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Chicken Liver Sauce for Pasta

Donna_Evans's picture

This is a Marcella Hazan recipe from her book The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Out of the 2oo or so books I have, this is one of the most used. If you're thinking "offal" yeugh! Wait. The dish is elegant enough to serve formally and easy and quick enough to serve every day, with some good, country style bread.

225g/8oz fresh chicken livers
2 tablespoons chopped shallot or yellow onion
1 tablespoon vegetable or sunflower oil
25g/1oz butter
Quarter teaspoon very finely chopped, fresh garlic
3 tablespoons diced pancetta or prosciutto
4-5 whole, fresh sage leaves
115g/4oz ground beef chuck
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon tomato puree dissolved in 4 tablespoons dry white vermouth (known in UK as white Martini)
freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (don't use ready grated)

PASTA to use: pappardelle (a broad noodle, upto 1 inch thick)

Remove any greenish spots and particles of fat from the chicken livers and rinse in cold water, cut each one into 3 or 4 pieces and thoroughly dry with kitchen paper.
Put the shallot or onion in a saucepan or small saute pan together with the oil and butter, turn the heat to medium and saute the shallot or onion until it becomes translucent. Add the chopped garlic and cook it briefly, not long enough to become coloured, then add the diced pancetta or prosciutto and the sage. Stir well, cooking for about a minute or less, then add the ground beef, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork and cook it until it has lost its raw red colour.
Add the cut up chicken livers, turn the heat up to medium-high, stir thoroughly and cook briefly, just until the livers have lost their raw red colour.
Add the tomato puree and vermouth (Martini) mixture and cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring from time to time. Taste and correct for salt.
Turn the entire contents of the pan over cooked, drained pasta, toss well, coating all the strands, and serve at once with grated Parmesan on the side.

Don't pour over too much pasta, otherwise you'll dilute the balance of sauce and pasta

Don't overcook the livers, they're better a little pink inside, honestly.

Really don't use previously grated cheese - it's a very different and nasty product.

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #25686, reply #1 of 26)

ITA. This is a great recipe - If you like chicken livers.

ashleyd_'s picture

(post #25686, reply #2 of 26)

This is a great recipe even if you don't like chicken livers. Delia Smith adds a few chicken livers to her Bolognaise sauce which, although you can't quite taste them, give a fabulous richness to the ragu. And we Brits aren't quite as squeamish about specialty meats as some I could name.

Amy_W.'s picture

(post #25686, reply #3 of 26)

Yum, I love chicken livers!...

Will definitely try this recipe, I'll make some fresh pasta too.
Have to get Marcella Hazan's The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking now since you've recommended it so highly.
Thank you Donna!

Donna_Evans's picture

(post #25686, reply #4 of 26)


My pleasure, and you are going to love Marcella's book; I guarantee your head will be swimming with ideas and things to cook.

Amy_W.'s picture

(post #25686, reply #5 of 26)

Donna, made this last night for dinner...

It was absolutely delicious!
And I made fresh pasta, which just made it all the better...really scrumptious.
Hope other cooks will try this recipe soon.

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #25686, reply #6 of 26)

If you ever see "Pasta a la Caruso" on an Italian menu, it's probably pasta with chicken livers. Great stuff.

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #25686, reply #7 of 26)

Where have you been? I missed you.

Jean_'s picture

(post #25686, reply #8 of 26)

Me too!!

Donna_Evans's picture

(post #25686, reply #9 of 26)


Thank you for letting me know how much you enjoyed the chicken liver recipe. It's always nice when someone else enjoys a posted recipe, even though the recipe is not mine. I seem to recall it was you who was going to buy the Marcella Hazan book - I look forward to hearing what you think.

You know? pasta is one thing I have not made yet. I must ... I know there's no comparison, even with the best of dried, and eating those overgrown pieces of ravioli in an oversized plate/bowl, filled with so many delicious ingredients, covered with a little sauce or just butter, is an experience in truly great food, dontcha think.

All the best,


ashleyd_'s picture

(post #25686, reply #10 of 26)

And for those who might want it your recipe is at < Obsolete Link > Chiffonade "Liver" 7/23/01 8:05pm

And welcome back

ashleyd_'s picture

(post #25686, reply #11 of 26)

And for those who might want it your recipe is at < Obsolete Link > Chiffonade "Liver" 7/23/01 8:05pm

And welcome back

Amy_W.'s picture

(post #25686, reply #12 of 26)

As luck would have it...

I nabbed a copy of the cookbook this morning at for $11, oh boy!

Making fresh pasta does take a little extra time, but so worthwhile if you can manage it, the taste is superior. Lasagne with fresh pasta is the best ever. And with an abundance of fresh eggs from our chickens, I almost feel guilty if I don't.

I will definitely make the Chicken Liver Sauce and Pasta again.

Amy_W.'s picture

(post #25686, reply #13 of 26)

Well, whaddya know...

I had completely forgotten about this one, obviously.
Goody, another chicken liver sauce to try!
Thanks Ashley, it's worth repeating.

And Welcome Back, Chiff!

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #25686, reply #14 of 26)

You can say that again.

ashleyd_'s picture

(post #25686, reply #15 of 26)

If I could work out why I got a double post I'd be able to say it again voluntarily.

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #25686, reply #16 of 26)

Are you editing with the back button instead of the edit button?

ashleyd_'s picture

(post #25686, reply #17 of 26)

I'd like to think I'm not that dumb but......

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #25686, reply #18 of 26)

Did not mean to offend. Just attempting to help.

ashleyd_'s picture

(post #25686, reply #19 of 26)

Sorry, you fell victim to the English art of self deprecation. The implicit follower of the ellipsis was ...but it's quite possible. Absolutely no offense taken.

