DANCES WITH WOLVES Bison Ragu With Pappardelle

IMG_4121 Have no fear - I'm not about to write up a wolf recipe (as much as Her Roguesty Sarah Palin might enjoy that).  Rather today, I'm bringing you geekweekers a recipe that's merely inspired by wolves.  DANCES WITH WOLVES that is, or as I like to think of it, AVATAR sans aliens. 

You remember this movie, don't you? 

It's from before The Boomer went postal ("Tell me something: How much mail can a dead Postman deliver?").  From before he foisted the worst British accent of all time upon us in Sherwood Forest and traveled 3000 Miles to Graceland.  From back when Costner NOT Cameron was king of the world.  Yes, for you young whipper snappers out there, there was a moment in time when Costner not only ruled the world, but he was nominated for 12 Oscars and won 7 little gold men for this soulful, gem of a movie that I confess to still loving to this day.  

In DANCES WITH WOLVES, injured Civil War solider and accidental hero John Dunbar (Costner) transfers to the wild Western frontier and encounters his Sioux neighbors.  Suspicious at first, these rugged Navi... err... I mean, Native Americans soon take Dunbar under their wing and teach him their ways.  Eventually Dunbar is forced to choose between his old people (the army) and his new people, picking sides in what is sure to be a catastrophic battle. 

Wow, this really does sound a lot like AVATAR, doesn't it? 

Except without giant blue people. 

(I won't deign to make a what was Cameron smoking joke.  But you get the point.)

Alright, back to DANCES WITH WOLVES  So there's something that the Sioux and The Diva have in common - we both eat a lot of buffalo!  This was their main food source, and it's one of mine.  I also opt for sustainably raised, grass-fed bison, which I'm sure the Sioux would appreciate.

For those of you who are not familiar with bison, it's almost like a meatier, heftier version of beef.  In addition, it's a super nutrient dense food loaded full of protein, minerals and fatty acids (grass-fed bison is full of Omega-3's).  Bison also tends to be leaner than beef, rendering it a healthier option. I hook my bison up from Lindner Bison (Hollywood Farmers Market).  However, bison can often be found in quality supermarkets.  If you can't find bison, ground beef (preferably organic) or ground turkey would be great alternatives.

For this recipe, I make a decadant red wine soaked ragu sauce out of the bison and toss it with homemade whole grain pappardelle, a large, very broad fettuccine (see the picture).  If you can't pronounce, let alone locate pappardelle, any sort of pasta will work.I just suggest a whole wheat/whole grain version for added health benefits.  Plus, the meaty sauce holds up great to nutty whole grains.

Alright, so I'm aware that the Sioux didn't exactly eat pasta.  But if they wandered into an Olive Garden, don't you think this would be the pasta they would order?  

That's what I thought!

DANCES WITH WOLVES Bison Ragu with Pappardelle
Serves 6-8 people
Cooking time: 40 minutes

1 pound ground bison
1 package whole grain pappardelle or other whole grain pasta
1 28 ounce can of tomatoes, pureed
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
pinch of chili flakes
salt & pepper
herbs, chopped (any combination of thyme, rosemary or sage is great)

for garnishing: 
parmesan reggiano
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped

To make the ragu sauce, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and carrots and saute until starting to caramelize, about 7 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili flakes and saute for another minute.  Then add the ground bison and saute until cooked through, stirring to break it into small pieces (about 5 minutes).

Once the ground bison is cooked through, add the red wine and bring to a simmer, allowing it to reduce for about 5 minutes. Then, add the tomatoes, bay leaf and herbs.  Partially cover the pot and allow the sauce to simmer for about 35-40 minutes.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Meanwhile, to cook the pasta, bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add the noodles and cook for about 7 minutes, or until cooked al dente.  Once they're cooked, drain the pasta and rinse with a little cool water to stop from cooking.

To serve, toss the pasta with the sauce.  Either plate individual portions, or serve family style from a large bowl.  Top with the chopped parsley and sprinkle with the parmesan.  Enjoy!

Wine Pairing
This one's a cinch!  Just go Italian for the love of bison!  Try a Chianti, or if you're feeling fancy, a Barbaresco, or if you're feeling extra, super duper fancy, a Super Tuscan would also be delicious.  Heck, basically any big, meaty read wine would pair fabulously with this meal.  You really can't go wrong.

DD profile pic About the Author
JENNIFER DAWN ROGERS … A graduate of Harvard University and a former film development executive, Jennifer cooks and writes in Los Angeles.  In 2009, she launched her blog Domestic Divas (, which focuses on local, organic cooking and wine reviews.  She is currently writing her first novel.

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