Our teacher is insistent that we ‘do not rush’ when it comes to making this wild boar ragu. And whilst I like to think this is an encapsulating ethos of Italian philosophy or way of life that has transcended through to the cooking, it’s actually that the dish will smell of pee otherwise.
The flavour of the wild boar depends on where the pig comes from. If it is a Mediterranean beast from the wilds of Spain or Italy, then the strength of piggy gaminess will be higher. Giancarlo suggests - if you smell it, and think it’s too strong then you can soak it overnight in milk, but he would just cook it out. Today, our meat is actually from the north of England - much milder. He’s upset by this, but no matter - we are still going to make this taste good.
The ragu takes at least three hours to make. The photos show industrial amounts for feasting, but I’ve scaled down the quantities to feed about 6 as a starter.
Slug a good amount of extra virgin olive oil into a deep pan. ‘It upsets me all the bloody time that people say you can’t cook with Extra Virgin.’ explodes Giancarlo, our teacher at Caldesi in Campagna. ‘You’re not frying, you’re cooking with it. If you change the oil the quality will drop!’ Extra Virgin it is.
Heat the oil and add a few smashed and peeled cloves of garlic - just to release the flavour, a couple of rosemary sprigs, and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Heat gently until starting to smell fragrant- this is to flavour the oil.
Add a soffrito of finely chopped celery (2 sticks), an onion and a carrot to the oil and fry gently until the vegetables turn translucent and the smell starts whetting your appetite. This may take a good 5-10 minutes.
Add a few fresh bay leaves, stir some more, turn the heat up slightly and add 1-1.5 kg of wild boar mince. The meat will yield a lot of water and start to smell gamey - almost uriney - this needs to all come out - so the idea is to cook it and stir every now and then until all the water has evaporated and the meat is all cooked evenly. Be patient. This will take a while - perhaps an hour.
Once the piggy smell has gone, add half a bottle of red wine - a Sangiovese would be good. Cook this down - again - gently until it’s reduced significantly. Then add half a can of tinned tomatoes. And cook this down. This may take another hour.
Fish out any protruding rosemary sticks. Add a glorious slug of shiny olive oil. Check for seasoning. Serve with a nice Chianti (see Ruth’s Must Drink! for wine recos in previous post)
Whilst this is happening, we might as well make the pasta. We have the time after all. Equip yourself with a pasta rolling machine and a long farmhouse table. If you don’t have these, I suggest buying fresh pasta in like I do instead.
It’s terribly simple - and all you need are three ingredients. Eggs, flour and a pinch of salt. But of course, the flour should be “00” flour - which even Asda sells now - and the eggs are preferably from corn-fed chickens which lends a sunshiney yellow colour to the pasta. The salt - well, as you please.
Pour your flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Crack the eggs into the bowl, and using a fork - mix and mix - gently stirring the flour into the egg. When the mixture is thick enough not to run, start kneading the dough on a floured work surface until it holds together well. Continue to knead rhythmically - without too much force - but just to make sure the elements get to know each other well.
After about 6 minutes of kneading, the dough should feel elastic, and slightly colder. Wrap in cling film and put aside for about an hour.
Cut the dough into quarters and keep three parts aside whilst you run the first quarter through the pasta machine. Flatten the dough, then pass the pasta through the widest setting. Once through, decrease by a notch and pass through again. Repeat this until the thinnest you’d like - but do not pass through more than 5 times. Repeat for the rest of the quarters.
Once through, cut into sheets into lengths you’d the pappardelle to be, roll the ends in from either side - as in the picture - then slice into thick ribbons.
Pour the ribbons into a tray full of semolina which will keep them separated and leave them to dry for 20 minutes.
When ready, get a pan of salted boiling water ready and cook briskly for two minutes.
Serve with the ragu. Devour.