Dinner/ Italian Recipes/ meat

Duck Ragu

9 January 2022 By Aleksandra

Duck ragu is a delicious tomato sauce with shredded duck. Think bolognese sauce, but with duck meat! If you love gamey duck flavor, you will love this dish. Duck’s legs are simmered long and slow in an aromatic tomato sauce until the meat it fall-of-the bone tender and shreds easily. Serve it with pappardelle pasta and parmesan cheese for an amazing comfort food meal.

Duck ragu with pappardele pasta in a beige plate.

About the recipe

Pappardelle all’anatra (also called Pappardelle al ragù di anatra/Pappardelle with duck ragu) is a traditional Tuscan dish that is made with duck meat and aromatic tomato sauce with wine and herbs. It’s served with pappardelle pasta and grated Parmesan cheese.

Duck ragu is also very popular in Venice but it’s usually made as ‘white sauce’ (without the tomatoes), often with ground duck meat and duck livers. It’s usually served with gnocchi or bigoli pasta (thick spaghetti).

Labeled ingredients for Spätzle.

Ingredients

Here’s what you need to make duck ragu:

Labeled ingredients for duck ragu.
  • Duck meat – I went with duck legs – they are the best part of duck for this recipe. Bones provide great flavor for the sauce.
  • Sofritto – carrot, celery, and onion.
  • Herbs – rosemary – must be fresh.
  • Aromatics: garlic and dried mushrooms. Dried mushrooms are optional but they add additional depth of flavor to the sauce.
  • Wine – adds acidity and flavor to the sauce. You can omit it if you don’t cook with wine but the sauce may lack some acidity (you could add 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar instead). You can use white wine or red wine. I chose white wine to not overwhelm duck meat flavor with red wine. Chose dry white or red wine.
  • Broth – use chicken broth OR duck broth if you have it. You can use carcass of roast whole duck to make delicious and easy homemade duck broth and use in this recipe! The flavor of this sauce prepared with duck broth is seriously out-of-this-world.
  • Tomato passata (or crushed tomatoes) – Tomato passata is pureed strained and uncooked tomatoes that are sold in a jar. It tastes amazing, it’s already thick and smooth, and it doesn’t need to be cooked down like canned crushed or diced tomatoes). This is what I prefer to use. If you can’t find that you can use canned crushed tomatoes. Don’t substitute for tomato paste which is a different product.

Step by step instructions

Excess fat is being cut off of duck legs. Pan-fried duck legs in a pot.

STEP 1: Trim excess fat from the duck legs – this is important – duck legs are very fatty so if you don’t remove the fat you will have to render it in the pot which will take about 15 minutes.

Season the meat with salt and pepper on both sides.

STEP 2: Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium meat. When hot, add the legs and cook them on both sides until browned. Transfer the legs to a plate.

Chopped vegetables and herbs on a wooden board. Wine is being added to sauteed vegetables in a pot.

STEP 3: Prepare the other ingredients: finely chop onion, carrot, celery, rosemary, prosciutto, and garlic (I’m using a food processor to chop onion, carrot, and celery, and I chop the rest of the ingredients by hand).

STEP 4: Add the prosciutto to the pot, cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring from time to time, until lightly browned.

Add chopped onion, carrot, celery, and rosemary. Cook for a couple of minutes until soft. Add the garlic and dried mushrooms. Cook for 30-60 seconds until the garlic is fragrant.

Add the wine, cook for about 2 minutes, or until the wine is almost evaporated.

Tomatoes are being added to the pot. Duck legs in tomato sauce in a pot.

STEP 5: Add the broth and tomato passata (or crushed tomatoes).

STEP 6: Stir everything together then add duck legs back to the pot (they should be submerged in the sauce).

Simmer the sauce over very low heat, uncovered, for 2 – 2 1/2 hours or until the meat falls off the bones easily. After 1 hour flip the legs over.

Duck leg meat is being shredded with a fork. Shredded duck meat and tomato sauce in a pot.

STEP 7: Transfer the legs to a plate. Remove the meat from the bones, shred the meat using two forks, discard the bones and skin.

STEP 8: Add the shredded meat to the pot. Cook briefly until warmed through.

Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Serve with cooked al dente pasta and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

Serving suggestions

We like this sauce most with pappardelle/tagliatelle or penne pasta but you could also serve it with potato gnocchi or polenta.

Storage

Store the sauce and pasta separately. You can store the sauce in the fridge for 3-4 days or freeze it for 3-4 months.

If you want less fat in your sauce, cool the sauce completely in the fridge, then remove the fat that will gather at the top of the sauce.

Duck ragu with pappardele pasta in a beige plate is being stuck on a fork.

Did you make this recipe? RATE THE RECIPE or tell me in the COMMENTS how you liked it! You can also add a photo of your dish. It would make me very happy and will help other readers. Thank you!!

Duck Ragu

Duck ragu is a delicious tomato sauce with shredded duck. Think bolognese sauce, but with duck meat! If you love gamey duck flavor, you will love this dish. Duck’s legs are simmered long and slow in an aromatic tomato sauce until the meat it fall-of-the bone tender and shreds easily. Serve it with pappardelle pasta and parmesan cheese for an amazing comfort food meal.
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Duck ragu with pappardele pasta in a beige plate.
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Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 373kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

for the ragu:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 duck legs 1,6 lbs/750g
  • 5 slices prosciutto crudo or pancetta, can be omitted
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 twigs rosemary
  • 3 pieces dried porcini mushrooms optional
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or red wine
  • 2 cups chicken or duck broth
  • 1 jar tomato passata 24.5 fl oz/700 ml, or 2 cans crushed tomatoes (400ml/14 oz)

to serve:

  • pappardelle pasta
  • grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Prepare the ingredients: finely chop onion, carrot, celery, rosemary, prosciutto, and garlic (I’m using a food processor to chop onion, carrot, and celery, and I chop the rest of the ingredients by hand).
  • Trim excess fat from the duck legs, season them with salt and pepper on both sides.
  • Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium meat. When hot, add the legs and cook them on both sides until browned. Transfer the legs to a plate.
  • Add the prosciutto to the pot, cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring from time to time, until lightly browned.
  • Add chopped onion, carrot, celery, and rosemary. Cook for a couple of minutes until soft. Add the garlic and dried mushrooms. Cook for 30-60 seconds until the garlic is fragrant.
  • Add the wine, cook for about 2 minutes, or until the wine is almost evaporated.
  • Add the broth and tomato passata (or crushed tomatoes). Stir everything together then add duck legs back to the pot (they should be submerged in the sauce).
  • Simmer the sauce over very low heat, uncovered, for 2 – 2 1/2 hours or until the meat falls off the bones easily. After 1 hour flip the legs over.
  • Transfer the legs to a plate. Remove the meat from the bones, shred the meat using two forks, discard the bones and skin.
  • Add the shredded meat to the pot. Cook briefly until warmed through.
  • Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Serve with cooked al dente pasta and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • If you don’t cook with wine you can omit it but the sauce may lack some acidity (you could add 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar instead).
  • Duck broth made from roast duck carcass and bones is perfect for this recipe.
  • Instead of pappardelle, you can use penne pasta or potato gnocchi.
  • Store the sauce and pasta separately.
  • Calories = 1 serving (1/4 of the recipe), the pasta is not included. This is only an estimate!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
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