Rabbit Ligurian Style
As you may have guessed from the title, this dish originates from Liguria, just east of my home of Emilia Romagna. I was reminded of this recipe having just returned from 2 weeks back in Italy, spending time on the border between the 2 regions, more precisely the remote and enchanting area of Val Trebbia.
Val Trebbia takes its name from the local river, The Trebbia, which is one of the four main right bank tributaries of the Po. This, for me, is Italy at its most simple and beautiful. You can have your manicured Umbrian castles, and keep your indulged Tuscan hillside vineyards, just so long as you leave me the pristine turquoise waters of the Trebbia and the lush green hills of the Apennine Mountains. Ernest Hemmingway travelled extensively through the area, fishing for trout and later famously citing that after all his worldly travels; here was the most beautiful valley in the world.
As you might expect from a province of Piacenza, the cuisine is simply the best there is. It’s a paradise for wild foods, with abundance of foraging, fly fishing, and of course caccia. Hunting for hares and rabbits with a Segugio or Italian Scent hound is still the traditional method, in an ancient landscape dotted with medieval monasteries, Roman ruins and prehistoric woodlands.
1 whole raised, or 2 wild rabbits
150 gr of Taggiasche black olives
3 tablespoons of pinenuts
1 white onion
1 bunch of rosemary
2 cloves of garlic
1 glass of red wine
2 bunches of thyme
First, butcher your rabbit into at the joints, cutting the saddle in 2. Place the head with any discarded bones, in a small pan of water and slowly bring to the boil with an onion, a couple of carrots, a few black peppercorns and some bay leaves. This will make the rabbit stock to use later. Keep the kidneys and liver to also use later.
Finely chop your onion and garlic together and gently heat in a pan with your olive oil. Once the onion has softened, add your rabbit, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves until your meat nicely browns all on sides. Now add your glass of red, and carry on cooking until it has evaporated. Add your olives, pine nuts, as well as the liver and kidneys, and cover well and leave to cook for an hour or so until the meat easily pulls away from the bone. It’s important to keep the meat moist while cooking by adding a ladle of your broth at a time. (especially if you are using wild rabbits.) Serve with plenty of sauce and enjoy with a chilled glass of Gutturnio.