Happy New Year! It seems like the last three weeks have been a blur! Christmas, New Years , nail biting football games and a remodeling project that my husband and I have begun which is taking much of my free time.
There hasn’t been a lot of cooking going on in my kitchen and we have been dining out quite a bit more lately but there was one thing on my “Must Try” list that a recent snowy and icy ‘Winter Storm Warning’ weekend gave me the needed time to prepare. It was this delicious Duck Ragu Pasta.
There is a wonderful Italian restaurant in town that serves a very popular duck ragu pasta which I love and have always wanted to try and recreate at home. After searching for all the recipes I could find, I took the best parts of several and made my own version. I must say, it turned out quite well!
This is a recipe that requires a little advance planning. First you need to find some duck leg quarters (with the thigh attached). We are lucky enough to have a poultry farm store nearby that sells frozen duck legs but if you can’t find legs, go ahead and buy a small whole duck and cut it in half. Or, if you don’t like duck (even people who dislike duck love this ragu), you could use bone-in country-style pork ribs.
The duck legs are slow roasted in a blend of vegetables, spices and tomato sauce for 1-1/2 to 2 hours in the oven. The best part of this recipe is the duck legs can be roasted a day ahead and reheated in the sauce the next day.
When they come out of the braising liquid they are pull-apart tender. The meat is then shredded and returned the the braising liquid.
I served my duck ragu with pappardelle pasta but use your favorite thick cut pasta.
Top it with some fresh parsley and a generous sprinkle of Grana Padano cheese and start twirling! This is a wonderful winter comfort-food, pasta. Enjoy!
Since this is my first post of 2020, I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year from my family to yours! Cheers to all and here’s to a delicious year ahead! (Christmas Day in SE Wisconsin)
Duck Ragu Pasta
Note: For those readers who live in the Milwaukee Metro area, I buy my duck legs frozen at Tower Chicken on South 6th Street. They also sell the best roasting chickens you can find and people line up to buy turkey for Thanksgiving.
Do Ahead: The duck legs and ragu can be prepared a day ahead and reheated at the time of serving.
The day before, rub duck legs all over with the dry rub. Don’t worry if they are frozen, they will thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Dry Rub for Duck:
2 duck legs
1 teaspoon brown sugar, packed firmly
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/8 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup full-bodied red wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 large can whole Italian plum tomatoes in with juice (use the best available)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 sprigs of thyme
1 small bay leaf
12 ounces dry pappardelle pasa
Grana Padano or other good Parmesan cheese, grated
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
In a small bowl, combine salt, brown sugar, black pepper, and ground cayenne and rub mixture over duck legs well. Refrigerate 24 hours. Trim legs of excess fat before sautéing.
Soak porcini mushrooms in ¼ cup boiling water for 30 minutes. Mince very finely and return to soaking liquid.
Finely dice celery, onion and carrot and place in a bowl. Mince garlic and place in small prep bowl.
Place whole plum tomatoes and juice in food processor and process until tomatoes are just broken up. Place in medium bowl.
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Heat a covered Dutch oven or enameled cast iron roasting pan (such as Le Creuset) over medium-high heat, add oil and then melt in butter. Add duck legs and sauté until nicely browned on both sides, about 5-7 minutes, turning once. Remove legs from pan and reserve. Remove all but the browned bits from the pan and add 1 Tablespoon olive oil.
Add celery, onions, carrots and garlic to pan and cook until lightly brown, about 6 minutes, turning down heat, if necessary.
Add red wine and bring to a boil. Add tomatoes and juice, red pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in thyme sprigs and ½ bay leaf. Return duck legs to pan. Add chicken stock to cover if needed. Cook in oven until legs are very tender, about 1 1/2 hour to 2 hours.
Remove legs from pan and cool. Skim excess fat from top of the braising liquid.
When cool, pull meat from bones, shred with your fingers and return meat to sauce, discarding skin and bones. Add another splash of red wine and cook over medium heat until all ingredients are well blended and thickened slightly, about 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil pasta according to package directions. Do not rinse. Add pasta to duck ragu sauce and toss well.
Serve immediately topped with fresh parsley and grated cheese. Pass extra cheese at the table.