I recently came into possession of some turkey giblets. The whole deal had an undercover quality I loved. A chef friend was preparing Turkey Divan and had no use for them. But she extended the offer, sotto voce, perhaps because she wasn’t sure if I even liked turkey giblets. Her referring to them as “body parts” added to the intrigue. I confess: this wasn’t the first time I’d been involved in a deal like this.
Years before, when I lived in Boston, my upstairs neighbor had been a cook at Jasper’s on Commercial Street. Jasper White had created a culinary niche cooking upscale versions of classic New England dishes. From time to time, my neighbor called me at work, and in a conspiratorial tone, informed me that Jasper would be making his lobster rolls that evening. I’d then make a beeline to Jasper’s at the end of my workday, sit at his small bar, and make short work of at least one of those lobster rolls, which were well worth being part of any kind of conspiracy, real or imagined. But I digress…
Though few would place turkey giblets in the same class as lobster, they too have limited availability. They are not the kind of foodstuff readily available at the local supermarket unless they come packaged in a turkey. So my little “score” was a particular treat. And for me anyway, the destiny of poultry giblets is always preordained: Pasta con le Regaglie. (reh-GAHL-yay)
In the interest of full disclosure, I confess that, for many years, my attempts at Pasta con le Regaglie have ranged from dismal failure to merely mediocre. In fact, for a long time I felt like Charlie Brown kicking that football. Each time I tried it, I knew in my heart that it was going to be great. Each time, I wound up on my back.
The problem with giblets is their inherently gristly texture—about as appealing as elastic bands. It seemed that no matter how thoroughly I dissected the giblets, or how diligent I was in removing connective tissue, I couldn’t lose the gristle.
So I spent some time studying Italian recipes; it seemed my problems related to the length of time I cooked the giblets. It turns out, this dish wants to be cooked for a long time. And my love for Pasta con le Regaglie gave me the courage to give it one more try.
The dish captivated me decades ago at a trattoria in Rome and has haunted me since. But I believe that finally, with this recipe, I’ve captured it. The giblets create an intense, rustic and earthy tomato sauce, while the livers add creamy and sophisticated depth.
Despite the fact that Caterina de’ Medici—who spent some quality time as Queen of France—is said to have enjoyed a giblet ragù with cockscombs now and then, this dish is a supreme example of la cucina dei poveri, the cooking of the poor.
Pasta con le Regaglie
Pasta with Giblets
1 1/2 Lbs. Giblets (chicken or turkey)
2 Cloves garlic, peeled
1 Medium carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
1 Stalk celery, peeled and cut into chunks
1 Medium yellow onion, quartered
3 Tbs. Italian flat-leaf parsley, including stems
2 Oz. Pancetta, roughly chopped
2 Tbs. Extra-virgin olive oil
1 Cup dry white wine
1 28 Oz. Can crushed or diced Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
1/2 tsp. Crushed red pepper flakes
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 Lb. Rigatoni, or other large tubular pasta (cavatappi, penne, mostaccioli)
4 Tbs. Flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
Freshly grated Pecorino-Romano
Remove all connective tissue, visible fat, and silverskin from the hearts, gizzards, and livers. Chop into very fine dice and reserve.
Place the garlic, carrot, celery, onion, parsley with stems, and pancetta in the bowl of a food processor and pulse ten or more times for about one second for each pulse. The resulting mixture is known as a batutto.
Heat a four quart pot over medium heat, then add the oil. Add the batutto and cook for approximately ten minutes, until the vegetables have softened and the pancetta has rendered its fat. Lower the heat if the vegetables begin to color.
Add the giblets to the pot, and continue cooking, shaking the pot from time to time, until the giblets have lost their pinkish color.
Raise the heat to high and add the wine. Continue cooking over high heat until the wine is reduced by half.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the tomatoes and the red pepper flakes. Adjust heat so the sauce simmers gently; season with salt and pepper. Simmer, with the pot-lid slightly ajar, for approximately one hour, or until the sauce has thickened and any clear liquid has cooked off.
Approximately fifteen minutes before serving time, bring a large pot with salted water (at least six quarts) to the boil. Add the pasta and cook until it has just reached the al dente state. Remove from the heat and drain in a colander.
Divide the pasta equally among four plates and pour a ladle or two of sauce over each portion. Garnish with the remaining parsley and pass the Pecorino-Romano separately at the table.