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Pappardelle with Chicken-Liver Ragu

Pappardelle is a very large type of fettuccine pasta and the name comes from the word pappare, which means to gobble up. Pappardelle are usually made with egg-based dough and served with rich sauces often including game, like hare or wild boar, a typical primo piatto, first course, of Tuscany and Umbria.

My recipe for Pappardelle with Chicken-Liver ragu calls for a milder but still rich pasta sauce, with a combination of flavorful vegetables, fresh sage and tender peas. Pancetta and a splash of white wine add taste and vigor to the sauce, making it delicious even for that someone at your table who might not like the idea of having chicken liver in his pasta dish.

Ingredients and Instructions (serves 4):

  1. Clean and finely chop carrot, onion and celery for the soffritto (the vegetable base for many Italian recipes).

  2. Wash and chop the fresh sage.

  3. Wash the chicken livers, pat dry and cut in small pieces.

  4. Dice the slice(s) of pancetta, rather small.

  5. Clean and mince (finely chop) the garlic cloves, then toss with the pancetta in a sauce pan with the butter and the extra-virgin olive oil, over medium fire. Let the mix cook for about one minute, until it starts turning golden brown, stirring often.

  6. Add the ground turkey, crumble, stir with the pancetta and cook until the raw color of the turkey is gone.

  7. Add the chicken livers, stir and cook for a couple more minutes, until the raw color of the livers is completely gone.

  8. Add the white wine, stir and let the pan deglaze by scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon. The alcohol will evaporate and all the delicious bits and flavors of the pan will gather and blend together. Continue cooking just until the liquid is reduced by half.

  9. Add the finely chopped carrot, onion and celery mix and stir, lower the heat, cover the pan and let cook until the veggies start getting tender, for about 3 or 4 minutes.

  10. Finally add the peas, stir, cover again and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until they are done, adding a little water to the pan if the ragu sauce starts sticking to the bottom. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and keep warm.

  11. In a large pot, bring to a boil at least 5 quarts of water, toss in it 1 tablespoon of salt (and please, do not add any oil whatsoever to the water, trust me). Add the Pappardelle, stir and cook al dente, just one minute short of the time suggested by the instructions on the pasta package).

  12. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, drain, toss in a large serving bowl with the ragu and mix, quickly but thoroughly, to get the pasta completely coated with the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add a spoonful or two of the reserved pasta water as needed.

  13. Serve at once, and bring some freshly grated Parmigiano cheese to the table.

Buon appetito!

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