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Pigeon Breasts with Pancetta Recipe

Pigeon Breasts with Pancetta Recipe

Mild succulent pigeon breasts are easy to cook and make an impressive main course for a special dinner. Serve this Italian-style dish with polenta and some simple green vegetables. Cook’s Tip: If buying pigeons from a butcher, order them in advance and ask him to remove the breasts for you. You can also joint the legs and fry these with the breasts, although there is little meat on them and you might prefer to let them flavor the stock.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Course Main Courses, Poultry
Cuisine Mediterranean
Servings 4
Calories 135 kcal


  • 4 whole pigeons
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stick, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 oz (25 g) dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 oz (50 g) pancetta
  • 2 tbsp (1 oz/25 g) butter
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
  • garlic cloves, crushed
  • ⅔ cup (¼ pint/150 ml) red wine
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • flat leaf parsley to garnish
  • cooked oyster mushrooms to serve


  • #To Prepare Pigeons# Cut down the length of the bird, just to one side of the breast bone. Gradually scrape away the meat from the breastbone until the breast comes away completely. Do the same on the other side, then repeat with the remaining pigeons.
    #To Cook the Dish# Put the pigeon carcasses in a large saucepan. Halve one of the onions, leaving the skin on. Add to the pan with the carrots and celery and just cover with water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer very gently, uncovered, for about 1 hour and 30 minutes to make a dark, rich stock. Leave to cool slightly, then strain through a large sieve into a bowl.
  • Cover the dried mushrooms with ⅔ cup (¼ pint/150 ml) hot water and soak for 30 minutes.
  • Cut the pancetta into small dice.
  • Peel and finely chop the remaining onion.
  • Melt half the butter with the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and pancetta and fry very gently for 3 minutes.
  • Add the pigeon breasts, skin sides down and fry for 2 minutes until browned. Turn over and fry for a further 2 minutes.
  • Add the mushrooms, with the soaking liquid, garlic, wine and 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) of the stock. Bring just to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes until the pigeon breasts are tender, but still a little pink in the center.
  • Lift out the pigeon breasts and keep them hot. Return the sauce to the boil and boil rapidly to reduce slightly. Gradually whisk in all the remaining butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Transfer the pigeon breasts to warmed serving plates and pour over the sauce. Serve at once, garnished with sprigs of parsley and accompanied by oyster mushrooms.

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