Last winter, Miki, a girlfriend of mine called to say that she was coming to cook us a Duck Ragu. She had cooked the dish with huge success the previous weekend and felt compelled to share it with us. As I am now compelled to share it with you.
Miki appeared on schedule with splendid bits of duck and a supply of fresh saffron and black pepper papperdelle. The rain poured down outside, it was bitterly cold, the wind whipped up a racket and a half, but the delicious aromas wafting from the oven warmed all our souls. We set the table, switched on the lights, heated the plates and rallied to assist in any way we could. It was a production that took almost two hours from beginning to end. Not complicated, it just took a while. We entertained ourselves with glasses of prosecco and snacks of olives and grissini. There was not much else to do, because the best thing about a duck ragu is not only how simple it is to make, how delicious it is too eat but also how unnecessary it is to serve much else with it.
Miki triumphantly wheeled the assembled dish into the dining room to enthusiastic applause. Every piece of papperdelle had been transformed into a luxuriously glossy strand, interspersed with generous pieces of duck. Additional parmesan cheese was on the table, an excellent loaf of bread, and some extra virgin olive oil. A robust wine such as an Aglianico or Shiraz makes the perfect accompaniment. After the meal, every last morsel had been consumed - spouse could hardly contain his pleasure and declared that it would be Duck Ragu for every Sunday lunch from this day forward, and that he would be making it!
As the weather closes in on us again, our thoughts turn one more time to Duck Ragu and how good it makes us feel.
Wide ribbons of pasta, similar to large tagliatelle, pappardelle varies in width from 2 - 6cm. It is one of the easiest pastas to make and, given the time the ragu takes to cook and the simplicity of the pasta making process and the splendid results that you can attain, I recommend that you try making your own at least once.
Pappadelle originates from northern Italy, mainly around Bologna. It is commonly served with rich meat ragus, such as those made of wild boar, hare, or duck.
If you choose not to make your own pappardelle, buy dried pappardelle from a reputable Italian delicatessen or food store.
(serves 4 - 6 people)
Preparation time 1 hour approximately
NB 1 egg to 100g flour is the usual combination. If the eggs are small, you may need to add an extra egg and work in a little extra flour until you get the right consistency.
- 400g of 00 flour for making pasta, plus extra for dusting (Molini is a good brand)
- 4 eggs
- Long rolling pin
- Pasta making machine (optional)
- Sift the flour into a mound on a clean work surface and create a well in the centre
- Break the eggs one by one into the well, whisk each one lightly with a fork before adding the next one - try and retain the walls of flour of your ‘well’ as you mix.
- Add a pinch of salt
- Work the ingredients together into a ball of dough
- The dough will be very sticky - wrap in cling film and set aside on the bench for half an hour. During this time, clean all the scraps of flour and egg from the bench so that you have a clean surface to knead the dough
- The dough will be very elastic. Remove the cling film and run the rolling pin over the dough 2 or 3 times. Knead the dough putting your weight behind it, pushing from the centre of the ball. Every 2 or so minutes of kneading, roll the dough 2 or 3 times with a rolling pin and go back to kneading. Repeat this for 10 - 15 minutes until the dough is smooth and ready to be manipulated into pasta
- Cut the dough into 4 pieces to make working with it easier
- Use either a pasta making machine or a rolling pin, roll each piece into a thickness as for lasagna sheets and arrange on clean tea towels. Dust the pasta machine or the rolling pin with flour to stop the pasta sticking. If using the pasta machine roll the dough through settings 1 - 5.
- Cut into strips about 3 cm wide and toss lightly with flour. Set aside covered until ready to cook.
(serves 4 - 6 people)
Preparation Time 20 minutes plus 1 ½ hours cooking
- 6 whole large duck legs
- Olive oil
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 small red onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 200ml chicken stock
- 400g tinned tomatoes
- 200ml red wine
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons thickened cream
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 160c
- Prepare the vegetables and herbs: finely chop the celery, onion and garlic. Remove the parsley, basil and oregano from the stalks and roughly chop the leaves until you have about half a cup of chopped herbs.
- Gently heat an oven proof, heavy based fry pan or pot large enough to contain all of the ingredients and add 2 - 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Cook the duck until the fat begins to run from it and the duck begins to just brown (you may need to cook in 2 batches)
- Remove the duck from the pan and any excess fat - you only need enough left to coat the bottom of the pan to brown the vegetables.
- Add the onion and cook gently until translucent, add the garlic and cook gently for a minute until aromatic - do not allow it to brown, add the celery and cook a minute or two until it softens.
- Return the duck pieces to the pan - add the wine and allow to bubble for a minute or two; add the stock, the tomatoes and the bay leaf and the chopped herbs and bring to a gentle simmer. Season with salt and pepper
- Cover with a sheet of baking paper or tin foil and place a firm fitting lid on top. Transfer the covered pot to the preheated oven and cook for 1 ½ hours or until the meat is falling off the bones.
- Remove from the oven, remove the bones and the skin (if you prefer) from the duck and return the meat to the ragu.
- Heat a large serving bowl and individual plates for the pasta and ragu
- Bring plenty of salted water to the boil in an additional pot to cook the pasta in
- Gently reheat the ragu on top of the stove adding the cream and check the seasoning for more salt and pepper when you are ready to serve.
- Cook the pappardelle for 2 - 3 minutes, until al dente. Reserve a large cup of cooking water to lubricate the pasta if necessary.
Have everyone sitting down ready to eat
- Chopped parsley
- Grated parmesan cheese
- Drain the pasta into a colander and tip straight back into the cooking pot.
- Quickly pour the ragu over the cooked pasta and add a spoonful or two of butter and a little of the cooking water to achieve the right consistency.
- Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and toss.
- Transfer the dressed pasta to the warmed serving dish and serve immediately.