This dish is from Liguria, the coastal region in northwest Italy. This area is known for its abundant pine nuts, which make an appearance in this dish (fun fact: pesto, which relies heavily on pine nuts, is also from this region). Liguria also borders with the eastern side of France, and this dish shares French culinary staple — namely slow-braised meat in a wine sauce.
Cooking with rabbit can be intimidating to Westerners, but it’s actually quite simple. Just think of it like an oddly-shaped chicken, that’s made with all white meat. The hardest part is finding a whole rabbit, which you can often find at specialty butchers or Asian markets. They’re also available online, and my friends at US Wellness Meats regularly carry whole rabbits — just throw it in your box the next time you get an order of their incredible 75% lean grass-fed ground beef.
Coniglio alla Ligure - Ligurian Braised Rabbit (Gluten-free, Primal, Paleo, Keto-friendly)
1 whole (~3 lbs) rabbit, cleaned
1 tsp kosher salt, more to taste
½ tsp black pepper, more to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup chopped)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme, more to garnish
1 cup medium-bodied red wine (like Merlot)
~1 cup chicken stock
~15 small black or kalamata olives
¼ cup pine nuts
1. Break down the rabbit by severing the back legs at the hip joint, and the front legs at the shoulder joint; next, cut away the two torso flaps that start at the rib cage and run down to the hips, cutting alongside the backbone as you go. Next, remove the two saddle fillets, which are easy to find along the back below the ribcage – they are the meatiest parts of the rabbit other than the back legs. Finally, cut away any meaty portions you find along the back – there are four bite-sized chunks to be found. Place the meat in a bowl and season all over with the salt and pepper; use the remaining rib cage and backbone to make soup stock.
2. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the the back and front legs; brown until golden, about 3 minutes per side, then remove and set aside (browning the larger pieces will help them to become tender at the same time as the smaller pieces). Add the onion and saute until softened, about 6 minutes, then stir in the garlic and saute until aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in the bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme, then add all of the rabbit meat, the wine, and enough stock to reach ½ way up the rabbit, about 1 cup. Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce heat to low and gently simmer until the rabbit is tender, about 30 minutes.
3. Using tongs, remove the rabbit and set aside, and remove and discard the bay leaf, thyme, and rosemary. Increase heat to medium-high and reduce until thickened, about 5 minutes, then stir in the olives and pine nuts and rabbit to coat. Serve garnished with fresh thyme.