Duck Ragu with Handkerchief Pasta

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There are many recipe variations for this Italian classic duck ragu, some focusing on spice and meat, others red wine and a rich tomato sauce. Traditionally duck was considered food for the poor and its ragu was served with a sturdy rustic pasta made from buckwheat, called bigoli (also made with duck eggs). Nowadays most recipes will suggest serving the ragu with pappardelle or gnocchi. Both are a good match, but I also like finesse of these paper-thin handkerchief pasta. They allow the rich heavy sauce to dominate, whilst adding a light texture to the dish. All you need to finish it off is a generous drizzling of good olive oil, and some shavings of parmesan cheese.


4 duck legs
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small carrot, grated
1 stick celery, finely sliced
1 dried red chilli
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbs chopped parsley stalks
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs tomato paste
250ml red wine
1/2 cup water
400gm tin plum tomatoes
Salt and pepper


200gm 00 flour
2 medium eggs
2 large pinches salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Fine semolina for dusting


1. Fry the duck legs in some olive oil until sealed and skin is browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

2. In the duck fat, fry the chopped onion on a medium – low heat for 10 minutes until soft. Add the grated carrot and celery, cook a further 5 minutes, before adding the garlic.

3. Next add the tomato paste, stir and cook for 1 minute or so before adding the oregano, nutmeg, cinnamon and chilli. Cook for a further 1 -2 minutes.

4 . Pour in the wine and bubble away until liquid is reduced by half.

3. To this mixture you can now add the canned tomatoes and water. Stir well and return the duck legs to the pan. There should be enough sauce to cover the meat nicely. If your sauce is to thick you can add a little more water until the consistency is right.

4. Season with salt and pepper, bring to the boil, cover with a lid, and turn down to simmer for 1 hour. Check ragu occasionaly to make sure the sauce does not become too dry. You can add splashes of water as you go if needed to loosen up.

5. While this is cooking away you can make the pasta: Combine all the ingredients and mix into a dough, kneading until smooth. This may take up to 10 – 15 minutes so be patient. The dough should not be dry and falling apart. If this happens you can add the tinniest drop of water, bit by bit until the dough is smooth and forming well. Be very careful though as once you add to much water and the dough is wet it becomes harder to save. If your dough happens to be to wet, you can add a little more flour until the consistency is right. The trick is in the kneading, you must keep going until you have a silky smooth dough.

6. Wrap your pasta in cling film and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.

7. To create the pasta shape: Dust the pasta pieces with the semolina as you go, and gently feed through your pasta machine, narrowing the setting until the pasta is approximately 1mm thick. Keep dusting with the semolina to prevent it from sticking together. Lay out your pieces and cut into squares or rectangles, whatever size you like.

8. Remove duck legs from the sauce, and with a fork shred the meat from the bone. Discard bones and return meat to the sauce.

9. In a large pan of boiling salted water, gently boil the pasta for 1 – 2 minutes.

10. Place the pasta sheets evenly onto a large plate or bowl and spoon over the ragu sauce. Drizzle generously with olive oil and shavings of parmesan cheese.

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