I was doing the groceries at Harris Farm Markets a couple of weeks ago and I don’t know about you, but when I shop there I tend to walk out with way more items than intended. Not only do I never take enough bags in, my credit card also cops a slight beating as I tend to buy random items that you can’t always get at other supermarkets. Hence, duck legs. I walked past them thinking “Mmmmmm, yum……Duck Ragu” which was not even remotely on my radar but I doubled back and snapped up four of them to pop in the freezer for a later date. Along with various cheeses, really expensive muesli, bundles of micro herbs, heirloom tomatoes that I just had to have and a pile of exotic mushrooms that I was sure I could do something with.

So my Son was coming for dinner and luckily for me, all my boys love food and especially rich, homemade, low and slow sauces like this Duck Ragu. I have only recently begun dabbling in making my own pasta and the more I do it, the more therapeutic I find the whole process. You really need a pasta machine to roll the Pappardelle out so that it is thin and even so if you don’t have one, the store bought variety is totally fine.

I didn’t follow a recipe at all for this version, I simply paired the duck with flavours that I know are a perfect match and the result was heavenly.

Prep time: 30 Minutes

Cooking time: 3 Hours

$$ Medium Budget

Serves 6

4 x duck legs

4 cloves of garlic, finely minced

2 brown onions, finely diced

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

3 celery stalks, halved lengthways and diced

3 bay leaves

2 stalks of rosemary, leaves removed and stalks discarded and finely chopped

8 Juniper berries

1 cinnamon stick

3 pieces of orange peel

1 cup of red wine

1 cup of chicken stock

400gm tin of cherry tomatoes

400gm bottle of passata

2 tbs of tomato paste

Sea salt and pepper

2 tsp of sugar

1/2 a bunch of Italian parsley, finely chopped

Freshly grated parmesan cheese to serve

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

For the Pasta:

600gm of ‘OO’ flour

6 eggs

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

To make the Duck Ragu, heat a heavy based, oven proof casserole dish. Season the duck legs on both sides and fry until golden brown. You won’t need any oil as duck is quite fatty. Remove the duck from the pan and set aside. Remove any excess fat if needed but leave a small amount for frying.

In the same pan, fry the onion until it is just starting to soften then add the garlic, carrot, celery, bay leaves, rosemary, juniper berries, orange peel and cinnamon stick. Fry over a medium heat until the veggies start to soften and then add the tomato paste. Cook the tomato paste for about a minute and then pour in the red wine, stock, cherry tomatoes and passata. Season with salt, pepper and sugar and stir to combine. It should be lovely, thick and rich.

Place the duck legs back in the pan and push them down so they are immersed in the sauce. Tear off a sheet of baking paper and tuck it in, nice and firm, to stop any moisture escaping and place a lid on. Bake in the oven for 21/2 – 3 hours, checking every 45 minutes or so until the duck meat is falling off the bone.

While the Duck Ragu is cooking prepare the pasta. I use my food processor to make the dough. Place the flour and eggs in the processor and blitz until you have what resembles breadcrumbs. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and then bring the dough together by kneading with the palms of your hands. This requires a bit of effort and you will have to knead for around 5 minutes to get the gluten in the flour working. Once the dough has come together, roll it onto a disk and wrap in cling film. Place the dough in the fridge for at least half an hour to rest.

Remove the dough from the fridge and cut into four even portions. Lightly flour the bench and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into an oval shape about 1cm thick. Place your pasta machine on its largest setting (number 1) and roll the dough through. I like to do this first setting about 4 times, I just fold the dough back up and feed it through the machine. Once you have done the first setting repeatedly, move onto the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th settings until you have a beautiful long ribbon of pasta. You will need to lightly flour the dough between each setting to prevent it from sticking. I then cut the long ribbon in half and then fold each half into thirds. Use a sharp knife to cut the ribbons about 1 inch in width. Hang the ribbons over a rack or broom handle to dry until you are ready to use and repeat with the remaining dough.

Once the duck is falling off the bone, remove the Duck Ragu from the oven and remove the duck legs from the sauce. Strip all of the meat from the bones (be careful of the smaller bones), return it to the sauce and discard the bones. Add two thirds of the chopped parsley just before serving and stir it through the sauce. If the sauce looks a little too thick, add a little pasta water to thin it out.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta, it will literally need about 4-5 minutes until al dente`. Use tongs to drag the pasta over to the sauce and use two large spoons to toss and coat the pasta with the Duck Ragu.

To serve, divide the Duck Ragu between 6 serving bowls (or less and eat the rest the next day…..even better). Grate over fresh parmesan cheese, sprinkle over the remaining parsley and drizzle with a good lug of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Serve with a crisp green salad and crusty bread.

You may find this pasta drying rack handy, I have one and it is perfect….