This is a very simple recipe for one of the most enjoyable pasta sauces I’ve ever eaten. Cook the rabbit slowly with smoked bacon, vegetables and herbs until it’s tender enough to come away from the bone with ease. Flake the meat, then return it to the sauce. It’s as rustic as you like, and perfect for a cold winter’s night.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium casserole over a medium heat. When it’s hot, add the lardons and fry for 3–4 minutes, or until the bacon has given up a little fat. Add the celery, onion, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme and rosemary sprigs. Cook, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and just beginning to colour.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium – high heat. When hot, add the rabbit pieces and season them all over with salt and pepper. Fry the rabbit for 6 – 8 minutes on each side, or until lovely and golden all over.
Transfer the rabbit and any pan juices to the casserole of softening vegetables. Pour over the stock and bring up to a very gentle simmer. Place a lid on the casserole, leaving it just ajar, then cook on a low heat for 11⁄2 – 2 hours, or until the meat is completely tender and comes easily away from the bone. If the pan looks a little dry during cooking, add a splash more stock or water.
When the rabbit is ready, remove the casserole from the heat and use a pair of tongs to transfer the rabbit pieces to a large plate. When the meat is cool enough to handle, pick it off the bone in shards and shreds and add it back to the pan. Stir everything well, and return the pan to the heat. Bring the sauce back up to a simmer and continue simmering until it has reached a consistency you’re happy with (I usually leave it bubbling away for about 15 – 20 minutes). When it’s ready, season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cook the pasta, drain, then drizzle with a little olive oil. Place equal amounts of pasta on each of four plates, then spoon over generous amounts of the rabbit sauce. Serve straight away.
Wild rabbit is plentiful when wild garlic can be found in British woodlands, and the two flavours are a match made in heaven in this easy casserole recipe.