"Hookup" Ragu

wild boar legs and shoulders marinating in wine & aromatics & herbs

There’s a few principles that I use whether in a duck ragu, a wild boar ragu, or oxtail vaccinara.

1) I like to use the best quality meat in my ragus (all of my dishes, really).  I see chefs doing expensive pop ups using commodity meat.  I don’t personally get it.  For me, an animal has died so we might as well source the best ones.  That’s why I love the flavor of wild, and grassfed, and so on.  End of rant 😉 .

2) Intensify the natural flavor with bone and long cooking times

3) don’t use heat that is too aggressive (don’t boil – more on this later)

4) use the right pasta for the job

If you can use these principles… stick a fork in you.  you DONE.  a toothpick, a spoon…  The other day, a friend texted me “what is the wild boar ragu recipe” ?  I quickly called em because I’m not much of a recipe-writer… I explain in expletives and orders – DO this, ADJUST that, and if you know a few of the basic principles then you are well on your way to making some superior meals.  SOOOO, this Friend made it for someone and they started blushing. “I never blushed from food before.” Got a text the next day “and then we hooked up later.” Well, THAT is a winning recipe… #foodislove 😉 Remember, seasoning is one of the most important things in cooking. Season at every step unless otherwise noted.


10 pound wild boar shoulder (I keep it on the bone, and cook it on the bone)

12 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

6 carrots, finely chopped, 2 celery stalks, finely chopped, 4 onions, finely chopped

2 sprig of rosemary & 2 sprigs of sage

6 garlic cloves

4 tablespoons tomato paste

4 cups tomato passata (tomato puree, “passed” through a mesh) – can be purchased

Marinade for boar shoulder

enough to cover the boar leg(s) – can use carlo rossi burgundy/chianti, or Pétrus. whatever floats your boat.

4 juniper berries

5 black peppercorns

3 bay leaves (or 1.5 fresh as they are stronger

2 carrots, rough chopped

2 celery stalks, rough chop

2 onions, rough chopped

1.5 – 2 sprigs of rosemary depending on how strong it is

Step 0: Catch a boar, date a hunter, or find a friend who catches boar.

Step 1: Marinade the boar leg for a day-2 days with the ingredients above, covered with saran wrap.  This will give an incredible flavor to the sauce and also bring out the flavor of the boar.  (Or sow, if you catch a female)…

Step 2: Pull the meat out of the fridge and strain the marinade through a china cap and then strain again through a fine sieve, reserving the wine marinade.  Let the meat come to room temperature so that you can brown it.

Step 3: (Pat the meat dry so it browns/sears instead of steams) + take a MASSIVE + heavy cast iron pan, or blue steel pan or dutch oven (something that will hold temperature when you start browning batches of meat), use canola oil another oil that doesn’t burn too easily and brown the meat (salt + pepper it) until it’s slightly past golden brown.  Then, put in the tomato passata and cook it for 5 minutes on medium, just below bubbling you don’t want the passata to burn on the bottom.  Then add the tomato paste.

Step 4: Use diced/finely chopped carrots, celery, onion, in approximately equal proportions and sweat them in a separate pan, until soft but not too much color (medium low heat).  Salt a little at this stage to help pull the water out, and also season the vegetables.  Add chopped garlic.  I like to add an extra carrot for sweetness for the proportions.

Step 5: Combine the boar, the vegetables+garlic, and then pour the wine marinade over, then cover and simmer.  If you boil the meat, it will be too aggressive and the meat will lose moisture (even though it’s in liquid, it will seep out).  The meat will taste dry.

Step 6: simmer some more.  The meat will start to pull away from the bone at a certain point so check it after 1.5 hours to see how it’s holding up.  When it’s pulling off the main elbow joint all the way to the shank and up to the blade, it’s ready.  flake it off and keep the bone the next day for jook/rice porridge.  The meat pieces will be large so shred them and take a scissors or an ax to the meat.  The ragu should be thick but not dry, moist but not watery.  season, and add chili flakes for some heat.

Step 7: for large portions(15+ people), I use short pastas that can hold up well.  Long pastas are more delicate and it’s more difficult to toss 2 pounds of long pasta and the margin for error is much smaller on long pasta.  Short pastas in general keep their bite for longer.  Standard choice of pasta for wild boar ragu is Tagliatelle or Parpadelle but then if you don’t have the ability to toss pasta in multiple pans, shorter pasta is way easier.  Cook the pasta 2 minutes short of al dente and drain, reserving the cooking water.  Add the pasta to the ragu and toss, and add some of the cooking water to loosen the stock and bind the sauce (with the starches) to the pasta.  Add good quality extra virgin olive oil and parmigiana reggiano.  

4 burners, cause 3 isn’t enough…

shave it a lot – parmigiana reggiano

VARIATION: Oxtail Vaccinara

 Going with the same basic principles…

cut a few (3) carrots, 6 chopped garlic cloves, 4 banana shallots into a large dice, and cook gently for 10 minutes until softened.  Add a bouquet garnit made from a sprig of rosemary, sprig sage, and oxtail.  In a separate pan start to color the oxtail (up to 4 pounds) – I cut each one at the joints but you can use a whole oxtail) and cover with white wine (or red wine) until it reduces by 1/2, and then add (ideally) homemade chicken stock + 4 tbsp of tomato paste.  Costco chicken stock works fine.  simmer (don’t boil as mentioned above) for 45 min – 1.5 hours until the meat is meltingly tender and easily falling off the bone.  REMEMBER.  THE MEAT NEXT TO THE BONE IS THE MOST FLAVORFUL! And with oxtail…ALL THE MEAT IS NEXT TO THE BONE! Booyakasha!!!

flake the meat with your fingers and try to keep the stringiness of the oxtail intact.  You can cut it one or twice with scissors but not much more than that.  Add parmigiana reggiano or Pecorino romano that yer friend smuggled from Sardinia w/ pasta as mentioned above, and top quality olive oil.  

Oxtail Vaccinara + Casarecce


Wine: With the boar, I’d pair a nice Barolo or Barbaresco (or one for each hand).  With the Vaccinara, how about some Amarone Valpolicella?

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