Pappardelle with Cinghalle Sauce
For starters we had shaved porcini and celery salad and a cipollini and tomato salad. The main was Pappardelle with Cinghiale Sauce. Cinghiale is Italian for wild boar, and I made the dish with boar that was hunted locally. We were there during hunting season and the boar were literally in our backyard. Hunting day is crazy and kind of scary. All these hunters are out in the woods with the boar and it’s pretty dangerous because there’s a lot of boar flying around. There were like 50 boar shot on a very small patch of land.
Shaved porcini and celery salad: I shaved 4 large fresh porcini mushrooms very, very, very thin (on a mandoline, or you could use a truffle shaver). I arranged them on a platter, topped them with about 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh thyme, seasoned them with sea salt and a hint of pepper, dressed them with lemon juice and EVOO and a little bit of real truffle oil (not fake flavored oil but real truffle oil). I also added 3 or 4 small ribs of celery, very thinly sliced on an angle with their leafy tops. I shaved some pecorino cheese down over that just before we ate the salad.
Cipollini and tomato salad: I took 2 cipollini onions and chopped them. I added 2 pints small plum tomatoes (you could also use cherry tomatoes) that I sliced or chopped, 2 small red onions (the size of the cipollini), a fat handful of prezzemolo (Italian for parsley) from the garden, chopped, EVOO, salt, pepper, and very, very thinly sliced fresh pepperoncini peppers to sprinkle on top.
Pappardelle with Cinghiale Sauce
You can get cinghiale (wild boar) in this country from meat purveyors. I’m sure some of it really is wild boar, but most of it is probably farm raised, which is still very flavorful and a little richer than regular pork. To me, boar tastes like a cross between beef and pork. You could substitute pork shoulder (pork butt) if you like. P.S. The reason that pork shoulder is also called “butt” is that they used to be butted up against the barrels they were shipped in.
MEAT & MARINADE
- 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds boneless wild boar or pork shoulder
- 2 to 3 cups red wine
- 1 onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
- 1 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
- 1 or 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 or 3 sprigs rosemary
- 1 or 2 fresh bay leaves
- A small handful of juniper berries (see Notes)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons EVOO
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 or 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 or 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
- 1 fresh chile, minced, or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 3 or 4 juniper berries
- 1/4 cup vin santo or brandy
- 1 1/2 cups dry red wine (see Notes)
- 2 cups chicken, veal, or beef stock
- 2 cups passata or tomato puree
- 1 pound egg pappardelle
- Grated pecorino cheese, for serving
Marinate the meat: Cut the boar or pork into bite-size pieces (about 1/2- to 3/4-inch). Put it in a food storage container and add wine to cover. Nestle in the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, and juniper berries. Cover and let that hang out overnight in the fridge.
Make the sauce: Remove the meat from the marinade; discard the marinade. Dry the meat cubes very well with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Season the meat with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven, heat the EVOO (2 turns of the pan) over medium-high heat. Melt the butter into that. Working in small batches so that you’re not crowding the pan, add the meat and brown it well. Transfer to a plate as you work, then add everything back to the pan.
Add the onion, garlic, celery, chile, carrot, rosemary, bay leaf, and juniper berries and cook that for 2 or 3 minutes to just start it sweating out; season with salt and pepper.
Deglaze the pan with the vin santo, scraping to get up all the nice browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the wine and let it cook for 2 to 3 minutes to reduce, and so the alcohol can start to cook out.
Add the stock, partially cover, and simmer very low and slow for 1 1/2 hours.
Stir in the passata and simmer for about 30 minutes longer. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and cook the pasta al dente. Before draining, ladle out about a cup of the starchy pasta cooking water.
Drain the pasta, return it to the cooking pot, and toss with some of the sauce and a little of the starchy cooking water. Remove from the heat, add a little bit of grated pecorino, and serve it in shallow bowls topped with more of the cinghiale sauce. (Discard the bay leaf when you run across it.)
Juniper berries (which you can order online or find in the spice aisle) are great in mulled wine and cider and they’re fantastic in meat sauces (especially along with wild mushrooms or porcini) or even if you’re doing a coq au vin—throwing a couple juniper berries into your coq au vin is very nice. They’re very pungent, so a little goes a long way.
For the red wine in this sauce, choose a dry red with a little bit of spice to it. I used a red wine from Montalcino that was a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and sangiovese grapes.