Jen’s “Improved” Chicken Liver Ragu

By • December 13, 2009 • 19 Comments

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Author Notes: My husband is a cocktail geek, and many of his pre-prohibition era cocktail books have recipes for “Improved” versions of various classic drinks. I’ve made a basic chicken liver ragu for years now, and while it was always satisfying, I still felt like it was lacking something. Many cool weekend afternoons and tubs of chicken livers later, I have arrived at this "Improved" version, and I have to say I’m pretty darned happy with it. The missing link, of course, was pork – a bit of pancetta to add both fat and flavor to the livers, which can be a little dry on their own. This recipe makes a lot of sauce – about 5 cups worth – but it freezes really well. For 4 servings, I generally toss 2.5 cups of the sauce with about a pound of hot cooked pasta (wide ribbons like pappardelle, tagliarelli, or fettuccine, or a chunky shape like rigatoni all work well), adding a bit of the pasta water to help the sauce cling to the noodles. lastnightsdinner

Makes about 5 cups of sauce

  • 1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms + 1 cup boiling hot water
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 cup roughly chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped carrot
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 ounces chicken livers, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 1 ounce Italian (red/sweet) vermouth
  • 1 ounce dry red wine
  • 6 whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes (fresh or canned, about 1 cup)
  • 4 large fresh sage leaves, chiffonade (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 cup cup freshly grated Parmagiano Reggiano, plus additional for serving
  1. Soak the porcini mushrooms in the hot water until softened, about 20-30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the liquid, squeezing out the excess. Strain the soaking liquid through cheesecloth or a coffee filter to remove any grit, and set the strained liquid aside.
  2. Put the onion, carrot, and softened mushrooms in the bowl of a food processor and grind until they are chopped fine – you want the texture of a very chunky paste.
  3. Heat 1.5 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until brown and crisp. Add the remaining oil and the onion/carrot/mushroom mixture, season with salt and cook until the vegetables are very soft.
  4. Add the chicken livers and cook just until they have lost their raw color, stirring occasionally. Clear a space in the bottom of the pot and add the tomato paste, allowing it to toast for a minute before stirring it through.
  5. Add the vermouth and wine and let them bubble up, and then add the reserved mushroom soaking liquid. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with your fingers, then add the sage. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, then uncover and continue cooking for 20 to 30 minutes more, stirring occasionally and tasting to adjust the salt as needed (you’ll be adding cheese at the end, so don’t overdo it).
  6. Stir in the grated Parmagiano Reggiano off the heat and toss with your hot cooked pasta. Serve with additional grated cheese and a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley if you like.
Jump to Comments (19)

Tags: pasta, Ragu, sauce, savory

Comments (19) Questions (0)

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4 months ago sevenfaces

I am in awe of how this recipe has made me crave chicken livers. SO GOOD. Half an hour total cooking time produced a very thick ragu for me, so I slung in some of the hot pasta water to loosen it up; it coated and clung to the fettuccine very nicely indeed. Yummo!

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6 months ago Susan Joseph

Delicious, with ingredients on hand: bacon instead of pancetta, kumatoes instead of plum tomatoes, exotic fresh mushrooms (goldens) instead of dried porcini, marsala instead of sweet vermouth, much less cooking time, and a half recipe: good basic recipe.

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8 months ago Pittsburgher

I wanted to love this but something was off. Coulda been the livers --Whole Foods only had frozen Bell & Evans, so I used those. Made exactly as recipe says ...Husband did love it so maybe will give it a do-over.

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11 months ago daisy326

THIS! OMG this was so, so good. I made it last night and it will be a challenge to not make it every week. My husband and I almost put the whole thing down last night and we're fighting over the little bit of leftovers today. This will definitely be my go-to show off dinner party meal. Thanks for the recipe!

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12 months ago Pat Fox

Is there an adequate substitute for the sweet vermouth? I am somewhat reluctant to buy what would be a lifetime supply for one dish.

Pamelalee

12 months ago pamelalee

I haven't cooked chicken livers for years...maybe decades! I want to try this, but I'm not a pancetta fan. Would bacon work or would it ruin it? Thanks!

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6 months ago Susan Joseph

Bacon worked for me.

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12 months ago vrunka

this sounds amazing! I can't wait to try this!

Moi_1

12 months ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

love chicken liver and this looks like a winner! congrats on the wildcard!

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over 3 years ago dulcamara

Made this last week (with a couple minor variations) for my supposedly liver-averse girlfriend. She's now a convert. I can offer a 3rd-party confirmation here, this is a delicious recipe! I tossed it with fettuccine and served it alongside an arugula salad and Saveur's excellent arancine (http://www.saveur.com/article...). I'm definitely checking out your other posts, this one ends up in our "go-to file".

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over 3 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thanks so much! I'm so glad this worked out for you!

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over 3 years ago dulcamara

Made this last week (with a couple minor variations) for my supposedly liver-averse girlfriend. She's now a convert. I can offer a 3rd-party confirmation here, this is a delicious recipe! I tossed it with fettuccine and served it alongside an arugula salad and Saveur's excellent arancine (http://www.saveur.com/article...). I'm definitely checking out your other posts, this one ends up in our "go-to file".

Gizma_and_frou_frou

almost 5 years ago Cordelia

This sounds so great. I will try anything with liver. I make a lot of liver but usually not with pasta, this is one good idea that I will definitely try. I think I'll try with some duck fat (since my other half prefer me not using pork). Also I make kind of a liver ragu with caramelized onion and harissa. You should try that if you like liver. Thanks for posting!

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almost 5 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thanks, Cordelia! I bet duck fat would be fabulous in this (really, duck fat is fabulous in just about anything :) )

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almost 5 years ago sue4man

Jen, do you make the pasta or purchase it? I make a similar ragu and serve with saffron infused orecchiette (I add safrron to the cooking water) however the wide pasta noodles look fabulous.

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almost 5 years ago lastnightsdinner

Hi Sue - thanks! The pasta in the photo above is homemade. Your saffron orecchiette sounds wonderful!

Rev_upper_hand

almost 5 years ago Feeding Groom

I have made the 2007 version several times. It's one of Groom's favorites. I'm really interested to see what the pancetta does to it. I'll let you know!

Rev_upper_hand

almost 5 years ago Feeding Groom

Brilliant as usual. Can't wait to make this one!

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almost 5 years ago lastnightsdinner

I think the flavor and texture are better than the version I first put up on the blog in 2007, and it's really no more difficult to make - I do hope you let me know what you think :)