When we were in San Gimignano in 2006 we enjoyed a late lunch at Dulcis in Fundo on Vicolo D’Innocenti. The food was outstanding – in fact, it was one of our best meals of the trip. Both Paul and I ordered Tagliatelle with a cinghiale ragu - it came studded with small pieces of carrot and juniper berries. We were hooked on boar!
Ever since then I have been trying to figure out how to recreate this dish.
The first step was taken when I received a cookbook for Christmas last year.
Jamie's Italy is Italian, from the first page to the very last. His enthusiastic introduction to this new book is imbued with his love for Italy and the Italians' love of good food using local and fresh, fresh ingredients. His only complaint is the Italians' unwillingness to try something new or not cooked in the way they and their families before them have cooked - he may complain, I would suggest that we have the great varieties of food in Italy BECAUSE of that!
On page 245 there is a recipe for a wild boar (cinghiale) ragu which looked like it might be like the one we had in San Gimignano.
Then when I was in New York last December I found an elusive ingredient in a gourmet food store located near Union Square - Juniper Berries.
The next step was to find the boar. I struggled here. Finally, when I was in Ottawa I stumbled upon some at Aubrey's in the Byward Market.
Aubrey's is the shop with the green awning. Four pounds of boar made it home with me in my luggage.
I was ready to go. I would follow a recipe by an English chef in an effort to recreate a meal I had in Italy using boar I brought home from Ottawa and juniper berries from New York City. It is true, traveling has expanded my horizons (and some would suggest, my waistline).
We decided that this would be a nice way to start off our Valentine's dinner and to get us in the mood for our upcoming trip to Italy (as if that was a problem)!
Sugo do Cinghiale di Mercatello
2 1/4 lb wild boar cubed, trimmed of fat and sinew
2 large carrots, peeled
2 onions, peeled
6 stalks of celery
a handful of sage leaves
1 tsp juniper berries
1 bottle white wine
4 pieces of pancetta
2 - 3 small dried chilies, to taste
1 1 1/2 lb jar passata (tomato puree)
freshly ground pepper
Put the meat into a large sealable bag. Roughly shop half of the carrots, onions, and celery. Add to the meat in the bag. Bash up the sage with the juniper berries (I used my Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker although you could use a mortar and pestle) and toss with the meat and vegetables.Season with salt and pepper. Pour in half of the bottle of wine, topping up with water if necessary. Seal and place in a large bowl in the refrigerator overnight.
Remove the meat from the marinade, discarding the liquid and vegetables. Decide how you wish to serve your sauce and cut the meat accordingly (if you leave it in large cubes it will be like a stew. I minced the meat in a food processor to make a sauce for pasta).
Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Fry the pancetta and chili until the pancetta is golden and crisp. Chop the remaining carrot, celery, and onion, add to the pan, and cook slowly for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the heat to high and add the meat to the pan. Cook until nearly all of the liquid has cooked off - this takes some time but will intensify the flavours. Pour in the remaining wine. Stir together and continue cooking until; the liquid has nearly gone, then add the tomato sauce and a little water (if necessary). Season well with salt and pepper, turn the heat to low, simmer gently for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, adding more water if the sauce gets too thick.
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water, drain it, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the sauce, adding a little of the reserved cooking liquid. Divide it amongst the plates and sprinkle with Parmesan.
(note: I was lazy by this point and just spooned the sauce over the pasta. It would have been far closer in style to the dish we had had in Italy had I followed Oliver's instructions)
We both really enjoyed this version - it was more tomatoey (is that a word?) than what we had enjoyed in Italy, but good nonetheless. The best thing is that I have three containers of the sauce awaiting another special occasion in the freezer. Lucky us!