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.
Reprinted with permission from Roberta's by Carlo Mirarchi, Brandon Hoy, Chris Parachini, and Katherine Wheelock. Copyright 2013. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 68 grams (1/2 cup) kosher salt, plus more as needed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 (400-gram/14-ounce) duck legs
- Some good olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3 celery ribs, finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
- 340 grams (1 1/2 cups) dry white wine
- 1 (794-gram/28-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes
- 35 grams (1 1/4 ounces) 80 to 90 percent dark chocolate, finely grated
- 300 grams (2 cups plus 3 1/2 tablespoons) Tipo 00 flour
- 6 large egg yolks
- 60 grams (1/4 cup) room-temperature water
- All-purpose flour, for rolling the dough
- A pinch of chili flakes
- A chunk of Piave Vecchio cheese or parmigiano
- A handful of parsley leaves, chopped
To cure the duck: In a big bowl, mix the garlic cloves and thyme sprigs with the salt and 5 or 6 coarse grinds of black pepper. In a shallow glass container or on a sheet pan, spread half of the mixture in a thin layer. Put the duck legs on the salt mixture, and cover them with the remaining mixture. Seal the container or cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight—at least 8 hours and up to 12.
To make the ragu: Remove the duck legs from the salt, rinse them, pat them dry, and let them come to room temperature.
Coat a big heavy-bottomed pot or a Dutch oven with olive oil and set it over medium-high heat. In batches, brown the duck legs well on each side, 3 to 5 minutes per side, and then remove them from the pot and set them aside. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat. Lower the heat just a little and add the onion, celery, and carrots to the pot. Let them soften for a few minutes, and then add the wine and give everything a stir. Add the tomatoes—juice and all—and stir. Break the tomatoes up a little with a wooden spoon. Return the duck legs, with their juices, to the pot, cover, and let everything simmer for 2 hours or more. The duck is done when the meat easily comes off the bone when it’s prodded with a fork.
Turn off the heat, remove the duck legs from the pot, and let them sit until they’re cool enough to handle. Then shred the meat, keeping about half the skin and fat and discarding the rest along with the bones. Return the meat, fat, and skin (try the skin first; some people don’t like the texture. If you don’t, don’t add it) to the pot and set it over medium-low heat. Add the dark chocolate to the pot and stir. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
To make the pasta: Sift the flour (this is particularly key if the flour’s been sitting around a while or if it’s been humid). On a work surface or in a big metal bowl, mound your sifted flour and make a well in the center.
Put the egg yolks and a splash of the water in the well. With your hands, break up the egg yolks and begin incorporating the flour into them a little at a time (if you’re using a bowl, put a kitchen towel under the bowl so it doesn’t spin around while you mix). Take your time. Work the mixture with your fingers and gradually pull in more flour from underneath and around it, adding more water if the dough seems dry.
When the dough starts to come together into a mass, transfer it to a dry surface and begin kneading it. Push it, pull it, and push it back down again. Put the palms of your hands into it. Work the dough firmly until it’s one cohesive, smooth mass, about 10 minutes. Wrap it in a damp kitchen towel and let it rest at room temperature for half an hour. If you’re not using it immediately, wrap it in plastic wrap, refrigerate it, and use it within 12 hours.
Attach your pasta machine to the edge of a clean, long work surface. Divide the dough into 2 baseball-size balls. Flatten them slightly with your hand and dust them lightly with flour. Set the pasta machine to the widest setting and feed one ball of dough into it four or five times in a row. Adjust the setting to the next widest and feed the dough through three or four times. If the pasta cracks along the side, fold the cracked edge over and feed the sheet through the machine again to smooth it out. Adjust the machine to the thinnest possible setting and feed the dough through. The resulting sheet of pasta should be about 1/16 inch thick—just short of being translucent. Repeat with the remaining ball of dough.
Lay the rolled sheets of pasta on a floured surface and use a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife to cut them into ribbons 1 to 11⁄2 inches wide. If you’re using the pasta right away, cover it with a damp kitchen towel until you’re ready to drop it in the pot. If you’re not using it right away, lightly dust it with flour, layer it between pieces of parchment paper on a sheet pan, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.
To finish: Put a large pot of heavily salted water on to boil, and put three or four shallow bowls for serving in a 200°F oven to warm.
Coat a large saute pan with olive oil, add a big pinch of chili flakes, and set it over medium-low heat. Put the pappardelle in the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Use tongs to transfer it from the pot to the
saute pan, and add a big splash of pasta water. Toss the pasta around a little and check the seasoning. Divide the pasta among the warmed shallow bowls and spoon ragu over each portion (there will be leftover ragu). Garnish with a few shavings of the cheese and a little parsley, and serve.