This is a wonderful evolution of that humble meat sauce we all love. You can create around twelve incredible-tasting portions of bolognese out of one little rabbit, so it’s beyond cheap to make. And most importantly, you can knock it together in around three minutes flat, then just allow the oven to turn it into a heavenly and delicious bolognese. Once it comes out of the oven you’ve got a rustic sauce that you can portion up and freeze for all sorts of beautiful meals in the days and weeks to come. If you aren’t a lover of rabbit meat, I urge you to try this. It’s cheap, it’s tasty, and it’s easy ... Are you convinced yet?
Preheat the oven to 110°C/225°F/gas ¼. Put your largest casserole-type pan on a medium heat and add a lug of olive oil and the chopped bacon. Once it’s lightly golden, add the bay leaves and rosemary sprigs and lay the whole rabbit and the offal on top. Drop in the whole garlic bulb, leeks, carrots, celery and onions, then add the dried mushrooms, tinned tomatoes, beer, tomato purée, and just enough water to cover everything (roughly 1 litre). Bring to the boil, and season generously with loads of black pepper and a few pinches of salt. Finely grate in half the nutmeg, put the lid on, then pop the casserole into the oven and leave to cook for 12 hours.
Once cooked, let the stew cool down a little, then get yourself a big pair of clean Marigold gloves and another large pan. This is where you make it a pleasure to eat, so pick through small handfuls of stew at a time, taking out any bones or vegetable skins. Discard the herbs, and flake the beautiful meat off the bones and into the clean pan. Scrunch the vegetables and offal in your hands as you go and break them into smaller pieces. Pour any juices left behind into the new pan, then go back in and have another rummage to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Have a taste and correct the seasoning. Finely grate in the zest of half the lemon and pick in a few thyme tips to brighten up the sauce. Divvy the sauce up between sandwich bags and either freeze them, or keep in the fridge.
When you want to make your rabbit bolognese, simply reheat a small ladle of sauce per person in a pan over a medium heat and cook around 80 grams of pasta per person. Spaghetti and penne are favourites of mine for this. Boil according to packet instructions in salted water, then drain, reserving some of the starchy cooking water. Toss with your sauce and a little splash of the cooking water to make it silky then add a nice handful of cheese. Taste and check the seasoning then serve immediately with another good sprinkling of cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some fresh thyme tips.
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