Rabbit & olive stew

Rabbit & olive stew

Coniglio con le olive

Lauren Bamford

This traditional, countryside dish is also known as coniglio alla cacciatora (hunter’s rabbit stew). The long, slow cooking, the briny olives and the resulting rich sauce help to create an extremely tasty, falling-off-the-bone stew – it’s a wonderful way of cooking game meat. There are many ways to make this favourite Tuscan stew. In Florence, you’ll find cacciatora in many guises and any game meat would be good cooked this way – pheasant, guinea fowl, vension or, even better, wild boar. If you can, use wild rabbit for a more traditional flavour – it is somewhat earthier and darker than farmed rabbit, which is more delicate. You could also use free-range chicken instead for a more delicate stew. This recipe is inspired by the way Marco’s nonna Lina would have made it.


Quantity Ingredient
600g rabbit
plain flour, for dusting
30-60ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 rosemary sprig
5-10 fresh sage leaves
180ml red wine
400g tomato passata (puréed tomatoes) or tinned chopped tomatoes
1 litre homemade vegetable stock or water
100g good quality black or green olives, such as taggiasche
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped


  1. Prepare the rabbit by rinsing and patting dry with paper towel, removing the kidneys and liver if they are still intact, then chopping into pieces on the bone much like you would a chicken – hind legs (these can also be cut in half again), front legs, backstrap and tenderloin. You could also ask your butcher to do this for you.
  2. Dust the pieces of rabbit with flour and shake off any excess. Pour the olive oil in a deep pan suitable for a stew, and sear the rabbit over medium–high heat until golden. Remove and set aside.
  3. In the same pan, cook the onion, carrot and celery over a gentle heat until the onion becomes transparent and soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and fresh herbs and continue cooking a few minutes until fragrant. Return the rabbit back to the pot, season with salt and pepper, add the wine and cook for a further couple of minutes.
  4. Add the tomato to the pan with 2 cups of the stock (or water) and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook on the lowest heat until the meat begins to just fall off the bone, about 1½ hours (note that wild rabbit or other wild game may take a bit longer to become tender than farmed rabbit or chicken). If the sauce is getting too thick or dry, top up as needed with the stock or water (you may or may not need to use all of it).
  5. Check the meat to see if it is tender. When it is ready, you can either remove the meat from the larger bones for easier eating or leave in large pieces.
  6. In the meantime, remove the pits from the olives. Flatten them with the flat edge of a heavy knife and pull the pits out. Add the olives to the stew right at the end, along with the fresh parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve with roasted potatoes.


  • If there are any leftovers, pick out the bones and simply toss the stew through some pappardelle pasta like you would a ragù. Even if there is no more meat left, but plenty of that delicious sauce, it still makes a wonderful pasta dish.

A word of warning

  • Be wary of the smaller bones floating around in the stew. If you’re careful enough while chopping the rabbit, you can try to avoid using (or at least chopping through) the rib bones, which are the smallest, sharpest ones.
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