James Street Cookery School: Penne with pine nuts and aubergine, rabbit ragu

Penne with pine nuts and aubergine
Niall McKenna

WE LOVE chatting to everyone who partakes in our classes at the Cookery School and something that we hear time and time again is how much they relish the opportunity to use cooking as a switch-off mechanism.

Being able to focus on something relaxing and enjoyable – and with a delicious end result – is a great way to distract the mind from the stresses of the day.

For that reason, this week's recipes are two fantastic, quick dishes that will be loved by family, friends or just keep to yourself.


(Serves 4)

400g aubergine, skinned and finely chopped into bite-size pieces

25g pine nuts

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

3 tblsp concentrated tomato paste

10 large capers, salted or brined but drained from juice and chopped

1 small chilli, finely diced

20 black olives, pitted

400g penne pasta

60g Pecorino, grated

90ml extra virgin olive oil


Chop the aubergine and place in water with a teaspoon of salt for up to an hour to soften the flesh. Remove from water, squeeze the flesh and pat dry.

Place a little of the olive oil in a pot and heat; add the garlic and cook until brown. Add the pine nuts, tomato paste, capers, chilli and olives and cook for a further 10 minutes on a medium heat. Add a little more olive oil if the mix becomes too dry.

Place the pasta in a separate large pot of boiling water and cook until al dente. Strain and drain once cooked and mix with the sauce. Serve with the grated Pecorino.


(Serves 4)

4 rabbit legs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


2 onions, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 sticks celery, diced

1 tsp crushed garlic

100ml canned tomatoes, peeled with juice

2 bay leaves

1 sprig thyme

1 sprig rosemary

1 tsp crushed red pepper, or to taste

1 tsp dried oregano

50ml chicken stock

1 pound of dried pappardelle pasta

Parmesan to taste


In a pan, heat three tablespoons of olive oil. Season the rabbit pieces with salt and pepper, dredge them in the flour and shake off any excess. Add to the pan and cook until golden brown – about five minutes per side.

Transfer the rabbit to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium; add the remaining olive oil, onions, garlic, carrots and celery and cook until vegetables are caramelised, stirring occasionally, usually about five minutes. It's important to caramelise the vegetables slowly; this is the basis of the sauce.

Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, crushed red pepper and oregano, cooking for an additional three minutes. Add the rabbit back to the pan along with the chicken stock; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until rabbit is very tender – about 45-55 minutes.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente and drain. Toss with a bit of olive oil and salt, to taste. In a large mixing bowl, toss with the rabbit ragu. Season and mix well. To serve, mound on to serving plates and garnish with grated Parmesan.

(Alternatively, once the rabbit is tender, removed from the sauce, shred the meat from the bone and return to the sauce.)

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