Lepre in agrodolce con cioccolato, arancia candita e pinoli – Sour-sweet hare with chocolate, orange peels pine nuts


A long but highly rewarding, sumptuous cold months dish (forgive the bad pictures). It takes about 8-10 hours cooking on a very low oven and there is some prep to be made the day before; once done, it must be let to cool down and then the meat is taken off the bone and the sauce reduced. The dish must rest for 24 hours and only then the most voluptuous sour- sweet condiment is added to the meat: as I said, not a last minute dish, but an intriguing one, firmly rooted in Italian “special occasion” home cooking. 

The day before you want to cook the dish, the cut up hare must be salted and its liver must be saved in lightly salted milk.  Cover the meat with a full bodied red wine, to which you add a couple of roughly sliced carrots, a couple of sticks of celery, a couple of medium onions, few fresh bay leaves, two cloves, a stick of cinnamon, a  pinch of freshly grated nutmeg,  a tablespoon of peppercorns, a fragment of star anice. Let the meat marinade for 24 hours, turning it once.

Place the meat and all the marinade in a large heavy casserole, add  a generous handful of chunks of fatty bacon Cover the meat with beef broth (I use supermarket ready made broth).

Place the meat in a cold oven,  set the thermostat to 100 C and forget it for about 6-8 hrs: I tend to do this late at night and check the meat in the morning. If the meat does not feel tender, put the dish back in the oven and cook it further. The meat must be fully tendere and come off the bone.The cooking time really depends on the state and age of the animal: I had hare whose meat was still tenacious even after 10 hours cooking.

Remove from the oven and let it cool down. Take as  much meat as possible off the bones and keep aside. Filter the juices through a musli cloth and reduce them by almost half. Pour them back onto the meat. Let the dish cool down and refrigerate overnight.

Now you have to make the agrodolce., the sour-sweet condiment This recipe for agrodolce comes from Good Things, by the great English author Jane Grigson:

melt one heap tablespoon of sugar in a heavy pan until it becomes pale brown, add 100 ml red wine vinegar and cook it for few minutes till syrupy. Pour into the casserole, add a handful of sultanas, a handful of toasted pine nuts, a little less of diced candied orange peel and about 15 grams of grated chocolate. Let the sauce simmer for few minutes, also adding the liver that you have already briefly cooked in butter and mashed with a heavy knife. Taste and correct the dish with salt, pepper, a little lemon juice and more chocolate if you think it is needed – but be careful: I once put too much and the chocolate took control of the whole dish, spoiling it. Let it rest for 30 minutes and serve on its own or with some boiled potatoes or polenta + some good bread and wine.

I have also made this dish with the more available wild rabbit (generally using two rabbit for one hare).






10 thoughts on “Lepre in agrodolce con cioccolato, arancia candita e pinoli – Sour-sweet hare with chocolate, orange peels pine nuts

  1. Like the others, I will have trouble sourcing wild hare, though farm raised rabbit is quite easily found here. I was just looking at a recipe for rabbit in agrodolce sauce and it could not be more different then your recipe. I guess it’s like many Italian recipes – every Nonna has her own.


  2. Hi Stefano – looks lovely. In fact, very close to the English jugged hare, for which you need the blood to thicken the sauce at the end – which means you need the hare in fur, as the blood is lost once it’s jointed. It is the gamiest of game to skin, nothing like a wild rabbit, really pongs! But the fillets can be taken off and reserved for a separate meal, and there are always left overs to serve as a dressing for tagliatelle or pappardelle. Really the king of game meats as far as I am concerned!


    1. Hi there, yes also in Italy hare is “the king of game” and not easy to find. Here in London I only very very occasionally find it at the farmers’ market (skinned, whole,bloody, unjointed)… most of the times it is wild rabbits though. It is a lovely dish, the only risk is that the animal is too gamey – it did happen and it was really too strong (in fact the last time it happend, the animal came from a reputable butcher, it had been hung for the appropriate time and yet… very strong tasting, which some palate might find dsagreeable)/ agree re: leftovers becoming pasta sauce for pappardelle


  3. Looks fantastic, Stefano. I’ve made something very similar, albeit less elaborate, with wild boar. Funnily enough, although I can source boar around here, hare on the other hand is impossible to find for love or money. Go figure… If I ever do locate one, however, I’ll be sure to try this.


    1. here in London, at farmers markets and good butchers, I can occasionally get hare but I have never seen wild boar… odd isn’t it…. this kind of sauce is sometimes also used for venison, if u like it (I find it too sweet, I mean the taste of venison’s flesh)


      1. I think it’s because we have plenty of hare (at least in certain parts of the UK – East Anglia, for example) so they make their way to London farmers’ markets, but there is basically no wild boar in the UK, unlike Italy where it is all over.


  4. Yes, it will take time, and yes, I’ll have to use rabbits rather than the unavailable hare, but this sounds like a food experience it would be sinful to miss! And the ‘work’ is done in easy stages 🙂 ! Jane Grigson ‘came’ before I began following many of the now well-known British chefs – her interesting agrodolce condiment sounds like a real keepsake . . .


    1. yes,,, there is a lot of unattending time here in this recipe…please check Grigson: her writing is splendid: she was warm, knowledgeable and funny… excellent recipes too of course. The Fruit and Veg Books would be a great start and then, of course, if u want to study English food.. her English Food book

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