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Linguine with Ragu Bianco and nose-to-tail tales

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When Marion and I visited Rob at his butcher shop to discuss the nose-to-tail trend, he reminded us of a dish he often served at Mado, ragù bianco. This traditional Italian “white” sauce (white only in the sense that it doesn’t have tomatoes in it and therefore isn’t a red sauce) has many variations, but most use more than one kind of ground meat. Rob’s version combined ground pork trimmings – the various leftover muscle parts that don’t neatly divide into chops or ribs or hams and such – and ground pork liver. Before we left The Butcher & Larder, we acquired a half pound each of ground pork and ground pork liver to make our own ragù bianco.

Liver lends the dish a nice gamey complexity that the ground pork alone wouldn’t deliver. Fresh fennel, wine, and cream help tame the overall liver flavor. Carrots are often an ingredient in this ragù; I substituted mushrooms cooked in brandy to add an earthier note. Also, I substituted linguine for the more traditional penne pasta. Feel free to ignore this switch.

Linguine with Ragù Bianco
Serves 4

1/2 pound sliced mushrooms (I used crimini)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

olive oil

1/4 cup brandy (cheap stuff will do just fine) [editor's note: substitute with 1/4 cup fruit syrup]

1/2 pound ground pork

1/2 pound ground pork liver (see Kitchen Notes for substitutes)


1 fennel bulb, diced, about 1-1/2 to 2 cups (see Kitchen Notes)

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