Updated: Aug 26, 2021
In the American south, wild boar are an invasive species. Packs of feral hogs devour billions of dollars-worth of cash-crops annually, erode some of the most fertile agricultural soil in the country, and endanger livestock. This is an existential crisis for farmers throughout the Sun Belt, but fortunately, there's a solution: we should all eat more wild boar. Seriously, this is a problem that cooks can solve.
First, wild boar is delicious (recipe link). It's leaner than cultivated pork, so it's best prepared in stews or sauces; something low-and-slow. Also, since it isn't cultivated, you can rest assured that it lived a carefree and happy life traipsing through Mr. McGregor's garden, terrifying his children, as opposed to the horrors most pigs bound for the supermarket endure.
Second, we're not the only country that has encountered this problem. Italy has spent centuries dealing with packs of wild boar, and as a result, has developed a serious knack for wild boar sausages and pasta preparations, like the below recipe. We should follow their example and turn a problem into a delicious solution. When life gives you roving bands of 30-50 feral hogs...
This recipe is my adaptation of the traditional Bolognese sauce using wild boar. Notable differences include using port wine (I'm doing Dry January against the advice of my counsel and that's all we have kicking around the cabinet), and adding cream at the very end. I've never been to Bologna, but I understand that tagliatelle is the preferred pasta of choice for slurping down their eponymous sauce, and damn if it doesn't work perfectly.
2.5 to 3 hours
Dutch Oven or heavy-bottom, ovenproof pot
Food processor (optional)
1 lb. ground wild boar
1 large carrot
2 celery ribs
1 medium yellow onion
4 oz. pancetta, diced
28 oz. San Marzano tomatoes, hand-crushed
2 cups beef or chicken stock
3 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup red wine or port
about 2 oz. heavy cream
2 bay leaves
s + p
demi glace (optional)
pasta of your choice (I recommend tagliatelle)
1---Preheat the oven to 275F. Pull the wild boar, and allow it to come to room temperature. If not already in crumbles (i.e., bite-sized pieces), pull apart. Season with salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg. Chop the onion, carrot, and celery to make a "soffritto" (Italian mirepoix). The soffritto should be in very small chunks, roughly a quarter of an inch wide. Use a food processor to save time (and your hands). Set aside.
2---Over medium heat, add the diced pancetta to the still-cool pot. More fat can be rendered out of pancetta when it is allowed to heat with the pot. When the pancetta begins to brown and crisp (roughly after 5 minutes), use a slotted spoon to remove from the pot while reserving the fat, and set aside.
3---Add the wild boar to the pot to brown. Flip after about 5 minutes, or when the meat no longer sticks to the bottom and repeat to brown the other side of the meat. Remove and set aside.
4---Pour in the soffritto and stir to coat with the pancetta and boar fat, making sure to pick up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. After about 4 minutes, or when the veggies are soft, add the tomato paste, and stir to incorporate. Let cook for a minute. Then, increase the heat to medium-high, and pour in the red wine to deglaze. While the wine reduces, scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to release the brown bits.
5---When the wine has reduced by 2/3rds, turn the heat back down to medium, and add the tomatoes and stock. Give the sauce a good stir, add a pinch of salt as well as the bay leaves, and bring the sauce to a simmer. When simmering, cover the pot and place in the oven for about two-and-a-half hours.
6---After about two-and-a-half hours, pull the sauce from the oven and return to the stovetop over low heat. Remove the lid, stir the sauce, and pour in the heavy cream. Start by pouring-in a little heavy cream and continue to add more, if needed, to achieve your desired color and richness. Let simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
7---Bring a large pot of water to boil. When boiling, heavily salt the water, and add the pasta. In a sauté pan, add a few ladles of the Bolognese sauce over low heat. [OPTIONAL: if you have any frozen cubes of demi glace in your freezer, add one to the sauté pan and let it melt into the sauce]. When the pasta is nearly finished cooking, use a spider strainer or tongs to remove from the water and add to the sauté pan. Toss the pasta in the sauce for about 2 minutes. Serve with an extra spoonful of sauce atop the pasta and top with fresh grated parmigiano reggiano.