This easy soup recipe is admittedly a bit rough around the edges. Rustic is probably the correct word but it’s also simple to make and the flavors of rabbit, rosemary, tomato, and pork are delicious together. It’s the tiny rabbit bones that can get a bit tedious when it comes time to eating it.
I’d been meaning to try this recipe from Italo Arieti’s cookbook, La Cucina della Tuscia (The Cuisine of Tuscia) for some time now, and finally gave it a whirl over the weekend as we had some rabbit in the freezer.
Tuscia refers to the area around the city of Viterbo near Lake Bolsena in central Italy. Tuscia originally referred to the area under the influence of the Etruscans and included all of Tuscany and large parts of both Umbria and northern Lazio. It’s also one of my favorite parts of Italy.
An easy two-hour drive north of Rome, it’s a convenient escape from the city. We like to run away there on the weekends, to play in the lake (the largest volcanic lake in Europe), explore wine and food (it has an exciting natural wine movement and a deep appreciation for all things pork and pecorino), and to scamper through ancient Etruscan caves and ruins deep in the forest. I’ve written a short guide with food and wine recommendations should you ever get a chance to visit.
I hesitate before posting a recipe with rabbit meat. The cuteness factor seems to run too deep in the United States but much of the rest of the world makes regular use of this healthy, climate-friendly protein, including Italy.
Rabbit meat is delicious. I’ve heard it described as having a taste similar to chicken but with a gamier flavor, which is true, but there is an elegance and complexity to it’s taste too. Rabbit tastes fancy to me, but maybe that’s just because I didn’t grow up eating it and first found it in fancy restaurants with a European influence.
Rabbit is common in Italy and for good reason too. It’s a lean meat that is rich in protein and low in fat, calories and cholesterol. It’s also more sustainable and environmentally friendlier than many other meats. Rabbits are quick to grow and reproduce and are well-suited to small-scale farming. As we look to move further away from our industrial meat industry, rabbit meat deserves a closer look.
Eater has a good article over here on why we should be eating more of this nutritious, climate-friendly protein.
When cooking rabbit, keep in mind that it is a lean meat and that it can easily become dry and tough. It’s great for long slow cooking in stews like this one. The Great British Chefs website has a fairly thorough overview on cooking with rabbit that’s worth checking out.
Rabbit soup (zuppa col coniglio)
This recipe is adapted from Italo Arieti’s cookbook, La Cucina della Tuscia.
- 1/2 a rabbit, cut in large pieces
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 50 grams (1.8 ounces) prosciutto fat or bacon, diced
- 1/2 cup of white wine
- 1 small can of tomatoes
- Vegetable or meat broth – if you don’t have broth, you can easily make some veggie broth by boiling some veggies in water or just use hot water
- 1 sprig rosemary
- Several sage leaves
- Salt and black pepper
- Olive oil
- 2-3 thick slices of rustic bread (1 for each bowl of soup)
- Cook the garlic and prosciutto fat or bacon in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat until the garlic is golden and the fat has been rendered from the pork.
- Add the rabbit, turn up the heat, and brown on all sides.
- Pour the white wine over the rabbit and cook until it evaporates.
- Add the tomato and enough water to cover the rabbit.
- Add the sprig of rosemary and sage leaves (you could also add this minced along with the garlic at the start) and season with salt and pepper.
- Cook over low heat, long and slow until the rabbit is cooked and becomes tender. Add more broth or water as needed.
- Place a slice of bread in the bottom of each individual serving bowl and top with rabbit and soup. If you used the full herbs, you should fish them out before adding to the bowls.
- Let rest for a few minutes before serving and add a drizzle of olive oil to the top of each bowl if needed.