Pigeon with saffron risotto and cavolo nero

  • medium
  • 4
  • 2 hours 20 minutes
Not yet rated

A fragrant saffron risotto is topped with perfectly cooked pigeon, cavolo nero and wobbly little nuggets of bone marrow in this delicious dish from Francesco Mazzei. With a rich port sauce and shaved truffle to finish, it's a plate of food worthy for any celebration.

First published in 2019





Prepare the pigeons by removing the legs, discarding the large bones, along with the breasts, and set aside. Cut off the wings, then cut off and discard the wing tips. Reserve all the carcasses and bones for the sauce. You can ask your butcher to do this step for you if preferred
Preheat an oven to 80°C/gas mark ¼. Pour 250ml of the olive oil into an ovenproof saucepan, then add half the thyme, rosemary and garlic. Season the pigeon legs and wings with salt and pepper, then submerge them in the oil. Cook for 2 hours, or until the meat easily falls off the bones
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Sweat the onion, carrot, celery and remaining herbs and garlic in a little olive oil until soft. Increase the heat and add the pigeon carcasses and wing tips, then cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree, cook for 1 minute, then pour in the port and continue to simmer until reduced by half
Once reduced, add ice cubes to the liquid and lower the heat. Simmer for 1 hour, skimming impurities that rise to the top. Once the sauce has cooked for 1 hour, strain through a fine sieve into a clean pan and reduce until thickened
Remove the marrow bones from the iced water and scoop out the marrow. Wash under running water until no more blood runs from them, then cut into 8 equal pieces and set aside
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the cabbage hearts for 2 minutes. Drain and refresh in iced water, then drain and set aside to fry before serving
To make the risotto, sweat the chopped shallot in a little olive oil until soft. Add the rice and a couple of pinches of salt, along with half the saffron stems, and cook for 1 minute to toast the grains. Pour in the white wine and continue to cook until completely evaporated
  • 20g of shallots, finely chopped
  • 280g of carnaroli risotto rice
  • 150ml of white wine
  • 1g of saffron
Add the chicken stock to the grains a little at a time, just so it covers the surface of the rice. Stir constantly and once absorbed, add another ladleful. Continue this process for around 10 minutes, then add the remaining saffron and continue to cook until the grains are tender with a slight bite
  • 3l chicken stock, hot
Meanwhile, place a frying pan over a high heat with a little olive oil. Season the pigeon breasts with salt and pepper and sear, skin-side down, until crisp and light brown. Flip the breasts and cook for 40 seconds, then set aside in a warm place to rest
Remove the confit legs and wings from the oil and quickly fry in the same pan, along with the cabbage hearts. Set aside with the breasts, then finally gently cook the marrow until soft in the centre
When happy with the texture of the rice, beat in the butter and Grana Padano and taste for seasoning. To serve, divide the risotto between bowls. Halve the pigeon breasts and place two halves on each dish along with a leg and a wing, half a cabbage heart and 2 pieces of bone marrow, then pour the sauce around the edges. Finish with the shaved truffle, if using

Francesco Mazzei reminds us why we fell in love with Italian food in the first place, conjuring soulful dishes that put flavour first.

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