Emiko Davies · Rigatoni Alla Buttera (Cowboy Style)

You know when you’re sitting at your desk, mentally calculating your annual leave days and constantly refreshing flight prices to Italy? Maybe you’ll meet a handsome stranger, you daydream! Perhaps the two of you will fall in love and just stay forever in a humble but beautiful Tuscan villa, where you learn the language, and perfect the art of perfect pasta-making with the help of a local Nonna. The life you’ve always known you deserve!

Okay, REALITY CHECK. Emiko Davies is living your fantasy. While traveling in Florence 13 years ago, she met a handsome local and never left. We first introduced you to Emiko – a foodie and author – a few weeks ago with her food-lovers mini-guide to Florence. Having penned two cookbooks (Florentine: The True Cuisine of FlorenceAcquacotta, and a third book on the way!) Emiko certainly knows a thing or two about authentic Tuscan cooking.

We decided we weren’t *quite* ready to let her go just yet, and invited her back for a month of truly delicious Italian recipes!

Emiko Davies

Thirteen years ago Emiko Davies went to Florence, fell in love and never came home! Photo – Emiko Davies.

Photo – Emiko Davies.

Emiko started her blog in December 2010, as a way to document her passion for Tuscan food traditions. Photo – Birgitte Brondsted.

Rigatoni alla Buttera – cowboy style. Photo – Emiko Davies.

One of Emiko’s greatest joys is sharing lovingly-cooked homemade food with friends and family. Photo – Emiko Davies.

Emiko has written not one but TWO cookbooks! Florentine: The True Cuisine of Florence and Acquacotta are both published by Hardie Grant. Her third is due out later this year. Photo – Emiko Davies.

‘As I dove into every bowl I could find, the thing that struck me most about rigatoni alla buttera was that each recipe was completely different to the next – it’s a dish where you use up whatever you have on hand, and leftovers too.’ Photo – Emiko Davies.

As well as a third cookbook, Emiko has a second baby on the way! Here she is pictured with her daughter (and assistant!) Mariù. Photo – Irene Berni.

Emiko Davies
3rd of April 2018

This is a popular dish in southern Maremma, where butteri, hardy and hard-working cowboys who raised an ancient Tuscan breed of longhorn cattle, are a local icon – legend has it that they even outshone Buffalo Bill when he visited Italy in 1890 to show off his cowboy skills.

It’s the sort of dish that you can find at country fairs, piled into plastic bowls, covered with a blanket of grated pecorino to be washed down with local wine – a definite crowd pleaser. As I dove into every bowl I could find, the thing that struck me most about rigatoni alla buttera was that each recipe was completely different to the next – it’s a dish where you use up whatever you have on hand, and likely leftovers too.

The irony is that the butteri were raising cattle for nobility, who were the only ones who could afford to eat beef – the butteri themselves ate anything but. So the resulting sauce is an incredibly tasty mix of prosciutto, pancetta, sausage, perhaps some chicken livers, really anything to “beef up”, so to speak, this ragu that does not actually have any beef in it.

Note: Choose good quality sausages. Go for fresher sausages over aged ones (they will be softer, so easier to crumble and incorporate into the sauce) with no gluten or anything else added that might affect the texture of the ragu. If you can’t find rigatoni, go for penne pasta.

IngredientS (SERVES 4)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 brown/yellow onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
½ celery stick, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
30 grams of prosciutto, cut into thin strips
60 grams of pancetta, cut into thin strips or diced
a few sage leaves
1 sprig rosemary, leaves chopped
300 grams of pork and fennel sausage, casings removed (see note)
125 ml dry white wine
200 grams tomato passata (puree)
320 grams dried rigatoni (large tube-shaped pasta) or penne pasta
Pecorino or parmesan cheese for serving


Place olive oil in a wide skillet and, over low heat, add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, prosciutto, pancetta and herbs with a pinch of salt and cook, covered, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes or until vegetables have softened and the fat is transparent.

Add the sausages, crumbling the meat into the pan, and cook, stirring, over medium heat, to brown it, about 10 minutes.

Pour over the white wine and let cook down for about 5-7 minutes. A

Add the tomato puree along with about 500 ml water and bring to a simmer. Cook on low for about 40 minutes, topping up with water as necessary and stirring occasionally.

After about half an hour, check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary (this is a fairly robust sauce with lots of flavour from the prosciutto, pancetta and sausage so you may not need any extra salt). Set aside.

Put a large pot of water on to boil the pasta. Once boiling, add salt (about 1 teaspoon per litre) and tip in the pasta.

Boil until al dente, then drain and toss with the sauce.

Serve with plenty of finely grated pecorino or parmesan cheese.


This recipe is an edited extract taken from Acquacotta by Emiko Davies, published by Hardie Grant Books RRP AUD$50 and is available in stores nationally.

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