Ragù di Cinghiale is a famous pasta sauce made with wild boar meat and tomatoes from Tuscany and Umbria, served over a sturdy type of long pasta like pappardelle or pici. I’ve already posted a classic recipe for Pappardelle al Ragù di Cinghiale. I thought it would be nice to try a sous-vide version, so there would be succulent morsels of tender boar meat in the sauce. The market here carries wild boar cheeks at a bargain, and so that was the meat I decided to use.
Browning small pieces of meat would already cook them through and would eliminate the positive effect of cooking sous-vide. Not browning the meat at all, however, would reduce the flavor as browning adds a lot of flavor. And so I decided to brown the whole cheeks and only then cut them into smaller pieces. That worked very well.
Reducing is an important part of most ragù recipes. Since with sous-vide we are cooking the sauce in a vacuum sealed bag, the ragù has no chance to reduce. So we have to make a tomato sauce, reduce it, and then cook it sous-vide together with the meat. Reducing the sauce and the meat together would again eliminate the positive effect of cooking sous-vide.
This is not a quick recipe, because reducing the sauce takes about as long as a traditional ragù. And then you still have to cook it sous-vide for 3 days. But it is worth it. This was wonderful and from now on I will use this method for making ragù di cinghiale.
I’ve made a triple batch as the ragù keeps well frozen or in the refrigerator after it has been cooked sous-vide.
For 12-18 servings
1.5 kilo (3.5 lb) wild boar cheeks
150 grams (1 cup) minced carrot
150 grams (1 cup) minced celery
150 grams (1 cup) minced onion
3 cans (400 grams/14 oz each) peeled tomatoes
375 ml (1/2 bottle) full-bodied red wine, preferably Italian sangiovese (Chianti or Rosso di Montalcino)
375 ml (1 1/2 cup) milk
3 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh sage
2 sprigs fresh parsley
2 dried chile peppers (peperoncino)
3 juniper berries
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large wide frying pan. Add the boar cheeks. If they don’t fit in a single layer, brown them in batches.
Brown the cheeks on all sides over high heat.
Take the cheeks out of the pan and set aside to cool.
There will now be a lot of flavorful browned bits stuck to the pan. We want to include those into our ragù.
Add 450 grams (1 pound) of finely minced carrot, onion, and celery, and 3 minced garlic cloves. I use the food processor to mince this. Season with salt so the vegetables will release some of their water.
Cook over medium high heat, stirring with a wooden spatula and scraping the bottom to get all the browned bits. The water released by the vegetables helps with this.
Keep stirring until the vegetables are starting to brown.
Add 375 ml (1/2 bottle) of red wine.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Simmer uncovered until the wine has been reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
Puree 3 cans of peeled tomatoes in the food processor, then add them to the ragù and stir to incorporate.
Make two bouquet garni by binding together a bay leaf with sprigs of parsley, sage, and rosemary, and add them to the pan. Add 3 juniper berries as well.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook uncovered for about an hour.
Meanwhile, cut the cheeks into slices and then into bite-size morsels. The meat will still be raw on the inside.
Allow the morsels to cool in the refrigerator.
A lot of juices will leak out of the browned meat and collect on the plate. (This is clear evidence that browning the meat does not serve to “seal in the juices” as many cookbooks still tell you.)
Add these juices to the sauce, as we don’t want to lose any flavor.
After an hour of simmering, add 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) of whole milk, and stir to incorporate.
Bring back to a simmer, and simmer for about half an hour longer, or until the sauce is nice and thick.
Fish out the two bouquets garni…
…and the three juniper berries. When using a chamber vacuum sealer, allow the sauce to cool to room temperature before you continue.
Add the meat to the sauce…
…and stir to incorporate.
Vacuum seal the ragù in portions using either a chamber vacuum sealer (for this the sauce needs to be cool before you can vacuum seal) or ziplock bags and the water displacement method (for which the sauce can still be warm).
Cook sous-vide for 3 days at 62C/144F.
After the 3 days of sous-vide cooking, you can either continue to serve the sauce over pasta right away, or chill and store the sauce for later use.
To do the latter, submerge the bags in water with ice cubs until they have cooled off, and then refrigerate or freeze them. Before using, heat them back up in the sous-vide for 1-2 hours at 62C/144F before continuing.
The meat will have released juices during the cooking process, so the ragù will be too thin. Strain the liquid part of the ragù into a frying pan. Reserve the solid part.
Bring this to a boil, and simmer this to reduce while you boil the pasta.
When the liquids have reduced to your liking, add the meat and allow to warm through over low heat.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it, and add it to the sauce. In this case I used bucatini because I didn’t have pici or pappardelle.
Toss to mix.
Serve on preheated plates. You could add grated parmigiano or pecorino if you like.
Ragù di cinghiale is great with a medium-bodied red from Tuscany or Umbria, such as Chianti Classico, Rosso di Montalcino, or Rosso di Montefalco. (A full-bodied red such as Brunello di Montalcino or Sagrantino di Montefalco would probably be too heavy.)