2 small pheasant or chicken, backbones removed and quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 small bulb fennel, cored, outer layer removed and finely chopped
1 rib celery and leafy tops, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 large fresh bay leaf
5 or 6 cloves garlic (a bulb), crushed and chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
4 or 5 juniper berries (optional)
1 scant teaspoon red pepper flakes or ground pepperoncino
1 teaspoon smoked cinnamon or ground cinnamon
Herb bundle: 6 leaves sage and a couple sprigs each rosemary and thyme
¼ cup sundried tomato paste or tomato paste
1/3 bottle red wine, such as Rosso di Montalcino
2 ½ cups bone stock
One 1 ½-ounce container chicken demi-glace (optional)
1 ½ to 2 pounds pappardelle (6 to 8 servings)
1 ½ cups freshly grated pecorino cheese
Chopped pitted soft dates or chopped soft golden raisins
Toasted pine nuts
Chopped herbs: mint, parsley and fennel fronds
Serves: 6 to 8
Heat water for pappardelle.
Preheat oven to 325°F, with rack at center.
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, add oil and brown the birds 7 to 8 minutes on each side, then remove from pan.
Reduce heat to medium. Add carrot, fennel, celery, onions, salt and pepper and bay and soften 5 minutes more. Add garlic, oregano, juniper berries (if using), pepper of choice and smoked cinnamon. Add fresh herb bundle and stir. Mix paste and wine together and spill over veg. Add stock and demi-glace (if using) and simmer, covered with 2 layers of heavy foil, in oven 1 hour. Remove the birds and pull the meat into bite-sized pieces from their skin and bones. Simmer ragu on low while you cook the pasta.
Cook pappardelle a minute less than package directions in well-salted water. Reserve a cup of water when you drain or transfer it. Toss the pasta with sauce, more EVOO to emulsify and cheese and then transfer to bowl and top with dates or golden raisins, pine nuts and herbs.