Take a Walk on the Wild Side

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A few years ago, while visiting Tuscany and Umbria, I had a simple Italian pasta dish featuring Ragu al Cinghiale (wild boar). I remember it being so delicious and very similar to the ragu my mom makes. Pasta with ragu is one of my comfort foods and when the weather begins to chill, it calls to me! In Tuscany and other areas nearby, cooking with wild game is very popuar. There are lots of hunters in these parts, and their delicasies reflect the game that they catch. But I never thought that I, not a hunter, could ever cook with these meats. So you can imagine my surprise when I walked into a nearby organic market, Sprouts, and found ground wild boar meat in the meat department! I immediately picked it up and brought it home to try my luck at making the delicious ragu that I had tasted in Tuscany. But so many questions arose in my head, mostly those  wondering if I had to treat the meat in some way to remove the gaminess. After doing some research online, I decided that I would just go for it and treat it like any other ground meat I’ve used in the past when I’ve made ragu. I’m glad I followed my instincts, because it came out perfectly!

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Ragu al Cinghiale (Wild Boar Ragu)

1 lb. ground wild boar meat
2 to 2 1/2 cups of Marinara Sauce (here’s my homemade recipe)
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
3 stalks finely chopped celery
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms (I found some online here) softened in hot water (save the liquid)
1 Porcini mushroom bouillon cube
1/4 cup red wine
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Saute the onions and celery in the olive oil until they are starting to brown.  (don’t add too much oil, only enough to coat the bottom of the pan).

Add the ground wild boar meat and brown it thoroughly all the while breaking up the larger chunks.

Add the red wine and cook for about 1 minute.

Add the marinara sauce and chopped, softened porcini mushrooms.  Stir and combine well.  Add the bouillon cube and some salt and pepper.

Reduce the heat and cover.  Simmer and cook for a couple of hours, making sure that the sauce doesn’t burn.  If needed, add a little of the porcini soaking water to keep it moist.

Serve with your favorite pasta (I like it with egg fettucine).  If you don’t use all the sauce and you want to keep it for future uses, it freezes perfectly.

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Dried porcini mushrooms

Dried porcini mushrooms

Porcini mushroom bouillon cubes

Porcini mushroom bouillon cubes

6 responses »

  1. Ground wild boar meat? Lucky you, I can only get them in pieces (like the size for stew) and it takes a bit of cooking time to get them tender. I’ve tried deer as well…..now that had a pronounced “wild smell” when I opened the plastic bag.

    • I wonder if you can ask the butcher to grind it up for you? Actually all the recipes that I saw for wild boar ragu had chunks in it – I thought it might not work so well with ground meat. Luckily for me, it was fine. I can imagine it would take a long time to make the chunks tender, but the flavors would probably be so delicious! So did you have to treat the gaminess of the deer meat? If so, what did you do? I am new to cooking with wild game. Thanks, Rowena, for stopping by – I love getting comments 🙂

      • I actually purchased it at a big name supermarket in the frozen department. In fact, here in Lecco I’ve never seen wild game sold in smaller specialty shops. As far as the gaminess of deer meat, I marinated it in red wine and herbs (rosemary, juniper berries, etc) and it did seem to help although that would be just my personal taste and opinion. It’s mostly the smell that’s so off-putting when you open the vacuum-sealed package after it has completely defrosted.

      • I think I’d have a problem with the smell, too! But thanks for sharing your preparation. Sounds like buying wild game in Italy is the same as here – either you hunt for it or you buy it at the supermarket! As my mom says…”tutto il monde e paese”!

  2. You’ve just given me an idea for a post! Thanks!
    My husband and his mad keen hunting brothers are off hunting for cinghiale today!
    It’s a bad time of year for wild boars as their hunting season has just started! Poor them.
    Your blog is a most welcomed discovery, keep walking on the wildside as it makes great reading.

    • Hi Rochelle – thanks for stopping by and for your kind comment 🙂 OH gosh, your husband is going boar hunting? Has he done it before? It sounds scary….they are some mean looking pigs! I will be anxious to read your post and see how the real hunters do it! My hunting at the grocery store just doesn’t seem to be quite as adventurous!

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