Tales from an Ital­ian kitchen

The Guardian - Feast - - News - Rachel Roddy

Fet­tuc­cine with chicken liver

Some of my best cook­ing starts from left­overs. Last week it was the end of the gar­licky greens – hardly more than a big mouth­ful, mixed with eggs for a frit­tata – and a teacup of stewed ap­ple baked into a dense cake. There was also the left­over boiled potato and an­chovy pat­ties, and a re­vived sausage and broc­coli pasta. Yes­ter­day’s heroes were the last bit of savoury mince sit­ting mourn­fully in a green bowl un­der cling­film, and two shal­lots I had peeled for some­thing, then never used. The chicken liv­ers were wait­ing to be made into Rosie Sykes’ dev­illed chicken liv­ers on toast, but got di­verted into a col­li­sion of Mar­cella Hazan’s chicken liver sauce and the Ro­man dish of fet­tuc­cine con le rigaglie di pollo.

Rigaglie are giblets, so that’s all the chicken of­fal – giz­zards, heart, liver, neck, comb and, when in Rome, tes­ti­cles. A good butcher will still bun­dle them up in pa­per for you to take home if you ask.

De­spite the teas­ing and dry retch­ing of a school friend when we ate it at school, I have al­ways loved liver in any way, shape or form. One bite of fried liver with floppy onions and puffs of ap­ple, and I am at the ta­ble with its waxed red cloth, in a green school uni­form.

In Rome, rigaglie and chicken liv­ers are cooked like a ragù: sim­mered with minced beef and a good amount of tomato. The Ital­ian or­a­cle of all things pasta, Oretta Zanini De Vita, has a recipe for ragà

di rigaglie that in­cludes beef, veal, porcini and milk. It is de­li­cious, if a bit gilded. An al­ter­na­tive for both giblets or just chicken liv­ers, is Mar­cella Hazan’s way – cooked with shal­lot, beef and two great and nec­es­sary al­lies – musty and cam­phoric sage and tem­per­ing vermouth (or any other grapey, slightly sweet al­co­hol – marsala, mus­cat, sherry for ex­am­ple). The ideal pasta for this liver lover’s sauce is fresh or dried egg fet­tuc­cine, or its 2mm thin­ner brother, tagli­atelle.

This is one of those well-timed pasta recipes where the sauce takes more or less the same time to pre­pare as a pan of wa­ter takes to come to a boil and the tagli­atelle or fet­tuc­cine to cook. First clean 250g chicken liv­ers by pulling away any fatty sinew or dis­coloured bits, wash­ing and pat­ting them dry, then chop into small pieces. Now fry a couple of finely diced shal­lots in half but­ter/half olive oil un­til soft, then add a minced clove of gar­lic, 50g diced pancetta, six sage leaves, 100g minced beef, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pep­per. Once the beef has lost all its pink, add the liv­ers and stir un­til they, too, have lost their pink. Then pour over 150ml vermouth, into which you have dis­solved a tea­spoon of tomato con­cen­trate, and sim­mer for about five min­utes. By the end of cook­ing, the liver should be ten­der as a suede glove with just a lit­tle thick sauce.

Mean­while, hav­ing timed things per­fectly, the pasta is ready at the same mo­ment as the sauce (if it isn’t, just pull the sauce from the heat and put a lid on it). Toss the two to­gether, along with a hand­ful of grated parme­san. Add a bit of pasta cook­ing wa­ter, too, if you think the sauce needs loos­en­ing, then di­vide be­tween bowls, pass­ing round more cheese for those who want it.

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