Fusilli with Spicy Chicken Liver Sauce

This hearty, rich and flavoursome chicken liver pasta is a brilliantly easy recipe, perfect for when you are looking to impress but with minimum fuss.

Downtime: Deliciousness at Home
By

Introduction

Inexpensive, readily available chicken livers have fallen out of fashion, which I think is a shame. In Portugal, where I was born, all the local families raised chickens and geese to sell, and it was traditional to keep the chicken livers for family meals. In a rich sauce like this, they contribute a savoury, meaty flavour, the way anchovies might. Stirring in a bit of olive oil at the end adds richness and binds the elements of the sauce together. One teaspoon may seem like a lot of cayenne, but the livers really mellow the heat. If you like this really spicy (as I do), you could use as much as an extra half teaspoon of cayenne, but proceed with caution; you can always add a bit more just before serving. The first time I cooked for René, I immediately knew this was the dish I wanted to make, but I was afraid that as a chef he would not approve of tinned tomatoes, so I used fresh. Big mistake: it isn’t the same dish at all with fresh tomatoes.

Serves 4-6
Easy

Ingredients

340g (12oz) chicken livers
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cayenne, or to taste
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 x 400g (14oz) tins whole peeled plum tomatoes in juice
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
450g (1 lb) fusilli pasta
20 g (¾ oz) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Instructions

1. Spread the livers on kitchen towels and pat them dry. Trim the livers and cut them into 3 or 4 pieces. Handling the raw livers takes some getting used to – hang in there. Just remove any veins with a small, sharp knife.

2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Crush the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife, discard the papery skins, then peel and chop the garlic. Add the cayenne pepper, sweet paprika and smoked paprika to the oil and stir, then add the garlic. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and let the garlic warm in the hot oil for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant. This is a super-gentle way to cook garlic without burning it, which can spoil your whole dish.

3. Return the pan to the heat. Add the livers in a single layer. Let them cook without moving them until they are brown on the underside, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and swirl it to mix the juices. Return to the heat, turn the livers and brown on the second side for about 2 minutes more. Don’t crowd the chicken livers in the centre of the pan, or they won’t brown properly and will give off too much liquid.

4. Add the tomatoes with their juices and the tomato paste to the frying pan and stir with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits in the bottom of the pan and break up the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, then stir in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring every few minutes, until the sauce has thickened slightly and the livers are just cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t let this simmer too long; the texture of the livers becomes grainy and crumbly when overcooked.

5. Bring a large pan of water to a boil over high heat. Add a tablespoon or so of coarse salt. Stir in the pasta and cook, stirring every 2 minutes, according to the packet directions until the pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes, depending on the brand.

6. Place the pasta serving bowl in the sink and set a colander inside. Drain the pasta in the colander, then return it to the cooking pan. Let the hot pasta water stand in the serving bowl for about 30 seconds to warm it. Empty and dry the serving bowl and add the pasta.

7. Spoon about a quarter of the sauce into the serving bowl. Add the pasta and top with the remaining sauce. Coarsely chop the parsley and sprinkle it over the pasta. Mix at the table and serve immediately.

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