours or until the meat falls from the bones. Remove from the heat and leave until the pigeon is cool enough to touch. Pick the meat and skin from the bones, taking care to remove and discard any small bones. Chop the meat finely on a board with a large cook’s knife or mezzaluna. Put this chopped mixture back into the pan and reheat to further reduce the sauce. If it looks dry, add a little hot water.
  4. Meanwhile, if using, cook the pici in plenty of salted boiling water with a dash of oil until al dente. They will take 7–10 minutes, depending on their size. Drain and toss into the pan to combine with the sauce. Serve in warm bowls straight away.
Tags:
Italy
Italian
Caldesi
Tuscany
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