It’s somehow always the one thing you can’t have that you desperately want. I remember longing daily for steamy, buttery mashed potatoes while on safari in Africa. I would imagine my daily cornmeal mush was actually potatoes (and I like cornmeal mush). Then there was the time I spent a weekend on a rice boat through the backwaters in India daydreaming of a big, juicy burger. Eating beef in a Hindu country is challenging (and inconsiderate) but as ducks paddled by the boat, I dreamt of duck burgers. I’m not sure what is wrong with me as I could go a year without a burger or mashed potato, but in those moments some part of me realised I couldn’t have them and suddenly a deep longing developed.
Since my boating days in India, I have taken a keen interest in recipes featuring duck which may normally have used beef. Pasta with duck ragù is one of these (as are the duck burgers which are delicious with hoisin sauce instead of ketchup by the way). If you like duck, have Hindu friends coming around or are in India obsessing over the lack of beef, this recipe is for you. Goose has long been a substitute for pork in Italian Jewish cooking, why not duck for beef?
Bigoli con anatra (bigoli with duck ragu) – Veneto
Bigoli are a thick spaghetti made with flour, egg and water and pressed through a press called a bigolaro. If bigoli are not available, then tagliatelle and pappardelle are fine substitutes. For step-by-step illustrated instructions, click here.
1 celery rib, rinsed, ends removed and finely chopped
1 carrot, rinsed, peeled, ends removed and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, skin removed
20 grams butter
1 duck breast, half the fat removed and discarded, the rest finely chopped
1 bay leaf, rinsed
1 pinch cinnamon
250 mls red wine
Chicken or meat broth, as needed
30 grams Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
Black pepper, freshly ground
In a large pot, bring to boil 5 litres of water with 50 grams of salt.
In a large sauce pan, add the butter, celery, carrot, shallot and garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring. After about 5 minutes, turn up the heat and add the chopped duck, bay leaf, clove and cinnamon and stir to brown the meat. Add the red wine and reduce the heat to low. Add salt and pepper and cook for 30 minutes, adding broth as necessary. Discard the garlic.
Cook the pasta for the time indicated on the package. Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce. Divide into serving bowls and sprinkle the cheese over top. Add a bit of freshly ground pepper to the top and serve.