Giblet Pasta Sauce: It’s Offally Good!

Okay, okay, I’ll lay off the puns. But first let me tell you the story of my quest to like offal.

I have always wanted to like offal. When traveling, it’s awful to be the Picky American. The French guy I dated was so proud to proclaim “Elle mange tout,” to all his family and friends. I was safe with him as he didn’t like offal either, but I always felt like he was lying. I don’t eat everything. Well, okay, I never met a vegetable I didn’t like.  I grew up on the bounty of the ocean, devouring the cheeks, eyes, and brains of whole fish.  But the organs of land-dwellers have always been my downfall.

My mother hates offal, and thanks to her feelings about force-feeding children, she never made us liver, heart, kidneys, or tripe.  I have had liver in a fiery curry in Sri Lanka, and tripe as a part of the dim sum menu at Chinese restaurants, and I have to say, I hated both. The liver had a dirty taste that even the curry couldn’t cover, and the tripe….there just are no words for how much I hate tripe.
However, I have always held the belief that picky eaters have been too long rewarded for dysfunctional behavior.  If a child can be taught to like well-prepared brussels sprouts, then surely I could learn to like offal.  It was just a matter of choosing recipes carefully and cooking offal in tiny increments.

I chose this recipe for poultry gizzard and heart because it requires mincing the offal into tiny pieces, which would become indistinguishable once cooked with the chopped portobello mushroom in the sauce. Still, my courage nearly failed me at the meat counter. As the attendant explained that gizzard is the muscle covering the stomach of the chicken, I silently wondered if it would be in poor taste to foist the leftover sauce on Kassie and CJ if I didn’t like it.

I needn’t have worried. Although chopping the gizzards  requires strong nerves and a very sharp knife, the reward is a full-flavored, rich sauce.  Hearty and almost beefy in taste, this sauce demands a full bodied red wine.  Leave lots of time, as the heart and gizzard, the toughest muscles in the chicken’s body need a long, slow simmer to tenderize. Make in large batches as the sauce gets better with age.

Now I only have to get my mother to try it.

Giblet Pasta Sauce

8 oz chicken gizzards and hearts (you may use the giblets of other poultry as well)
1/2 c olive oil
1 1/2 c chopped portobello mushrooms
3/4 c chopped carrots
3/4 c chopped celery
3/4 c chopped yellow onion
1 oz pancetta, minced
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 c chopped canned tomatoes
1 bay leaf
pinch dried chili flakes
1/2 c. full bodied red wine
small handful flat leaf parsley, chopped

Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving

Heat olive oil in large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add gizzards and hearts and cook until they brown lightly. Add mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions, and pancetta. Add 1/2 tsp salt. Let sizzle stirring occasionally, then add garlic and stir again. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.

Add tomatoes, bay leaf, chili and red wine. Bring to boil, then lower to the barest simmer. Partially cover, and let cook until giblets are tender about an hour and a half. Check occasionally to make sure that the sauce isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add tiny amounts of water as needed.

Stir in parsley. Taste and adjust seasonings. Sauce may require a pinch of sugar or a teaspoon of tomato paste.

Serve with pasta and a grating of parmesan.

Source: Judy Rodgers’ The Zuni Cafe Cookbook



Filed under gluten-free, Italian

4 responses to “Giblet Pasta Sauce: It’s Offally Good!

  1. Erica

    My friend is coming over on the second of January and I would like to surprise her with a meal. Do you have any recipes for cooking tripe? I would really like a recipe that highlights the flavor and texture to the utmost extent. Thanks!

  2. Doug

    Great recipe. Another variety meat you may want to try is beef heart. It has a pretty assertive taste, but it’s not “livery”. My favorite way to prepare it is to marinate the heart (well-trimmed and “butterflied” so it lays flat) in balsamic vinegar, grill it until medium rare and serve it sliced paper thin across the grain with Argentine chimmichurri sauce. It also works great in a stir fry, particularly with lots of ginger and hot chilis.

  3. Thanks, Doug! I have access to a good butcher, and that beef heart recipe sounds great.

  4. I applaud you 1) for your honesty about offal and 2) for even trying it! I’m not a picky eater and (in my blog) I’ve so eloquently claimed that “I would eat cow balls if you put a cream sauce over them” (would I really?), but I just recently tried all sorts of offal in the not-so-recent past. Last year in Italy I had tripe two different ways and LOVED it. My husband made veal kidneys with a creamy cognac sauce and (albeit they smelled like farts) kind of loved that too. Finally, we just returned from a trip to Madrid where we ate pig’s ears (YUM), tripe again and baby eels on bread. Hope I’m not grossing you out but we have pics on our site if you’re curious (and if you’re willing to venture the way of eating kidney’s we have some recipes too). Maybe I just want you to give it another try? But, BRAVO for trying the giblets… it’s a start! Amy @

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