Pappardelle with Chicken Liver Ragù


Chicken Liver Ragu

I feel very lucky have grown up in a happy clan of 4 close siblings. There aren’t even five years to separate oldest (moi) from the youngest (H).

Obviously, between supermarket shops, school runs, on-tap medical assistance and missions across the house as peace envoys, Mum and Dad needed a hand occasionally. When my amazing grandparents weren’t available that help came thanks to a series of nannies, most of them memorable, though not always for the right reasons. One crashed the car and told me not to tell anyone…another used to stick her smelly feet in the bath my younger brother and sister were in and make them wash them for her. (Of course, we weren’t entirely blameless. At one stage, I’d say we were turning them over at a rate of one a month; the Von Trapp kids had nothing on us.)

However, in my book of nanny-villains, the worst of the lot made the very small H sit in front of his lunch for such a long time that he was still sitting there when Mum came home that evening. (I remember H being rather stoic about the whole ordeal; he’d managed to smuggle the bit of blanket that went everywhere with him to the table). Needless to say, she wasn’t there to apply the same rules to breakfast the next day.

But what, you may ask, was so bad that he couldn’t finish it?

Liver: normally edible in our experience, but she’d utterly nuked it. Not to mention the crinkled, sad peas scattered around the plate. Bad enough sitting there, tough grey like the sole of a shoe, H’s offal only got more… er… offal (sorry, irresistible) as the afternoon wore on. I’m not even sure how the 3 of us had managed to get ours down… Perhaps we’d conspired with the dog.

A whole 25 years later, I hope H has managed to get over what must be a crippling fear of liver at lunchtime. If he hasn’t, the BSG and I think we’ve found the remedy.

We think this is one of the best pasta sauces we’ve had outside a restaurant. You can find it in the marvellous Bocca cookbook by Jacob Kenedy (the best argument for the onset of summer I can think of):

Serves 2  (or 4 as a starter)

200g chicken livers
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ small onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
150ml dry Marsala
100ml white wine (we used some leftover rose that was in the fridge)
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
40g butter

Heat a wide frying pan over a high heat until very hot and smoking. Toss the chicken livers in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of the oil and some salt and pepper, then pour into the hot pan making sure they are in a single layer. Fry for a couple of minutes without moving, until well browned on one side. Turn and fry the second side for 2 minutes, then transfer to a plate to cool. When cool enough to handle, chop the livers finely, and keep the juices.

Sweat the onion, celery and garlic in the rest of the oil with salt and pepper in a small saucepan over a medium-low heat. When very soft (after about 10 minutes), add the chopped liver and its juices and fry for a couple of minutes until heated through. Add the Marsala and wine and cook at a very gentle simmer until the sauce is very thick (almost like a pâté) with a little oil risen to the surface, for at least an hour. Add about 100ml of water during the cooking if it starts to dry out. Stir in the rosemary and remove from the heat.

Cook 200g dried or 260g fresh pasta according to the pack and re-heat the sauce in a wide frying pan. Drain the pasta, keeping a bit of the water and add to the sauce with the parsley and butter. Cook everything together for a few minutes or until the butter has melted and the pasta is well coated. Serve with grated Parmesan.


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