Duck Ragu

  • Duck Ragu
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Rated 5 out of 5 based on 2 votes


  • 4 x duck marylands
  • 3 Tbls olive oil
  • 3 x anchovy fillets – roughly chopped
  • 2 x rashes pancetta or streaky bacon - shredded
  • 3 x shallots – finely diced
  • 1/2 x spanish onion - diced
  • 4 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
  • 1 x stick of celery – small dice
  • 1 x medium carrot – small dice
  • 2 x bay leaves
  • 10 x fresh sage leaves - shredded
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 x cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup cup red wine
  • 1 cup duck or chicken stock
  • 2 x tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 handful sage leaves (to finish)
  • 1 clove of garlic – unpeeled, lightly crushed


My heritage comes from Northern Italia where our duck ragu is a little lighter on the tomato, quite meaty, and sage is the predominant herb of choice. You can personalize theses herbs to suit your own taste but it does need to be of a robust nature, such as rosemary, to complement the richness of the duck. The ragu pictured here was flavoured with rosemary, thyme and bay and finished with fresh basil as I was all out of sage at the time. For my taste, I think it works better with the sage.

1. Rinse the duck legs and pat dry with paper towel. Sprinkle generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper and massage into the skin.
2. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a heavy based dutch oven or pot with a tight fitting lid over medium heat. Add the duck marylands and brown all over. Remove from pan and set aside. Drain all but 1 tbsp of fat from the pot and reserve for later. Add one more tablespoon of olive oil and bring to heat.
3. Add the anchovies and pancetta to the pot and sauté for a couple of minutes or until anchovies have dissolved. Add the shallots, onion and garlic and continue cooking over a low flame until onions are slightly transparent.
4. Add the celery and carrot and cook for 5 – 10 minutes, stirring often, until vegetables have begun to caramelize. Tie the thyme sprigs together with a length of kitchen string (makes getting out all those little stems much easier later) and add to the vegetables together with the bay leaves, sage and cinnamon stick. Add the red wine to de-glaze the pot, making sure to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add a little salt and pepper then return the duck legs to the pot. Cook for 2 minutes before adding the stock and diced tomatoes. Bring to a gentle simmer and make sure duck is mainly submerged in the sauce. Reduce heat to very low and seal firmly with the lid.
5. Continue to cook the duck for 3 hours, stirring gently each hour and adjusting seasoning as required. If sauce is evaporating too much add a little extra stock. This slow cooking can also be done in a pressure cooker, reducing the simmering time to 1 ½ hours.
6. After 3 hours, remove the duck and allow to cool slightly before shredding the meat off the bone, discarding all bones and skin. Remove the thyme bundle, cinnamon stick and bay leaves from the sauce before returning duck meat back to the pot. If sauce is still too liquid, simmer the open pot while boiling the pasta. Otherwise, remove from the heat and keep covered until pasta is ready.
7. In a separate small frypan over medium flame, heat 1 tbsp of the reserved duck fat together with the last tbsp of olive oil and lightly crushed garlic clove. Add the whole sage leaves and toss in the oil until beginning to crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Discard the garlic.
8. Serve ragu gently tossed through al dente pasta, preferably fresh or home made. Traditionally duck ragu is best served with garganelli (similar to penne) or pappardelle. Finish the plate with a generous grating of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano and a scattering of crispy sage leaves. Enjoy!

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  • *runs off to ask the local butcher about some of his ducks* oh my!


    by Helen Minns on 04/02/2013, 06:43
    Helen Minns
  • I hope you enjoy it as much as we all do. I usually buy 2 ducks as well but end up with my marylands, some nice breast portions, beautiful stock, duck red wine jus made from the wings, duck neck sausages (duck and pork filling), and some rendered duck fat for scrumptious roast potatoes. Those 2 ducks go a long way really! :)


    by Poppy La Pops on 04/02/2013, 18:07
    Poppy La Pops
    • btw… this is Nina, Poppy is my cheeky pug who just thinks she can! I don’t have a specific recipe for the duck sausage but if I have the 2 ducks to break down I usually remove the whole necks, remove the skin carefully and that big yicky artery thing. The skinned necks will go in the stock pot or chopped up a little to be caramelized for the jus. The neck skin I trim up a bit and use as a casing for the sausage filling. As for the actual filling I kinda make it up as I go. If I can spare a thigh and a breast I put them through the mincer with some pork belly, maybe 1/2 an onion, some fennel bulb as well as the seeds works quite nicely, some fresh bread crumbs and generous seasoning. I always cook off a small blob to make sure it tastes good before stuffing into the neck. You can either just tie the ends with kitchen string like a bonbon or stitch it with a butchers needle if you have one for neater ends. I like to truss them like a mini rolled roast to help them keep a better shape. To cook them I sear them to get some colour and finish in the oven. a couple of slices is quite nice as an accompaniment to the duck breast with some of that delicious jus :)


      by Nina Costantini on 05/02/2013, 01:33
      Nina Costantini
      • Wow! What lovely photos! Sorry for the delay in responding as I’ve been away for the last couple of weeks. I’m so glad you have enjoyed the recipe and no offence is taken with your changes. Actually, if I make this for my dad he likes me to pass the sauce through the ‘passatutto’ (food mill) before adding back the shredded duck too. The cinnamon is just traditional for the Northern Italian region my family come from but its use does vary the further south you go. The flavour is quite subtle and we like to use it for many of our meaty ragu or bolognaise style sauces. The star anise sounds lovely though and I must try that next time. I’m looking forward to the recipe for your version of the duck neck sausage. Mmm… that sugar plum sauce is sounding like a fabulous complement for it too… *drooling* :)


        by Poppy La Pops on 23/02/2013, 01:54
        Poppy La Pops