Fricasseed Rabbit with Herbs, Tomato, and White Wine

Coniglio in Fricassea con Pomodori, Gli Odori, e Vino Bianco

In most of Italy’s regional cuisines, herbs have a limited role. They are a little like the cymbals player in an orchestra, called upon to supply punctuation but not to carry the melody. The most prominent exception to this austerely restrained style is the cooking of the Italian Riviera. This rabbit with sage, rosemary, and basil is a good example of the unbuttoned use of herbs that gives the cooking of the Riviera a provocatively fragrant appeal that has no equivalent among the food of other Italian regions.


  • 1 cup wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • A 3 to 4-pound rabbit, cut into 7 or 8 pieces
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ pound pancetta cut into ¼-inch dice
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup carrot, cut into ¼-inch dice
  • ½ cup celery, cut into ¼-inch dice
  • cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup fresh, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or canned Italian plum tomatoes, cut up with their juice
  • Chopped sage leaves, teaspoons if fresh, 1 teaspoon if dried
  • A small sprig of fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons chopped dried leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
  • Black pepper ground fresh


  1. In a bowl that can contain all the rabbit pieces, put the vinegar and 3 tablespoons of salt, stirring to dissolve the salt.
  2. Wash the rabbit in cold water and put it in the bowl. Pour in enough water to cover, and let the rabbit steep thus in a cool place for 3 to 4 hours. If you want to start this procedure the previous day, refrigerate the rabbit overnight.
  3. Drain the rabbit and pat all the pieces thoroughly dry with kitchen towels. Choose a lidded skillet or sauté pan large enough to accommodate later all the rabbit pieces without overlapping. Put in all the olive oil and turn on the heat to high. When the oil is hot slip in the rabbit. Turn the pieces over until you have browned them all on every side. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer the rabbit to a platter or bowl.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium high and put the diced pancetta in the pan. Stir to brown it lightly all over, then put in the chopped onion. Stir two or three times and when the onion has become colored a light gold, put in the carrot and celery. Cook, stirring from time to time, until they too become lightly colored.
  5. Return the rabbit pieces to the pan together with any juices they may have shed. Add the wine, and scrape loose any cooking residues from the bottom of the pan, using a wooden spoon. Add the chopped tomato, sage, rosemary, and basil, and sprinkle salt all over together with liberal grindings of black pepper. Turn all ingredients over once or twice, cover the pan, turn the heat down to low, and cook for about 1½ hours, until the rabbit feels tender when prodded with a fork. Should it become necessary to replenish the cooking juices during the cooking, add up to cup water. By the time the rabbit is done, however, there should be no runny liquid in the pan, just a little bit of dense juice.