This weekend we had friends over for dinner and Meg & I served this pasta dish as an appetizer along with incredible roast pork tenderloin and apple sage sauce that was delicious – moist with plenty of flavor. Might even register as a “Good As It Gets” recipe. I’ll post the recipe for the pork dish in the next week or so plus tell you where you can watch it being prepared via video.
As part of my Reluctant Gourmet Cookbook Challenge, I suggested looking for recipes from cookbooks you haven’t used in a while, but I just purchased the new Chef Marc Vetri cookbook, Rustic Italian Food, and couldn’t wait to give it a spin. This recipe for Rigatoni with Chicken Livers is served at Marc’s Osteria restaurant here in Philadelphia, and I have been told it’s their most popular request. I know I order it as a table appetizer every time we dine there.
I’m Not Eating Chicken Livers
I understand some of you may be turning up your noses with the idea of cooking and eating chicken livers, and I understand where you are coming from but this one is really worth a try. If you like liverwurst, liver pate (be sure to check out my Chicken Liver Pate Recipe also from Vetri), foie gras or any organ meat dishes, you are going to love this.
And if you don’t think you are going to like it because of the chicken livers, give it a try anyway to broaden your culinary repertoire. Maybe start with a little liverwurst, muenster cheese and spicy mustard on a hard roll and go from there.
We doubled up Marc’s recipe since we had 7 adults to serve, and it was great. Everyone enjoyed it, but the dish was not as creamy as I remembered it at Osteria. Next time I would add a little more pasta water and Parmesan cheese at the end to make the sauce creamier as Chef Marc suggests.
What’s really amazing is how affordable a dish like this is. Chicken livers sell for less than $2 per pound and Marc’s recipe calls for ½ pound. Yeah, the cipollini onions are more expensive, but you could easily substitute yellow onions. Be sure to buy quality Parmesan cheese and grate it yourself to assure freshness. And of course you want to use fresh sage, not dried.
So for this Recipe Challenge, I offer you
Cipollini Onions – Great for roasting and very sweet
Cipollini Onions Sliced
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese and Fresh Sage
Chicken Livers – Not much to look at but very tasty when prepared right
Ok, now it’s starting to look very delicious!
Rigatoni with Chicken Livers Recipe
14 ounces dry rigatoni pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus some extra for the sauce
8 small cipollini onions, peeled and thinly sliced into rings (I had a terrible time trying to peel the onions and did my best but because the skin was so thin, I didn't get crazy trying to remove it all. See below for an onion peeling trick I just learned.)*
12 fresh sage leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper - to taste
8 ounces chicken livers, minced
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese with extra to serve at table
How To Prepare At Home
Tip: To peel cipollini onions, which can be a bit of a royal pain sometimes, cut an X on the bottom of each one and blanch for about a minute in boiling water. Shock in an ice bath. The skins will slip right off.
Start by bringing a large pot of water to boil to cook the pasta. Many home cooks, including myself, underestimate how long it takes to (1) bring the water to boil and (2) cook the pasta. We end up with a finished sauce waiting for the pasta to cook.
Get the water boiling before you need to throw in the pasta. And don't forget to season the water with a little salt.Add the pasta and bring the water back to a boil and cook until al dente (tender yet firm).
While the pasta is cooking, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a large fry pan (sauté pan) big enough to hold both the sauce and the pasta over medium-high heat. Now add the cipollini onions and sage and cook until the onions are lightly brown. This should take 3 to 4 minutes.
Season the onions and sage with salt and pepper and add the minced chicken livers. These cook quickly, about a minute or two. Add a ladle full of the pasta water using it to deglaze, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen up anything stuck to it.
When it's time to drain the pasta and add it to the sauce, be sure to reserve a cup of the pasta water in case you need it when making the sauce. Pasta water, full of starch from the pasta, is a great way to help the sauce stick to the pasta.
Add the pasta to the saucepan and toss with the Parmesan cheese, some of the reserved pasta water and additional butter. Judgment time. If you think you need more sauce or it is not creamy enough, add a little more of the pasta water.
You can also add more butter but don't overdo it. I think restaurants are using way too much butter in their sauces, but that is another topic for discussion.
Serve in a large bowl family style or divide among individual bowls and serve with the extra Parmesan cheese as a garnish. It is also a great idea to warm the bowls before adding the pasta to keep everything warm.
I hope you give this one a try even if you are not a big fan of liver. There is tons of flavor and the chicken livers do not overpower the dish. And of course, be sure to check out Chef Vetri's new cookbook Rustic Italian Food.
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