In the last few days we have driven from one side of Sardinia to the other, been on an 8 hour boat journey back to the mainland, stayed in 4 different villages, had terrible internet reception, and driven some more. So sending this blog post out to you all, is a little delayed. We wrote and developed this recipe about a week ago, when we were still in Sardinia! Enjoy.
It’s amazing here. It’s wild. It’s free. And it’s traditional. The food is seasonal, just by default. You don’t make a big deal of it. It just is what it is. And everything tastes so good.
We are staying in a little town, about half way down Sardinia. It’s in the hills and is super Mediterranean. They call Matt “Jayzeus” (Jesus) and me Mary Poppins. I like their sense of humour.
Overwhelmingly, everything is as you would expect. It’s like stepping back in time. Into a traditional village. Something we have been writing, learning, researching and talking about for years. As you may know, it is what our last book is based on.
And here, they truly live it. They live the good life. And again, it’s no big deal. It’s just the way it is.
There are many small farms. An acre is considered very big. There are small flocks of indigenous sheep everywhere too, and most of their cheese is made from sheep’s milk. They eat an abundance of cheese, salami, locally farmed and wild meats, fresh fruit, vegetables and a unique kind of flat, crisp bread. It is so much of what we have always talked about:
If they don’t grow it, they buy it from the village store or local market.
They siesta every day from about 1.30-4 (ish).
They hang out with their families and friends in the afternoon.
And then they eat more cheese.
The other night we went out to eat at a local restaurant, and had honestly one of the best meals we have ever eaten in our lives. And it was so simple.
It was fresh pasta, with a minced wild rabbit and white wine sauce. They call it ragu bianca - white ragu. So simple, but so tasty.
And that meal inspired this soup.
We wanted to make a super simple “one pot wonder” kind of minestrone, that was super easy, used local ingredients, and captured the traditional flavours of a minestrone. This dish is completely seasonal. There is wild meat and wild vegetables we have gathered, and local ingredients either from the garden where we are staying or the local market. I love this meal. It’s almost like you can taste your surroundings. It’s grounded, it’s nurturing and it’s super nutrient dense. And this is a dish that tastes even better the next day.
The secret to this dish (to any great minestrone we’ve learned), is the chunk of pecorino (aged is best). This is the key. For years I wondered. Now I have it. And so do you.
We shared this with a Sardinian local for lunch one day. And she just couldn’t believe our adaptation of such a Sardinian style dish. She asked if it was an experiment. Because in Sardinia, rarely do you stray from the traditional recipe of a dish and never had she heard of rabbit in a minestrone. We laughed, dished it up to her, and she loved it.
Everything in this dish is available in both spring/early summer (here in Italy) or winter (in Australia). And rabbit is available at the markets or good butchers, but if you can’t find rabbit, you can replace it with pasture-raised, happy chicken. You can also adapt the ingredients with seasonal vegetables so you can enjoy it year round wherever you are!
Serves 6 // Time 3 hours approx.
¾ cup dried white beans, pre-soaked in water with a big pinch of salt for about 12 hours, soak-water discarded *(See note)
Good olive oil
400g (2 medium) onions, finely diced
80g (1 small bunch) parsley, chopped super finely, separating leaves from stems
4 cloves garlic, crushed
10g (about 10 sprigs) rosemary, leaves stripped from stems, finely chopped
650g rabbit, cut into about 6 large pieces
165ml (2/3 cup) white wine
50g (1 large chunk) pecorino cheese
300g (about 6 medium) carrots, finely diced
300g (about 4 large stalks) celery, finely diced
350g (2 medium) potatoes, finely diced
250g (2 medium) turnip roots, finely diced
1 teaspoon sea salt, ground
2L spring water
100g wild greens or chard/silverbeet, finely chopped *(See note)
Pecorino cheese, grated
Quality red wine
Place a large pot on low-medium heat. Add a really big splash of olive oil, a big pinch of black pepper, the onion, and parsley stems. Sweat for about 5-10 minutes until the onions soften.
Add garlic, rosemary, and rabbit pieces. Brown the rabbit, for 5-10 minutes, until just beginning to brown, stirring occasionally.
Increase the heat so the pot is hot and add the wine. Allow the pot to simmer and deglaze for 5 minutes (or less if liquid dries up earlier). Add all remaining ingredients, except for the wild greens and parsley leaves.
Cover and bring to the boil. A foam will form on the surface (this is the difficult to digest proteins from the beans). Skim this off with a slotted spoon, add the parsley and greens, cover again and continue to simmer for at least 2.5 hours.
When ready, your soup should have a rich flavour, and the beans should be butter soft.
Serve hot, with a splash of olive oil, a sprinkling of fresh parsley, freshly grated pecorino and a generous glass of red wine.
*A little guide to traditional bean preparation on the blog here.
If you leave this soup to sit overnight, it will taste even the better the next day!