I was perusing old issues of La Cucina Italiana last night looking for dinner ideas. I am still pissed at Condé Nast for folding the US version of the magazine. It was the best food magazine out there – and puts Bon Appétit to shame. I still get the La Cucina emails – in Italian – and get some good recipes – also in Italian – but it’s just not the same as getting the magazine and drooling over what’s going to be the next meal.

I especially miss Victor’s recreation of the Pasta Issues – where he would make the majority of the recipes from scratch with fresh pasta. They were some good-eating years.

The magazine is no more but I do have my dozen or so issues I had saved, so out they come now and again, for inspiration.

The inspiration for tonight’s dinner came from a recipe from the 2011 Pasta Issue – Mafaldine al Ragù di Coniglio – Mafaldine Pasta with Rabbit.

I’ve had rabbit many times and really enjoy it, but it’s not all that easy to find out here in ‘burbia. Well… other than hopping through the yard, that is… but I prefer my lapin already dressed, thankyouverymuch.

So, fresh out of Thumper, I did have lamb sausage and a small pork loin end – perfect substitutes.


One of the things that intrigued me about this recipe was using a teaspoon of cocoa powder in the sauce – and a half-cup of milk. Two ingredients I usually don’t associate with Italian pasta dishes. But both of them did their magic. This sauce totally rocks!

I used D’Artagnan Lamb Merguez Sausage because I wanted a bit of an earthy flavor to kinda mimic the rabbit. If I didn’t have the sausage, I’d probably drop in a couple of chicken livers. Not a lot – just something for a bit of back-flavor.

Pasta with Lamb Sausage and Pork

  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Fine sea salt
  • 8 oz Lamb Merquez Sausage – removed from casing and crumbled
  • 2 lb pork loin – cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound mafaldine or pappardelle – or farfalle
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and water. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil until hot. Add onion, celery, and carrot; cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes, then stir in parsley and a pinch of salt. Add the meats and cook, covered, about 10 minutes. Add cocoa mixture, wine, and milk. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a gentle simmer and cook, covered, until pork is tender – about 1 1/2 hours.

Remove from heat. Shred pork and return to skillet.

Cook pasta according to package instructions. When pasta is cooked, drain and add to ragù, mixing well. Add cheese and mix well.

Check for seasoning and add additional salt and/or pepper, as desired.


This is definitely one of those times I wish technology could allow for scents to be embedded in web pages. Not only did this taste fantastic, it filled the house with a really rich aroma. It was ridiculously simple to make – and I know I’ll be making variations for years to come!