Recipe: Partridge and truffle ragu

Partridge pasta by Charlotte Smith- Jarvis. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Partridge pasta by Charlotte Smith- Jarvis. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Make the most of the game season with this delicious ragu sauce and pasta dish.

This week is effectively part deux of my love letter to Umbria, following on from my crostata recipe last week. The flavours and ingredients of this region of Italy resonate with me and are so appropriate for eating at this time of year. Think petite dark lentils, wine, cream, wild boar, game birds, truffles.

Having said all that, one of the most memorable things I ate during my travels was a hearty bowl of the local eggless pasta, umbricelli, simply tossed in olive oil and seasoning, with a layer of locally produced lardo (ham fat – but much more delicious than it sounds) draped on top. This was eaten in the basement of a former convent in Corciano, which is one of the most charming, almost film set-esque hilltop villages of the region.

I can't get lardo locally, so this week I'm settling on my second favourite bowl of food eaten in Umbria – game ragu.

Wild boar and game birds are par for the course when eating in the mountainous countryside of middle Italy. Forget everything you thought you knew about ragu though – especially those jars of tomatoey pap in the supermarket.

True ragu is a slow braised marriage of meat, wine, herbs and vegetables. Occasionally there'll be a spoonful of tomato puree, but that's it. Pasta is tossed through the savoury, melting liquor and the whole thing is dressed with Parmesan and usually a drizzle of black truffle oil.

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I've used partridge breasts for this recipe, which should start to come into butchers and the better supermarkets about now. Or look out for the Wild Meat Company. Pheasant or duck would work well too, but partridge has a sweet, distinctive flavour which shines out through the other ingredients and stands on its own. Leaner and so much more interesting than chicken or beef.

From start to finish this plate should take no longer than 20 minutes. Use a fruity wine in the cooking that you'd be happy to drink on its own. I used Pandora from Shawsgate Vineyard in Suffolk, but Flint Vineyard's Bacchus would be fantastic too. Adnams is currently selling the wine in its stores as its own-brand labelled Bacchus.

Partridge and truffle ragu

(serves 2)


1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 stick celery, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, finely chopped

6 rashers smoked streaky bacon, chopped

200ml white wine

4 partridge breasts, chopped into small pieces

Flour for dusting


120ml single cream

1tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

Truffle oil and Parmesan to finish

Fresh linguine to serve

1tbsp each butter and oil for frying



Melt the butter and oil on a medium heat and add the carrot, celery, onion and bacon. Cook on a low to medium heat until the vegetables are very soft but not coloured.

Add the wine and sizzle to reduce by two thirds.

Place your pasta (about 180g to 200g) onto boil (cooking according to packet instructions).

Toss the partridge in seasoning and flour.

Move the vegetables to one side in the pan and add the partridge. Saute for a couple of minutes then mix with the vegetables.

Add the cream and rosemary, lower the heat and cook for a couple of minutes.

Drain your pasta, retaining 2tbsps water. Toss pasta through the sauce. Serve and finish with shavings of Parmesan and a drizzle of truffle oil.

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