I’ve made this ragu twice in recent weeks. It’s all part of my efforts to cut up and eat whole animals, and my friend and farmer Ray Bradley has been kind enough to hook me up with some very nice ducks. I reserve the breasts for a meal of their own. The bones go in a bag in the freezer for a future pot of duck stock. Any excess skin gets rendered for a stash of duck fat – Francine gets to eat the crispy skin cracklings that are left behind – and then I use the legs and any other scraps of meat I can get off that bird to make this ragu.
The first time I boned everything (you know, to practice my knife skills) and cut the meat into pieces that cooked down, fell apart and resulted in a chunky kind of rustic ragu (pictured above). The second time I left the legs whole, with skin and bones, which I removed once the legs were tender, shredded the meat, and returned it to the pot. Brad firmly declared that this was his preferred preparation, and so this is the recipe I’ve decided to share.
If you’re ambitious, you get a lot for you money when starting with a whole duck, and you can be sure every part is used. But you could also start with some duck legs that have been cut up for you, and you’ll still end up with some darn tasty ragu.
Pappardelle with Duck Ragu
Serves 4 hungry people
- About 2 lbs. duck parts, with skin on (legs are ideal, but you can use breasts too)
- 1/2 cup chopped shallots
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
- 1 dried chili, crumbled
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 cup stock (I use duck or turkey, but chicken works too)
- 2 cups whole, peeled tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- 1 lb. pappardelle (or another long flat pasta, like tagliatelle or fettuccine)
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Parsley, finely chopped for garnish (optional)
Rinse and generously salt and pepper the duck pieces. Heat a heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat, and brown the duck, skin side down, then turn and continue to brown for a few more minutes. Remove the duck to a plate and drain all but 2 tablespoons of the fat that has accumulated in the pot.
Add the shallots, garlic and chili and stir frequently for a few minutes until the shallots have begun to soften. Add the wine and stir to scrape up the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot, then allow it to bubble and reduce for a few minutes. Add the rosemary, stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Slide the duck pieces into the liquid (it should just cover the meat), reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until the duck is very tender (if you’re using the legs, the meat will shrink up off the bone). Discard the rosemary sprig.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
Meanwhile, remove the duck to a cutting board and when cool enough to handle, remove the skin and shred the meat, discarding any bones. Return the shredded meat to the pot, add the balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the pappardelle, drain and return to its cooking pot (but remove it from the heat). Ladle 2 cups of the ragu and toss with the pasta to evenly coat the noodles. Distribute the pasta into 4 shallow bowls or 1 large serving dish. Spoon the remainder of the ragu over the pasta, grate some cheese over the top and garnish with a bit of parsley. Serve and enjoy!