Pappardelle with Duck and Porcini Ragù

A long braise in red wine and broth turns duck legs into a rich and deeply flavorful ragù – one that's easier to make than you might think. Dried porcini add woodsy depth. Whether you use it to dress luscious handmade papardelle or good dried imported pasta, it's a winner.

Ingredients

4 duck legs (about 2 1/4 pounds)

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 medium carrot, diced

3 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

2 dried or 3 fresh bay leaves

1 1/2 cups red wine

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1 recipe of fresh pappardelle or 1 pound of dried pappardelle

Chopped Italian parsley (optional)

Grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Instructions

1. Dry the duck legs and sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the duck legs (skin side down), and brown them about 5 minutes on each side. Remove the duck legs to a plate and set aside. Pour off and all but about 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat (you might want to save it for another use). 

2. Add the onion, carrot and garlic cloves to the pan and cook them over medium-low heat, stirring now and then, till the onion is soft and translucent. And the thyme and bay leaf and cook a few more seconds. Turn heat to high, add the red wine and deglaze the pan by scraping up the browned bits of duck on the bottom with a wooden spoon and stirring. Continue cooking about 4 or 5 minutes after the pan is deglazed. Add the chicken broth, along with the diced tomatoes and their liquid and the dried porcini (break any very large porcini with your fingers before adding them). Stir to combine and add the duck legs, along with any liquid they've given off.  

3. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, partially cover the Dutch oven and let the mixture simmer for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, turning the duck legs once or twice and skimming off the fat from the top now and then. 

4. Remove the duck legs to a cutting board and pull all the duck meat off the bones, which will be very easy as the meat will be falling-off-the-bone tender. (This is a good time to bring your pasta water to a boil.) Skim the fat from the ragù if necessary, then return the duck meat to the pot and stir to combine. Simmer the ragù 10 to 15 minutes, uncovered, till the ragù looks and smells so delicious you can't stand not to be eating it. Adjust seasoning. 

5. While the ragù finishes simmering, cook the pasta in salted water until it is al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander or transfer it directly into the simmering ragu, and cook it a minute or two in the ragù. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter, garnish with chopped parsley if desired and serve immediately with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.