My version of Maltese Rabbit Sauce for Pasta

I’ve been threatening to recreate the Rabbit Spaghetti dishes of my dim and distant youthful holidays in Malta for some time. I used to love visiting Rita’s in Ghar Lapsi every trip; bearing in mind this was in the ’60’s and ’70’s though. 🙂

Rabbit is not such a common meat here in the UK, but is increasing in popularity again and seeing some in the butchers, I just could not resist buying a few and stashing them in the freezer until I had time to fiddle in the kitchen.

Now, one reason why I wanted to create my own version, is although I know this should be a rustic meal, finding small bones, chewy tendons and bits of what can only be described as inner tubing of the rabbit, isn’t something that is enjoyed by many folks, including me. On recent trips to Malta, the rabbit spaghetti has had a delicious taste, but slightly ruined for me by finding little surprises in my mouth.

So the recipe I’ve come up with, takes a little time, but isn’t really difficult.

A day or two before you want to serve the spaghetti, prepare the rabbit meat. It can all be done on the same day, but a little sitting does improve the flavours!

2-3 rabbits whole or jointed is fine
Bottle of red wine – yes a whole one.
Large onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 inch long stick of ginger grated
2 heaped teaspoons of fennel seeds
Teaspoon of hot curry powder
3 bay leaves
Sea Salt and pepper

In a large oven proof casserole, brown the onions, garlic and spices on the hob. Once the onions are translucent, add the rabbits, browning a little.

Pour in the wine, add the bay leaves and a grind of salt and pepper; make sure the rabbits are well covered, topping up with stock if needed. Cover.

Put in a low oven until the rabbits are soft – about 4-5 hours. Let the rabbits cool in the juices and then strip the meat carefully from the bones. Strain the juices through a sieve and pour over the rabbit to keep it moist until you are ready to make the sauce.

From this amount of meat, you will get enough rabbit meat to make a large pot of sauce which will feed about 12 of make extra for the freezer. You can also make rabbit terrine or pie if the mood takes you!

To make my version of Maltese rabbit sauce for spaghetti you will need:

2 tins of good Italian tomatoes or equivalent of passata if you prefer – about 800g
Cooked, shredded rabbit meat
Juices from the casseroling – reduced by half
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
2 red onions, finely sliced
3 carrots, peeled and finely diced
Teaspoon sweet paprika
Teaspoon fennel seeds
Teaspoon celery seeds
Teaspoon hot curry powder
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
2 bay leaves
2 cups of frozen peas
A few chopped black olives
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

In a large pan, gently sweat the onions, carrots and garlic, along with the spices and bay leaves. Once cooked down, add the tomatoes, cooking juices and rabbit, simmering slowly for about an hour or until the carrots are very soft. It can take a couple of hours sitting on the hob on a very low heat.

15 minutes before serving, add the peas and chopped olives to the sauce and test the seasoning. In a separate pot, cook spaghetti or linguini as you like according to the instructions.

To serve, combine the drained pasta with a good amount sauce, but don’t ‘over-sauce’ (you can serve extra sauce in a bowl if you like).

Make sure there is plenty of fresh grated parmegiano reggiano and crusty bread to go with it. And a glass of a robust red!

It’s not a perfect recreation of my youthful pastas. But it’s pretty wonderful.

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