Lepre alla Cacciatora (Hare Legs Stewed in Red Wine)

As I pointed out before, although both are furry and have long ears, a hare (“lepre” in Italian) is red meat and different from the white meat of a rabbit (“coniglio”). The recipe for Lepre alla Cacciatora (Hare Hunter’s Style, or in fact the wife of the hunter) is however quite similar to the recipe for Coniglio alla Cacciatora. Both are stewed in wine and tomatoes. The main differences are that hare is marinated and cooked in red wine with just a bit of tomato, whereas the rabbit isn’t marinated and cooked in white wine and tomatoes.

I made this dish to finish cooking the hare that we skinned and butchered by ourselves. The legs are even more gamey than the loins, and this recipe will produce a very strong-tasting deep brown sauce that is great with mashed potatoes and celeriac (celery root). As usual, please use a full-bodied red wine for this that is good enough to drink, since the taste of the wine will play an important role in this dish.


For 2 servings

the legs of 1 hare

1 bottle of full-bodied red wine, preferably Italian

salt and freshly ground black pepper

flour for dusting

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

8 sage leaves

2 fresh rosemary sprigs

2 juniper berries

1 bay leaf

2 cloves

4 fresh thyme sprigs

2 Tbsp double-concentrated tomato paste

250 ml (1 cup) hare stock

2 Tbsp corn starch

500 grams (1.1 lbs) potatoes, peeled and cubed

500 grams (1.1 lbs) celeriac, peeled and cubed


Mix up half of the vegetables, herbs, and spices and put them on the bottom of an acid-proof container.

Add the hare legs and the other half  of the vegetables, herbs, and spices.

Add the bottle of red wine. The meat should be covered. Cover and marinate for at least 12 hours or overnight. It is best to stir halfway, otherwise you’ll end up with ligther spots on the meat where the vegetables and herbs were like I did.

Pat the meat dry with paper towels and sieve the marinade, reserving the wine as well as the vegetables, herbs and spices.

Pat the herbs, vegetables and spices dry with paper towels. Season the meat with salt and freshly ground black pepper and dust with flour. The flour will help to brown the meat.

Brown the meat in some olive oil in a casserole over medium high heat.

Remove the meat and sauté the vegetables and half of the herbs in the same casserole. (Discard the remaining herbs. Using all the herbs would make the sauce too strong.)

Add the marinade and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula to get all the flavor.

Mix the hare stock with the tomato paste.

Put the meat and the tomato paste mixture into the casserole.

Bring to a boil and immediately lower the heat to very low. Let simmer for 2-3 hours or until the meat is tender over very low heat. There should only be an occasional bubble rising to the surface, otherwise the meat will get too hot and will dry out.

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes and celeriac in salted water for 25 minutes or until tender. Drain the excess water after cooking. Mash to obtain a puree. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground white pepper.

Check with a fork whether the meat is tender.

Take the meat out of the sauce and puree the sauce with an immersion blender. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Put the corn starch in a cup and add a bit of the hot stock.

Stir until smooth.

Use the corn starch mixture to thicken the sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil and let it boil for a minute until the sauce has the desired thickness. Then take off the heat and return the meat to the sauce to warm it back up.

Serve the meat and mashed potatoes and celeriac with the sauce on warm plates.

Wine pairing

This is good with a full-bodied Italian red such as barolo or chianti classico.


17 thoughts on “Lepre alla Cacciatora (Hare Legs Stewed in Red Wine)

      1. I have had it give a bit of an unpleasant purplish tint sometimes. I frequently use it in tomato based sauces (such as meat sauce for pasta) and it’s not usually a problem there, but I have had some less than appealing results elsewhere.


        1. The purple may come from the sauce being too alkaline. One of the main colors in red wine are anthocyanins, a pH indicator that is red in a sour environment and purple in an alkaline environment. You’ll know what I mean if you remember this from science class, or if you’ve ever put vinegar or soap on beetroot. The latter will make it purple to the point of being blue.


  1. The red wine sure did create a lovely sauce for your rabbit, Stefan. Although we do not use red wine in our braise, this method is closer to the way we prepare rabbit than was yesterday’s post. I’d love to try it sometime.


    1. With rabbit (coniglio, white meat) I would probably use a white wine rather than the red I used for hare (lepre, red meat). Rabbit has a more subtle taste that might be crowded out by the red wine. I’m not surprised it is closer to your way of preparing rabbit, as I used a very Italian recipe 🙂


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