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Pappardelle With Duck Ragu From 'Roberta's'

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[Photograph: Dave Potez]

The pasta chapter in the Roberta's cookbook is primarily about fresh pasta. There are a couple of recipes that call for dried, but if you want to cook Roberta's pasta, you've got to be prepared to pull out a pasta machine. Carlo Mirarchi's basic pasta dough is egg-rich and a beautiful shade of yellow. It pairs well with countless sauces and fillings, and today we'll be braising a duck ragù.

As is the case with any meaty ragù, the sauce is hearty and rich. The base is familiar—tomatoes, wine, mirepoix—but the duck's treatment makes this ragù stand out. Instead of browning and braising the fresh duck legs, Mirarchi lightly cures the legs in a mixture of salt, garlic, and thyme. This step seasons the meat to the bone, adding a touch of herbaceous fragrance to boot.

Why I picked this recipe: I love duck, and I love fresh pasta. This hearty winter dish was an easy choice.

What worked: Curing the duck before braising is a smart move—8 to 12 hours sitting in salt helps keep the flavor of the duck shining loud and bright in the rich ragù.

What didn't: I thought the final sauce was on the wine-heavy side. Next time, I'll reduce the wine a bit (until it cooks down by half) before adding the tomatoes and duck legs. I also would have preferred to toss the pasta with the ragù before serving instead of spooning the sauce over the pappardelle. My fresh pasta fell apart a bit and stuck together once I transferred it from the boiling water to the sauté pan. I don't know enough about fresh pasta-making to be sure of what exactly went wrong, but my guess is that the dough may have been too eggy. Any tips?

Suggested tweaks: If you don't want to spend the time making fresh pasta, you can use high quality store-bought fresh pappardelle here.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Roberta's to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. She blogs at Cooking Wolves. Follow her @KateHWiliams.

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