Orecchiette with Venison Ragout, Roasted Chestnuts and Butternut Squash

Credit: Thomas Schauer

At db bistro moderne, my midtown Parisian-style bistro, I always like the menu to have a seasonal pasta where the meat, sauce, and pasta are all in tune. This recipe is a classic for the fall and is like a fortified version of Bolognese with the wonderful flavor of venison. Make sure to sear the pieces of meat before marinating and grinding. This way the sauce gets a nice roasted flavor and is not too gamey.

Using venison is an inexpensive way of incorporating delicious game meat into your menu, but you can also substitute lamb or beef if you wish. Orecchiette is made of only flour and water, so it has a great chewiness and bite. It is the perfect pasta because it’s easy to make; it doesn’t require a machine, you don’t have to be an expert to do it, and the little thumbprint cup you create in the dough perfectly captures the venison ragout.

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Instructions

Step 1: Pasta Dough

In a large bowl, stir together the flours and salt. Transfer to a clean work surface and form a well in the center. Add the water to the well and, with a fork, gradually stir to incorporate the flour from the outside in.

Once the dough begins to form, knead the dough until smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Cut off the ends of the dough and roll on a lightly floured cutting board to create a 1/2-inch (1.25 cm) wide rope. With a sharp knife, cut the rope into 1/2-inch (1.25 cm) pieces, separating pieces as cut so they are no longer touching.

Lightly toss the cut pieces with a little semolina flour. Put each cut piece of dough cut side down on the cutting board and flatten into a disc with your thumb. Then place the disc in the palm of your hand and form a depression by pressing the thumb of the other hand into the dough and twisting slightly. Repeat with all remaining dough to make orecchiette.

You can use dried orecchiette but be sure to boil a bit longer. The pasta should be cooked a little bit more than al dente, but still hold its shape and have a bit of chew.

Step 2: Venison Ragout

Season the meat on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a large sauté pan over heat. Sear the meat in a single layer just to color on one side but do not cook through (you may need to do this in batches).

Transfer the meat into a non-reactive container, such as Pyrex, and pour in the wines. Cover and marinate refrigerated overnight.

Remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry, reserving the marinade. Pass the meat through the coarse grind dye on a chilled meat grinder. Toss the ground meat with salt, freshly ground white pepper, and cloves.

Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed saucepan over high heat. Add the ground meat and sear until caramelized and golden brown. Add the celery, carrots, onions, and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato purée, season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Add the sage, rosemary, and red pepper flakes and continue to cook, while stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the reserved marinade and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Add the veal stock and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the liquid has reduced by half. Stir in the milk, heavy cream, and Parmesan cheese; season to taste with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Keep warm.

Step 3: Vegetables and Chestnuts

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, chestnuts, and squash to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add a splash of veal stock and cook for one more minute.

Combine with the venison ragout. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orecchiette and cook for 6 minutes, or until tender. Strain, add to the ragout with the parsley leaves, stir to coat. Serve ragout and pasta topped with shaved Parmesan and crispy sage leaves.

You can make the ragout up to three days in advance: It gets more delicious the longer the flavors marry together, but be sure to add the dairy, pasta, and vegetables at the last minute.

This recipe was originally published in "My Best Daniel Boulud" (Éditions Alain Ducasse). See all credits