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Tuesday 22 January 2013

Paul Cooks: Pappardelle with Venison Ragu

Hopefully we have here what will be a semi regular guest contributor, Paul. He works with me and with being half Italian and all is known to be quite the chef and massive foodie. Often we see his photos on Facebook of the meals he's prepared and the effort he's made it far out surpasses what I have made on a  standard Monday night. Last night was no exception, up pops a photo of his meal, he'd only gone and made pappardelle with venison ragu. So after drooling at the screen for a few minutes I managed to cajole him into writing up the recipe, so without further ado, here's Paul.

It’s cold outside, the snow underfoot has bypassed its metamorphosis into slush by freezing steadfastly into life threatening black ice thus making the trip back home, be it by foot or by wheeled vehicle, all the more treacherous. In addition to that, it’s dark and those winter blues are proving hard to shift. It’s fair to say that everyone in the UK has experienced this over the last couple of days and if you’re like me, the only way to appease such an annoyance is to concoct a dish so comforting that it feels like being hugged by a million duvets. Well, at least that’s how I felt after preparing, cooking and enthusiastically devouring this sumptuous dish. Fancy giving it a go? Here’s how I made mine:
Pappardelle with venison ragu
Pappardelle with Venison Ragu
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 2 to 3 hours
Serves 4

400 grams of diced venison
150 grams of minced pork
3 anchovy fillets in olive oil
1 large onion - diced
3 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
1 stick of celery – chopped into half inch discs
5 chestnut mushrooms – quartered
1/2 a carrot – chopped into half inch discs then halved
1 red pepper – chopped into half inch slithers
1 green chilli – finely chopped
6 pitted green olives (optional) – chopped in half
1 tblsp of tomato puree
400g of chopped tomatoes
2 tblsp of tomato passata
Half a bottle of good red wine
250ml of beef stock
2 tblsp of olive oil
1 tsp of Balsamic vinegar
3 sprigs of Thyme
2 sprigs of Rosemary
1 star of Star Anise
350 grams of egg Pappardelle

Start off by checking the venison for any bits of sinew and remove them with a sharp knife as these bits of sinew will prevent the meat from dissolving into the sauce during cooking. Season the meat well with salt and pepper then lightly dust with flour. Heat a large cast iron casserole dish on the hob at a medium heat then add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the anchovy fillets and stir them into the oil until they have dissolved. Add the venison chunks and sear them on all sides then remove and place in a separate bowl.

Add the minced pork to the casserole dish and leave to fry until brown. Meanwhile, prepare your vegetables. Once the pork mince is browned and starting to crisp up, scoop it out of the casserole dish and put it in the same bowl as the venison and leave the casserole dish on the hob with the remaining oil on the hob but reduce the heat to low/medium.

Add the diced onion, celery and peppers first and gently fry for 5 minutes, then add the carrots, mushrooms and chilli and give the whole ‘soffritto’(this is the word for the vegetable base of a sauce) a good stir. Once the vegetables have softened and started to brown at the edges, add the chopped garlic and fry for no more than one minute, careful not to burn it. Add the tomato puree and stir it into the vegetables to give them a good coating. Fry for another 5 minutes so that the puree is cooked through then add the venison and minced pork and stir well into the mix.

Add the beef stock, stir and bring it to a simmer before adding the chopped tomatoes and stir in well and bring it to a simmer. Add the wine, thyme and rosemary sprigs and stir in well. Finally, grind some black pepper into the mix, give it a quick stir then cover the casserole dish with the lid and allow to simmer for approximately 2 hours, checking every 30 minutes and giving a good stir to the sauce.

After 2 hours, remove the lid from the casserole and if there are any chunks of venison which haven’t yet dissolved into the sauce, gently press them against the side of the casserole and stir. Add the passata, balsamic vinegar and chopped olives(if you like them – some people don’t), stir and reduce the heat to a low setting then leave the dish to very gently simmer for about half an hour.

In the meantime, boil a large tall sided pan of water and once it reaches boiling point, add a handful of salt.
Add the pappardelle and cook for 7 minutes or however long the packet says is needed. I usually take off one minute from their suggested time to ensure the pasta is ‘al dente’ but this is entirely up to you. While the pasta is cooking, add the star anise to the casserole dish and stir it in but be careful not to ‘lose’ it in the sauce, as it will present you or your guests with a very hard thing to bite through once dinner is served. Remember to scoop it out and discard before serving, along with the stems of the thyme and rosemary sprigs.

Once the pasta is cooked to taste, drain well and then place it back in the tall sided pan. Pour in the sauce and stir well so that the pappardelle have a good coating of the sauce. Season to taste then serve with grated parmesan on top if required.


A few things worth mentioning about making this sauce is that the longer you leave it, the better it will taste. It can even be left on the hob at a very low heat overnight to ensure the flavours meld together more and that the meat truly dissolves into the sauce. It’s also very important to taste the sauce at regular intervals to check if there’s enough seasoning, herbs, chilli, salt etc..

Also, the inclusion of anchovies may alarm some people but rest assured, the purpose is not to add a taste of fish to the sauce but rather to give the oil used to fry the venison, then the pork and then the vegetables a meaty saltiness that only anchovies can give. Best of all, this dish is perfect leftover food and will probably taste much better as your lunch at work than it did as dinner the night before.
Pappardelle with venison ragu
My sample of  the dish thank's to Paul
Thanks Paul, I can vouch for that, I was fortunate enough to be given a sample for my lunch today. It was heaven on a plate. Here's to the next instalment.

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