Catherine De Medici’s Tuscan Chicken Liver Pate!

By Published On: May 3rd, 2019Categories: Appetizers0 Comments
In Italian, fegatini means livers. This humble dish using left-over and inexpensive ingredients is found throughout Italy.

This is an ancient recipe from Pellegrino Artusi’s 120 year old cookbook, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. Some believe the original recipe is from Florentine noblewoman, Catherine de Medici. When she married Henry II in 1533 she brought this family recipe with her to France where the French reinterpreted it to become what is now their recipe for foie gras. Artusi’s recipe calls for chicken livers and because in Italy livers are often sold with hearts you can also add the hearts to the pate. I found this recipe online ( where measurements were added as Artusi simply lists ingredients, not amounts. I increased the recipe by half and added a few of my own ingredients (capers, anchovies, brandy) and this is what I came up with.

Before serving I topped the pate with finely chopped chives.

This is not a smooth pate, but I did use the hand emulsion blender to combine ingredients. The recipe calls for chopping all ingredients, once cooked, with a mezzaluna or large kitchen knife, which would leave the pate even more chunky. You could also place all cooked ingredients in a food processor and then push through a fine mesh sieve to get a really smooth consistency. I liked it a little rough since pate is the quintessential rustic dish of Italy! The original recipe does not use anchovies, capers or brandy, but as I did more research realized that every family throughout Italy has their own recipe for pate with slightly different ingredients.

Here are most of the ingredients for the pate.

1 1/2 shallot, roughly chopped
1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
3 slices of pancetta, chopped
4 Tbsp. butter (or olive oil)
1 1/2 lbs. chicken livers, cleaned
1 cup chicken stock
About 8 pieces of dried porcini mushroom, soaked in warm water to soften and finely chopped
2 Tbsp. Panko bread crumbs
Juice of one lemon
3 Tbsp. brandy, bourbon, or cognac (I used brandy.)
4 drained anchovies
1 Tbsp. capers
Salt/Pepper to taste

Loaf of bread, such as a baguette for the crostini (day old is what they would use in Italy)

Finely chop the shallot, celery, carrot and parsley and saute these gently in pan with the pancetta in the butter.

Season with a pinch of salt. When the vegetables are soft, add the whole chicken livers and continue cooking, stirring occasionally to brown them, about 3-5 minutes. Add the brandy, if using, and watch as the brandy may flame up.

Livers all cleaned and porcini mushrooms soaking.


Once browned remove the mixture from the pan and place on a chopping board together with the softened porcini mushrooms, anchovies and capers, if using, and finely chop everything with the mezzaluna or, as I did, blend right in the pan with a hand blender.

Return the chopped pate mixture to the pan, add the stock, breadcrumbs, lemon juice and season to taste. Continue cooking on low, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes more. This mixture should be quite tender and juicy so do not allow it to reduce too much so that it becomes dry. Add more stock if needed. The pate will firm up as it cools.

In the meantime slice the baguette in 1/2 inch pieces and gently warm in a low oven until dry to the touch. You can make the pate a day ahead of time. It keeps well in the fridge for 5-7 days.

I served the pate with additional capers, a nice French Dijon mustard and a delicious onion and apricot jam.

1 cup shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup leek, white part only, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. vegetable or other mild oil
1/4 cup white wine
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. honey
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. Apple Cider vinegar
4 Tbsp. chicken stock
1/2 cup dried apricots, sliced
1/4 cup water, more or less

Saute shallot and leek in oil over medium high heat until tender and slightly caramelized, about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce to a low simmer. Add white wine, lemon juice, honey, sugar, vinegar, chicken stock and apricots. Cook gently for another 10 minutes until all ingredients are well combined. Add water by the tablespoon to loosen jam to desired consistency.




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