Sicilian Cunnighiu (rabbit) as cooked in Ragusa, ‘a Portuisa’ 

One of my Sicilian aunt’s favourite ways to cook rabbit in Ragusa was Cunnighiu a Pattuisa (cunnighiu is coniglio in Italian, rabbit in English)I did some research and found that two other Sicilian food writers call it something different: Giuseppe Coria calls it Cunnighiu a Portisa, and Pino Correnti Cunnighiu a Portuisa. In Italian this becomes, alla Portoghese, that is in the Portuguese style.

I am not quite sure why the Portuguese are accredited for this recipe, but one can assume that it is because of the Spaniards in Sicily.

Sicily was ruled by Spaniards at various times by: House of Aragon (1282–1516), Kingdom of Spain (1516–1713), Duchy of Savoy (1713–1720), Habsburg Monarchy (1720–1735) and Kingdom of Naples (1735–1806).

Located on the southwestern tip of the European continent in the Iberian Peninsula are Spain, Andorra and Portugal and Portugal only gained independence from Spain in 1640. Olive oil, olives and capers are used extensively in Sicilian and Spanish cooking.

There are various versions of this recipe for rabbit cooked in the Portuguese style as cooked in Ragusa and most seem to contain green olives and capers. Some contain vinegar, others white wine. Some recipes suggest adding a spoonful of tomato paste (mainly to enrich the colour), some add a little sugar, others chilli.

I cooked a version of this rabbit for friends in Adelaide, the photos tell the story.


In a fry pan I browned 1 rabbit in about ½ cup extra virgin oil. I sectioned the rabbit into 5 pieces (number of pieces is optional).

I then added some salt and pepper, some green olives and capers, 2-4 cloves garlic and some fresh thyme. Sicilians would use a few fresh bay leaves. If you are using salted capers make sure to rinse them and soak them in several changes of fresh water. 


I then added about 1 glass of white wine mixed with ½ cup of white wine vinegar.  I covered it with a lid and cooked it slowly on low heat. 

*If it is a tender rabbit and if it is cut into small enough pieces, the rabbit may be cooked by the time all of the liquid has evaporated. If the rabbit is not as young or as tender as you had hoped, and you feel that it needs to be cooked for longer add a little water, cover with a lid and simmer it gently until it is soft – keep on adding more wine and water.


I partly cooked some potatoes and placed them with the rabbit for the last 20-30 minutes of cooking. The green leaves are mint. These add colour and taste: Ragusani use quite a bit of mint in their cooking. 

One way to cook Rabbit like a Sicilian

POLLO OR GALLINA ALLA CONTADINA, ALLA PAESANA. Braised Chicken or rabbit with Olives, Sicilian style

RABBIT with cloves, cinnamon and red wine (CONIGLIO DA LICODIA EUBEA)

CONIGLIO A PARTUISA (Braised rabbit as cooked in Ragusa)

POLLO AL GUAZZETTO (Sardinian Chicken or rabbit braised with Saffron)


POLLO AL GUAZZETTO (Sardinian Chicken braised with Saffron)

You may see a number of Italian recipes cooked al guazzetto. This is just another Italian style of cooking.

A little bit of Italian grammar here in case you are confused: you may be familiar with other Italian culinary terms like alla romana (cooking style originating in the region of Rome, ie Roman style) alla contadina or alla paesana (peasant style) or alla campagnola (rustic or country style) – The above words are all feminine words and therefore have alla in front.

Other common terms like al forno (cooked in the oven) or al vapore (steamed) – have al in front because they are masculine words.

Chicken legs with capers & saffron 2_

Al guazzetto means that it is cooked in some liquid. To confuse you even further in umido is also a culinary term that means the same thing (poached or simmered or braised). Perhaps in umido implies that it may be more slow cooked or that the liquid is significantly reduced – but perhaps I am being pedantic here.

There are many recipes for fish cooked al guazzetto and less so for meat – most contain tomatoes and broth to concentrate flavours. However, in Foods of Sicily and Sardinia and the Smaller Islands [Giuliano Bugialli, John Dominis] there is a recipe from Sardinia called Pollo o coniglio al guazzetto and this is the inspiration for the following recipe. I cooked pollo (chicken) rather than the coniglio (rabbit).


The recipe reminds me of a Sicilian way of cooking potatoes called Patati nno’ Tianu (Patate in tegame in Italian) that basically contains the same ingredients. In this recipe cubed potatoes (Italians would peel them, I do not) are placed in a heavy saucepan with a good lid. Add all of the other ingredients and cover with some water. Seal with the lid and let them cook slowly. They will absorb the water and be soft and fragrant.

The saffron in this braise is fabulous.

1 chicken (I always buy free range) cleaned and cut into pieces
1 onion, sliced finely
½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
½ cup of parsley, cut finely
1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 splash of wine
2 large pinches of saffron
1 tablespoon of capers
salt and pepper
Brown the chicken pieces in hot oil. Remove it and set aside.
Sauté the onion and garlic.
Add the chicken and parsley and sauté it for a few minutes longer.
Add vinegar , saffron and wine, capers and seasoning.
Add a few tablespoons of boiling water or more white wine as it is cooking if necessary,
Serve hot and preferably with Fregola
* Fregula or Fregolona is uniquely Sardinian. It is a type of pasta/couscous from Sardinia and is similar to North African Berkoukes, Middle Eastern Moghrabieh, and Israeli couscous.It is also lightly toasted.

My recipe was published in the following  publication:

Planet to Plate: The Earth Hour Cookbook is a collection of 52 amazing recipes from Australia’s biggest culinary names.

March 2015

In 2015 WWF, Earth Hour is about celebrating Australian food and farming.

It is a collection of the very best recipes from the country’s top chefs; Planet to Plate is full of information on how global warming is already affecting produce we enjoy in our everyday lives including fresh vegetables, cereals, bread and fruit.

Planet to Plate uniquely and beautifully incorporates first-hand stories from Australian farmers highlighting the impact global warming is having on their farms and the nation’s availability of fresh, homegrown food.

See: EARTH HOUR, Planet to Plate: The Earth Hour Cookbook 2015


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