Review: Spaghetti and rabbit meatballs

Total time:

2 hours



6 as a main course


Rabbit is available from Bristol Farms, Gelson's, Puritan Poultry at the Original Farmers Market, select Jons markets and Bob's Market in Santa Monica. (Puritan, Gelson's and Bob's Market will de-bone the rabbit if you call ahead.)

1 cup coarse country-style bread crumbs

1 (12-ounce) package uncured bacon, cut lengthwise into ½-inch pieces, divided

1 rabbit

1 egg

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

3/4 teaspoon white pepper, divided

6 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped, divided

3 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped, divided

Flour for dredging

1 cup finely chopped onion


1 cup chopped leeks (white part only)

1 clove garlic, minced (about 1½ teaspoons)

1 tablespoon minced shallot

3/4 cup dry white wine

1 (28-ounce) can diced San Marzano or other plum tomatoes

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1/4 cup finely diced carrots

1 pound spaghetti

1. Cover the bread crumbs

with water and set aside to soak.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet

over medium-high heat, cook half the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour off the bacon fat and reserve each in a separate bowl.

3. Cut up the rabbit:

First, separate the legs and loins from the body. Cut all the meat from the bone and cut away any silverskin and fat. Coarsely chop the meat: You should have about three-fourths pound. Place the meat into a food processor and pulse several times until it is coarsely ground, being careful not to over-process. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

4. Squeeze the water

from the bread crumbs and add them to the rabbit meat, along with the egg, one-half teaspoon salt, one-half teaspoon white pepper, 1 tablespoon parsley and 1 tablespoon sage.

5. Pulse the remaining bacon

briefly in the food processor, then add it to the bowl. Mix the ingredients thoroughly with your hands and then form the mixture into balls, using about 1 tablespoon for each meatball. Dredge the meatballs lightly with flour and set on a tray or baking sheet. This makes about 30 meatballs.

6. In a large skillet,

heat 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat over medium-high heat until the fat is hot and a few drops of water spit when sprinkled in. Brown the meatballs in two batches, turning with kitchen tongs so they brown evenly, about 2 to 3 minutes. (They will be brown but not cooked through.) Set aside on a tray or baking sheet covered with a paper towel.

7. Wipe out the pan

and add 2 tablespoons bacon fat over medium-high heat. Add the onions and leeks, turn down the heat to low and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and shallots and cook an additional 2 minutes. Deglaze with wine, then add the can of tomatoes plus the juice, rosemary, the remaining 2 tablespoons of sage, one-half teaspoon salt, one-fourth teaspoon white pepper, and the thyme sprigs. Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 30 minutes, checking and stirring the sauce occasionally.

8. After 30 minutes,

remove the pan from the heat and purée the sauce in a blender. Return the sauce to the pan, add the meatballs and the carrots and cover to coat. Cover the pan and simmer another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

9. Meanwhile,

in a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. After the meatballs have simmered 30 minutes, take the pan off the heat and cook the pasta. Cook the pasta to al dente, according to the package instructions, and drain. Serve the meatballs and sauce over the spaghetti, garnishing the plates with the cooked bacon and the remaining chopped parsley.

Each serving:

651 calories; 34 grams protein; 90 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 14 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 88 mg. cholesterol; 1,164 mg. sodium.