Esquire (UK) - - EATS -

For four Across the Lib­erty Bridge, the 5km um­bil­i­cal cord that con­nects Venice to the main­land (which many proud Vene­tians would like to see de­mol­ished, by the way), there is a vast area which comes un­der the po­lit­i­cal and mu­nic­i­pal ju­ris­dic­tion of the greater re­gion of Venice. It in­cludes the coastal in­dus­trial towns of Marghera and Mestre, but also the ru­ral pas­tures and farm­steads be­yond. The eas­i­est meat to come by in this part of Italy has al­ways been rab­bit, and it is de­servedly prom­i­nent in tra­di­tional Vene­tian cook­ing. Per­son­ally, I love rab­bit, par­tic­u­larly the gamey wild va­ri­ety, and it is well suited to rich sauces such as this one here. Rab­bit meat has a del­i­cacy that is ab­sent in cul­ti­vated live­stock, and those who tell you it tastes like chicken are miss­ing the point.

Ex­tra vir­gin olive oil

1 whole rab­bit, jointed (the butcher will do this)

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 medium leek, washed, trimmed and finely sliced

1 large car­rot, finely chopped

80g pancetta, finely cubed

2 cloves of gar­lic, very finely chopped

1 tbsp tomato purée

A small hand­ful of rose­mary, chopped, no stalks

A small hand­ful of thyme, chopped, no stalks

A small hand­ful of sage leaves, chopped

Flaky sea salt

Freshly ground black pep­per

A glass of white wine

500ml chicken stock

400g pap­pardelle

Di­jon mus­tard

Ground cin­na­mon

120g Parme­san, grated

A large knob of but­ter 1. Heat a cou­ple of glugs of olive oil in a large, heavy-based pan for which you have a lid, and sear the rab­bit pieces on all sides so that they are golden brown. Set aside.

2. Add another glug of olive oil to the same pan and re­turn to the stove-top, re­duc­ing the heat to low. Add the onion, leek, car­rot and pancetta and sauté gen­tly for around 10mins, un­til the onion is soft and translu­cent and the pancetta is start­ing to get crispy.

3. Re­turn the rab­bit to the pan with the gar­lic, tomato purée and herbs and stir for a minute, with a good pinch of salt and a few twists of black pep­per. Pour in the wine. Stir. Add the stock. Stir. Cover the pan with the lid, re­duce the heat to low, and leave to sim­mer gen­tly for about 90mins.

4. The rab­bit will be in­cred­i­bly ten­der, so very care­fully re­move the pieces and place them on a chop­ping board. Us­ing a knife and fork, sep­a­rate the flesh from the bones. Dis­card all the bones, gris­tle, fat and pin-bones, shred the meat and set it aside.

5. Mean­while, cook the pap­pardelle in a large pan of boil­ing, salted wa­ter for 2mins less than the packet sug­gests.

6. Bring the heat up fully on the other pan for about 4–6mins, un­til the liq­uid has re­duced by half.

7. Re­turn the shred­ded rab­bit to the sauce, re­duce the heat to low, then add a heaped tea­spoon of mus­tard and a level tea­spoon of cin­na­mon. 8. Add the drained pasta and stir well for 2mins to coat ev­ery strand of the pap­pardelle and in­cor­po­rate the sauce fully. Fold in most of the Parme­san and all the but­ter. Re­move from the heat. Taste and add a lit­tle more salt and pep­per if needed.

9. Now, us­ing pasta tongs, care­fully di­vide the in­cor­po­rated pasta and sauce be­tween four warmed plates and fin­ish each with a scat­ter­ing of the re­main­ing Parme­san.

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