Fall means hunting season in Italy and there are many ways to use the cacciagione–or game–in tasty dishes. In certain parts of Italy recipes that include cinghiale (wild boar), lepre (hare), cervo (venison), capriolo (roe deer), piccione (pigeon), fagiono (pheasant), and anatra (duck) start creeping onto restaurant menus as well into home kitchens in Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo and northern Lazio, especially in rural areas. The meat from the hunt is never wasted and is turned into hearty meals as the cold weather closes in on these regions.
This particular dish is a rustic one and if you don’t have a friend who is a hunter or access to a butcher that sells game, pork will do as a substitute but, if you can, make sure it is free-range and of good quality or the taste will suffer a bit. It can be served with typical autumn side dishes and condiments like roasted, mashed or boiled potatoes; yams or corn meal polenta; red cabbage stewed with fennel seeds and vinegar, even cranberry sauce.
Here is one recipe that uses wild boar and I recommend it as in central Italy it’s an autumn/winter classic:
1 pound wild boar meat cut in chunks (pork shoulder can be used)
2 cloves of garlic, whole
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
A sprinkling of juniper berries
2 bay leaves
1 cup of red wine
1 cup of white wine
14-oz tin of Italian peeled tomatoes
1 apple, grated
Extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of chili flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Warm olive oil on medium/high heat then add meat to brown. As it’s browning add the garlic, herbs and pepper flakes and cook for a few minutes before adding the grated apple. When the meat is nicely browned add red and white wine. let it simmer over low heat for a few minutes then add tomatoes, salt and pepper and cover and keep on low heat for about 2 hours, checking periodically that there is enough liquid (water can be added to keep it moist). Taste for seasonings and pair with a nice Chianti classico wine and you’re set.
For starters a good pumpkin soup is great, since these squash are still available until the first snowflakes arrive, or as dessert in a pumpkin flan; even an apple cake or pie would be delicious as this fruit is bountiful right now. I’d even suggest making applesauce–with a good dose of cinnamon–which is one of my favorite comfort foods and a perfect side dish with game plus it will keep throughout the winter.
Happy cooking and eating to all!
Elizabeth Janus is a passionate traveller, and makes it a point to peruse the farmer’s markets in every place she visits to get an immediate pulse of the city. For the last decade, she has been guiding discerning clients on food adventures at farmer’s markets, speciality shops and into her home for unique Italian meals to experience Italy as an Italian..