Wolverine's picture

(post #25686, reply #20 of 26)

glad I read this after having my coffee - I would hate to have to clean it up! ;-)

Amy_W.'s picture

(post #25686, reply #21 of 26)

Made Chiff's recipe last night...

and of course I made fresh pasta, why not.
This is such a nice way to enjoy chicken livers, thanks Chiff!
My only embellishments were some fresh sage leaves and 1 T capers.
Do I always have to mess with a recipe? Well, yes, it's artistic.

People, eat your livers!

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #25686, reply #22 of 26)

BTW, Missed you guys too.

Jean_'s picture

(post #25686, reply #23 of 26)

What's been happening, are you guys packing?

Wolverine's picture

(post #25686, reply #24 of 26)

just bought some at the butcher yesterday Amy, and this dish is Monday nites supper! Good addition - sage is fab with chicken livers! My favorite italian crostini spread is a chix liver sage one from "Italy the Beautiful".

Here is the recipe:

Crostini Di Fegatini (Chicken Liver Croutons)

1 - 2 porcini mushrooms or champignons
extra virgin olive oil
4 large chix livers
6 fresh sage leaves
2 garlic cloves, chopped
feshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup vin santo ( can use sweet Marsala as a substitute)
1 anchovy filet
1 heaping tablespoon capers, drained
1 egg yolk
milk if needed
12 slices firm, coarse textured bread

Soak mushrooms in hot water and cover for at least 10 minutes. Drain well.

Heat 2 tbsps olive oil in a heavy pan over medium high heat. Add teh livers, sage, garlic, mushrooms, and some peppers and cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes or until thee livers have lost their red color (but are still pink). Add the vin santo and cook unitl evaporated.

Add the anchovy filet and capers. Transfer mixture to a food processor and puree. Blend in the egg yolk - pulse a few times to combine.

Toast the bread slices by putting olive oil on both sides, then placing the slices in an oven pre-heated to 375F. All to cool. Spread on the mixture and serve.

Wolvie notes: I don't salt the mixture until after I have blended in the capers and anchovy filet. I serve this in a bowl and have the crostini there on the side, with a small knife on the plate for spreading liver mixture.

I sometimes top with chives or finely sliced green onions. I always use a whold pound of chicken livers, so I up the other ingredients a tad.

Amy_W.'s picture

(post #25686, reply #25 of 26)

Ooooh, yummy supper!

and I have that cookbook too, the photos are gorgeous.
Check this out, in
i The de'Medici Kitchen
cookbook there are similar flavors in a recipe for:

b Petti di Pollo in Salsa di Fegatini - Chicken Breast in Liver Sauce

Serves 6

1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms or fresh shiitake or button mushrooms
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
3 large chicken livers
6 fresh sage leaves
1 anchovy fillet in oil, drained
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 cup semisweet white wine
3 whole chicken breasts, skinned, and cut in half lengthwise
Salt and freshly ground pepper

If using porcini, soak in water to cover for about 30 minutes. Drain and squeeze dry.
To make the sauce, heat 3 tbsps of the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, livers, sage, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, anchovy, capers, and wine. cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and puree with a hand blender.
In a frying pan over medium heat, warm the remaining oil. Add the chicken breasts and cook, turning occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat, pour the liver sauce into the pan (it should cover the chicken), cover, and cook for 5 minutes, adding water if necessary to keep the dish very moist. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Here's another crostini recipe, it's from
i Ciao Italia
by Mary Ann Esposito.

Edgardo Sandoli's chicken liver crostini are very popular in his restaurant, La Cucina di Edgardo. They are a specialty of his home in Venice.

b Crostini di Fegatini -- Chicken Liver Crostini

Serves 6

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 slices Italian bread (from a narrow baguette-type loaf)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 red onion, finely minced
1 slice prosciutto, finely minced
1/2 lb chicken livers, trimmed and chopped
2 fresh sage leaves, minced
12 whole fresh sage leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup homemade chicken broth
1 tablespoon capers

In a large frying pan, heat the oil.
Add the bread and fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain on brown paper.
Wipe out the frying pan and melt the butter over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft. Add the prosciutto, chicken livers, minced sage, and salt and pepper; saute over medium-high heat until livers are browned. Sprinkle the flour over and stir in the broth. Add the capers and cook until mixture thickens slightly.
Transfer mixture to a blender or processor and puree.
Divide the mixture among bread slices, top each one with a sage leaf, and serve.

Drool, drool...I bought more chicken livers this morning!

Tracy_K's picture

(post #25686, reply #26 of 26)

As long as we're on the subject of chicken livers, here's a recipe for Chicken Liver Pate that I pulled off epicurious a while ago... it is REALLY good.

Do yourself a favor though, and at least double the cognac/brandy in the recipe... makes a big difference! I served it with toasted baguette slices. People who "don't like liver" even ate it.

i Gourmet, November 1998

This recipe can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.
This is a great way to use the liver from your Thanksgiving turkey. In this recipe simply substitute the turkey liver for some of the chicken livers.

1 small onion
1/2 pound chicken livers
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon Cognac, or to taste (definitely to taste!!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons well-chilled heavy cream

Accompaniment: crackers or toasts

Thinly slice onion. In a small saucepan combine onion, chicken livers, broth, and allspice and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes, or until chicken livers are cooked through. Drain liver mixture in a sieve and in a food processor purée with butter, Cognac, and salt until smooth. To facilitate cooling, transfer pâté to a plate and spread. Chill pâté in freezer, its surface covered with plastic wrap, 10 minutes.

In a small bowl whisk cream until it holds stiff peaks and fold in pâté. Transfer pâté to a ramekin and chill in freezer, covered, 15 minutes.

Serve pâté with crackers or toasts.

Serves 2 as an hors d'oeuvre.

November 1998