Tonno di Coniglio is a classic Italian recipe from the region of Piemonte. It literally means “Tuna of Rabbit”. In Italy, tuna is preserved in glass jars with olive oil, and this recipe is rabbit prepared as if it were tuna.
Tonno di coniglio is the cooked meat of (farmed) rabbit that is marinated in olive oil with garlic and sage. It used to be prepared by farmers from the Monferrato to have a meal quickly after returning home from the fields.
In the classic recipe first a stock is made using celery, leeks, onion, carrot, cloves, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, basil, black peppercorns, and salt. Then a farmed rabbit is poached in the stock until the meat falls off the bones. Then the bones are removed and the meat is seasoned with salt and pepper. As a final step, the rabbit meat is marinated at least overnight in olive oil with garlic and sage. The disadvantage of poaching the rabbit, is that it dries out the meat (despite being submerged) and that a lot the flavor of the meat will end up in the stock. With sous vide the meat will remain more juicy, and more flavor will remain in the meat.
Serves 8 as an antipasto
1.5 kilos (3.3 lbs) rabbit legs
high quality extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 stick celery, 1 leek
fresh basil, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper
more fresh sage
10 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
The quickest and easiest way to finely chop the vegetables and herbs is to use a food processor, but feel free to use a chef’s knife instead. Chop the onion, leek, celery, and carrot coarsely, and place them in the food processor, together with fresh basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves.
Process until finely minced.
Season the rabbit legs on all sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the seasoned rabbit legs in a bowl with the minced vegetables and herbs, and toss to coat the rabbit legs with the mixture on all sides.
Vacuum seal the rabbit legs with the vegetables and herbs in 2 or 3 bags. Do not stack the rabbit legs on top of each other.
Cook the rabbit sous vide for 8 hours at 74C/165F.
After 8 hours, take the rabbit out of the bags, allow to cool somewhat, and pat dry with paper towels. There will be quite a big of liquid in the bags, which you can reserve for another use such as pasta or risotto.
Slice 10 garlic cloves thinly.
Take the meat off the bones. Place a layer of meat in a container.
Drizzle the meat with good extra virgin olive oil and arrange sliced garlic and fresh sage on top.
Repeat with layers of meat, olive oil, sage, and garlic, until all the meat is in the container.
Cover the container and refrigerate at least overnight or up to 3 days.
Take the container out of the refrigerator about an hour before serving, to allow the meat to come to room temperature.
Serve the tonno di coniglio with a simple salad of lettuce and tomato, dressed with salt, white wine vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil. Remove and discard the garlic and sage before serving. Make sure the pieces of rabbit are covered with a bit of the olive oil, as that contains most of the flavor of the garlic and sage, and makes the rabbit less dry. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, if needed.
This is great with a dry white from the region of Piemonte, such as Arneis or Gavi.
Sometimes I pick the wine first and then think of a dish. I had a nice bottle of 2007 late harvest Gewurztraminer from Alsace and I thought it would be great with duck ravioli and orange sauce. The number of ingredients in this elegant dish is very limited, but the recipe is quite elaborate all the same. All of the flavor from the duck is used in the filling and the sauce. The bones are used to make duck stock, which gives more body to the sauce. The resulting dish was delicious and a perfect match with the wine.