Venison Agnolotti with Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce
Portion/Yield:Serves 10 as a starter or light lunch, or serves 5 as a main course
I love making pasta! There is something pretty special, calming and personal about making pasta, and I find myself in my own little world when making, rolling and shaping pasta.
Many moons ago when I was working at a three Michelin-starred restaurant, I was lucky enough to have been ‘good enough’ to make the fresh pasta and raviolis, and I think my personal love for pasta comes from those days. Nowadays, I make it for us at home, especially when we have friends over for dinner, and I still find it amazingly satisfying to make.
We enjoy venison very much and over the years we have used venison shoulder in many recipes. At the pub in Suffolk we used to smoke the shoulder and use the meat for our award-winning Scotch eggs, sausage rolls, pasties and croquettes.
For this recipe, I use a pressure cooker to cook the meat as I find it very effective and much more efficient (but I do also include an oven-braising method in the Cook’s Notes for those who don’t have a pressure cooker).
Serve these tasty little agnolotti as a starter, antipasto or light lunch or simply serve double the amount as a main course. Enjoy!
Ingredients & Method
For the venison filling
- 500g boneless venison shoulder (in one piece)
- 1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
- 1 onion, roughly diced
- 1 stick celery, roughly diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 star anise
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 250ml chicken stock
- 30g dried porcini mushrooms
- 200ml hot water
- 1 tablespoon duck or goose fat
- 2 banana shallots, finely diced
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed parsley, chervil and chives
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the egg pasta
- 275g type ‘00’ pasta flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- a pinch of sea salt
- 3 medium egg yolks
- 2 medium eggs
- semolina, for dusting
For the arrabbiata sauce
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and roughly diced
- 2 carrots, roughly diced
- 2 onions, roughly diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- 2 tablespoons tomato purée
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- 800g canned chopped tomatoes (see Cook’s Notes)
- 250ml red wine
- 300ml venison stock (from cooking the meat)
For the garnish
- 15 cherry tomatoes or baby plum tomatoes, halved
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese and olive oil, to taste
First cook the venison shoulder for the filling using a pressure cooker (see Cook’s Notes). Season the meat with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in the pressure cooker pan over a medium heat, then add the seasoned meat and cook until it is well browned all over, turning occasionally. Remove the meat to a plate and set aside. Add the onion, celery, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, star anise and coriander seeds to the pan and sauté over a medium heat for 8–10 minutes or until golden brown. Return the meat to the pan and add the chicken stock. Secure the pressure cooker lid in place, increase the heat, bring the pressure cooker up to pressure, then cook for 1 hour.
Remove the pressure cooker from the heat and then choose the quick release option to release the pressure in the cooker. Once the pressure is released, remove the lid and remove the meat and liquid from the pan (discard the vegetables, herbs and spices). Pass the stock through a fine sieve, then measure out the 300ml required and set aside (see Cook’s Notes). Flake the tender meat and set aside.
Meanwhile, put the dried porcini in a bowl and pour over the hot water, then set aside for 30 minutes. Melt the duck or goose fat in a medium pan over a medium heat and sauté the shallots, with salt and pepper added, until transparent but not coloured, about 5–6 minutes. Drain the porcini (keep the soaking water for the sauce), chop them finely, then add the porcini to the shallots. Cook for a further 2 minutes, then add the flaked cooked venison. Remove from the heat and stir in the herbs, then taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Transfer the mixture to a suitable container and leave to cool, then cover with cling film and refrigerate.
Now make the egg pasta dough using a food processor. Some people might find this method unconventional, but provided you don’t overwork the dough and you process it in short bursts, the result is just as good as making the dough by hand.
Place the flour, oil and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse 2 or 3 times, until the oil and flour are just combined. With the motor running, add 2 of the egg yolks, one at a time (reserve the remaining egg yolk for glazing), followed by the whole eggs and blend for about 1 minute or until the dough forms a ball.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 4 minutes or until the dough becomes silky smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball, then wrap it in cling film and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
Next make the arrabbiata sauce. Place the red pepper, carrots, onions and garlic in a food processor and pulse-blend to form a purée (the purée doesn’t need to be entirely smooth). Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat, add the chilli flakes and cook for 30 seconds, then add the puréed vegetables, the tomato purée, sugar and salt and pepper and cook for 10–12 minutes, stirring regularly. In the meantime, pass the chopped tomatoes through a food mill (see Cook’s Notes), discarding the seeds and keeping the tomato pulp.
Add the wine to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, then add the measured venison stock, the reserved porcini soaking water and the tomato pulp along with a touch more seasoning. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook the sauce, uncovered, for 20–25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced and rich in colour and has developed a glossy sheen. Once cooked, keep the sauce simmering gently until you are ready to serve.
While the sauce is cooking, roll out, shape and fill the pasta. Roll out the pasta dough using a pasta machine, starting at the widest setting, and lightly dusting the pasta with flour as you roll it thinner and thinner, until you reach the thickness you desire. I like mine very thin, about 1mm thickness. Cut the pasta into squares using a 7cm fluted pasta cutter. Brush each square with the remaining egg yolk, then place a teaspoonful of the venison filling in the centre of each. Close each parcel to form an agnolotti-shaped parcel (see photo), enclosing the filling completely and pinching the edges together to seal, then place on a baking tray dusted with semolina while you shape and fill the rest of the agnolotti parcels.
Bring a large pan of salted water (for cooking the pasta) to the boil over a high heat. While you are waiting for the water to boil, bake the cherry tomatoes for the garnish. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6 and line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Gently toss the tomatoes in the oil and season with salt, then arrange them, skin-side up, on a (non-lined) baking tray. Use a blowtorch to scorch the skins until lightly blackened in places, then bake the tomatoes in the oven for about 5 minutes to soften them (but don’t let them lose their shape or collapse). Remove from the oven and keep warm. (If you don’t have a blowtorch, lightly grill the tomatoes under a preheated hot grill until they are blistered and softened.) At the same time, toast the pine nuts in the oven. Scatter them over the lined baking tray and toast in the oven for 2–4 minutes or until golden brown all over. Remove from the oven, cover with foil to keep them warm and set aside.
Finally cook the agnolotti. Add half of the pasta parcels to the pan of boiling water and cook for 4 minutes. Remove the cooked pasta using a slotted spoon, drain well, place in a warm bowl, cover with cling film and keep warm, while you cook the rest of the pasta in the same way. Remove and drain it as before, then toss all the cooked agnolotti in the bubbling hot arrabbiata sauce.
Serve immediately, serving 3 agnolotti and some arrabbiata sauce per portion. Garnish each portion with the baked cherry tomatoes and toasted pine nuts, then finish with some grated Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.
If you don’t have a pressure cooker, the meat can be braised in the oven instead. Brown the meat and sauté the vegetables as directed above. Transfer the vegetables and meat to an ovenproof casserole and pour over 500ml chicken stock. Cover with a lid, then braise in a preheated oven at 160°C/Gas Mark 3 for 2½–3 hours or until cooked and tender. Continue with the recipe as directed above.
If you have any leftover venison stock, leave it to cool, then store it in an airtight container in the fridge and use within 3 days, or freeze it for up to 3 months (defrost it before use). Use the stock to make a delicious gravy or for when making a game pie.
If you do not have a food mill, use 750g passata instead of the canned tomatoes (there is no need to pass the passata through a food mill).