This is a wonderful, thick, full flavored stew. I don’t think I’ve ever made a recipe that uses pepper in this way…why?! It created such wonderful flavor in this dish! It was reminiscent of something familiar, but I can’t recall a dish I’ve made that produces this unique flavor. (If I could guess, maybe I had something with a similar flavor in Italy?!) This surprised me, because the ingredients are not anything new, yet all together, with that amount of black pepper, it was totally different. This is not a sharp pepper, but a deep, round, in your entire mouth spiciness. I love spicy, but I don’t want my taste buds to be numb—I like to be able to taste other flavors. This is that kind of pepper! As you can tell, the flavor totally surprised me in the best way.

I made this in a Le Creuset enameled cast iron dutch oven. I used a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. I followed the slow method pretty closely. When I first added the meat, there wasn’t much liquid in the casserole and I thought I would have to keep a close watch and add more liquid. After about 20 minutes, I added 1/3 cup water. I checked after another 20 minutes and the ingredients had exuded enough liquid that I did not add more. I checked after another 15 minutes, and no extra liquid was needed—and it never needed any extra after the first 1/3 cup. I do recommend adding the 1/3 cup, though, right at the start of the long cooking to prevent any initial scorching.

After 7 1/2 hours, the meat was beautiful and tender, and some pieces were falling apart, so if cooking in a Dutch oven, I would recommend checking it after about 5-6 hours for tenderness. It actually produced a nice combination of whole pieces and some meat falling apart, but with subsequent reheating, there were few large pieces.

I added the initial 1 tablespoon pepper, and at the end, I added 1 tablespoon more, (as opposed to 1 1/2 tablespoons), (so 2 tablespoons total in the recipe for me) and the flavor was perfect for my taste—this yields a deep, pleasant, warming, peppery taste. Maybe I’d add the extra 1/2 tablespoons next time, but the pepper was so wonderful with 2 tablespoons total I’m not sure I would change a thing.

We had it with polenta and it was amazing. We had some leftovers over pasta, like a ragu! I agree, as the recipe notes, it would also work with mashed potatoes. Rosemary complements well and should not be skipped—it adds further deep woody flavor. Red wine went perfectly with it. This is for a homey, warm, feel like you’re in Italy during wild boar season recipe!