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Pasta al sugo di fegatini

"Eat your liver!" How many youthful tantrums have sprung from this simple instruction? For many of us, the food prejudices we form in childhood evolve into a lifelong aversion.

But here's a chicken-liver pasta dish from Piemonte, the Alpine foothills of Northwestern Italy, that might just tickle the fancy of the most dedicated liver-hater. And those of us who've managed to develop an affection for these tasty tidbits should need no further encouragement to give this hearty, flavorful dish a try.

It translates simply as "pasta with chicken-liver sauce." Like many traditional peasant dishes, you'll find many variations on the theme, but they all come down to a fairly simple procedure: Cook chopped chicken livers and onions with tomatoes and a dash of herbs until you have a thick, comforting sauce. Dress pasta and serve.

Here's the method I came up with after a bit of memory-jogging and Web-surfing yesterday. One useful resource, although I haven't yet had the opportunity to try their wines, was the Website of Fontana di Vita, a new Napa winery that produces Dolcetto and other Italian grapes. Their version was included in a full page of Italian recipes that's worth a visit:

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

1/2 medium onion
1 large clove garlic
4-inch sprig fresh rosemary
2 or 3 medium tomatoes
8 ounces chicken livers
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dried red-pepper flakes
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 ounces fettuccine, tagliatelle or other long pasta
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


1. Chop the onion rather coarsely and mince the garlic fine. Chop the rosemary leaves, which should yield about 1 teaspoon. Peel, seed and chop the tomatoes - you should end up with about 1 to 1 1/2 cups. Remove fat, membranes and any other unappetizing bits from the livers and chop them into fairly small dice.

2. Put 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a sautee pan over medium-high heat, then put in the chopped onion and garlic and a shake of the red-pepper flakes to taste. (This shouldn't be a fiery dish, but I like to use enough red pepper to give it a pleasant spicy note.) Cook briefly until the onions soften, then put in the chopped chicken livers, with salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring frequently, until the livers are browned.

3. Add the chopped tomatoes, the rosemary and the chicken broth. Stir, bring to the boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, as the ingredients meld into a thick, chunky sauce.

4. While the sauce is simmering, boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta as the package directs. Drain the pasta, put it in bowls, pour on the sauce, top with the grated cheese and drizzle on the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

MATCHING WINE: This Piemontese dish is traditionally served with Dolcetto, a prescription that I followed with great delight with the inky, bold and acidic Bera 2001 Dolcetto d'Alba. It should work with just about any robust and acidic red in the Mediterranean style.

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Thursday, Aug. 28, 2003
Copyright 2003 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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