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Italian Cuisine in Historic Wine Country- The town of Sonoma, located 45 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge, is the region’s largest producer of California wines. It is also acclaimed for its incredible culinary feats. This past month I had the opportunity to attend a cooking class that brought my taste buds back to when I lived in Italy.

My days in Tuscany were filled with amazing wild game dishes ranging from rabbit, to boar, to duck. Fast forward many years later and my career landed me and my then newly wedded husband in New Zealand. Farmed deer, or Cervena as it is commonly known, was typical to find on the dinner menu. I had never had it prepared as wonderfully as I had in New Zealand … until I tried Chef Ghilarducci’s red deer venison loin. Each dish that he and his wife, Gia, prepared was a treat to devour. The recipes while complex in flavor were simple to prepare.

The backdrop for the class was the DEPOT HOTEL RESTAURANT and GARDEN, built in 1870, just two blocks from the Sonoma Plaza. It was originally the local hotel for 19th century passengers arriving on the train from San Francisco. The original owners also opened an Italian restaurant and “saloon” here in 1890 to serve the townspeople of Sonoma and their visitors. Today the kitchen features Mediterranean-inspired cuisine prepared by acclaimed Chef/Proprietor Michael Ghilarducci. In 1987 Chef Ghilarducci and his wife Gia founded the DEPOT HOTEL RESTAURANT cooking school, Scuola Rustica, and have been teaching cooking classes here in Sonoma ever since.


I couldn’t wait to taste the featured menu for ‘Wild Game – Italian Style’.


And while I know not everyone will be able to rush out to get a slab of wild boar, another good substitution would be ground lamb. The point is the sauce is lovely; this is a dish that can be done ahead of time and be at the ready when your guests arrive. I am sure it will quickly become one of your new signature dishes.


Pasta With Wild Boar Sauce ~ Penne Al Ragu Di Cinghiale


3 TBS olive oil

2 lbs wild boar meat, leg meat preferred, coarsely ground (ask the butcher to grind it)

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

1 large carrot, finely chopped

1 large stalk celery, finely chopped

1 TBS garlic, finely minced

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 1/4 cups plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (if not available use 8 oz San Marzano canned tomatoes)

6 fresh sage leaves, roughly cut

2 whole bay leaves

salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 lbs penne pasta

1/2 cup Grana Padano, freshly grated


In a large pot, over medium high heat add the olive oil and the boar meat. Stir the meat regularly until browned. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook for approximately 5 minutes. Add the red wine and the garlic and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, add the tomatoes, sage and bay leaves. Simmer for one hour and adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

When ready to serve bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and mix with the sauce. Serve with freshly grated cheese.

Note: This recipe serves 8 people as an appetizer. If using this recipe as a main course, use 4 oz of pasta per person or 2 lbs of pasta for 8 people.







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