Lasagne has its origins in Ancient Rome. Romans knew the dish as lasana or lasanum (Latin for ‘container’, or ‘pot’), which, whilst similar, differed considerably from the modern version. This earlier incarnation was first detailed within a collection of Roman cookery recipes entitled De Re Coquinaria by a gentleman named Apicius, believed to be one of the oldest existing recipes in the Western world. And whilst our lasagne recipe differs from Apicius’ early version, it is entirely Roman in inspiration, thanks to our inclusion of duck, which was more commonly consumed throughout the Roman Republic than butchers’ meats like beef. Indeed, Caesar was known to have given a public feast to 260,000 humiliores upon his triumph, a ceremony to honour his military prowess. The feast notably included duck, but there was no beef.
In this aromatic lasagne recipe, we layer tender duck and olive ragù between sheets of fresh, handmade lasagne, and creamy and mild bechamel. Finished with a hearty layer of parmesan, and our decadent duck lasagne is complete.
Our duck & olive lasagne recipe
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 130 minutes
Calories per serving: 692kcal
For the duck and olive ragù:
400g chopped tomato
4 duck legs, skin on
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
50g olives, pitted and sliced
175ml white wine
200ml chicken stock
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary
2 bay leaves
½ tsp sugar
Salt and black pepper to taste
For the lasagne
- 400g fresh lasagne sheets
- 75g Parmigiano Reggiano to sprinkle over each layer (don’t forget the top)
For the bèchamel sauce
- 600 ml of milk
- 60g plain flour
- 60g butter
- Generous grating of nutmeg
- Salt and black pepper to season
To make the duck and olive ragù
- In a large pot, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add your duck legs and brown on all sides. Once crisp and golden in colour, remove the duck from the pot and set aside.
- Add another glug of olive oil if necessary (the duck will likely have rendered enough fat that you do not need to do so), before adding the onion and carrot. Sauté over a medium heat until softened, then add the garlic. Continue to fry until the mixture is fragrant, being careful not to burn anything.
- Deglaze the pot with the white wine, ensuring to capture the delicious browning on the bottom of the pot, for a deeper, meatier sauce. Allow the alcohol to cook off, before adding your tomatoes, olives, chicken stock, rosemary, bay leaves and sugar. Stir this mixture, then add the duck legs, ensuring they are fully submerged in liquid.
- Reduce the heat, place the lid on the pot and allow the mixture to gently simmer for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- After that time, remove the lid from the pot - the sauce should have reduced to a rich and thick ragu. Gently remove the duck legs from the mixture - by this point they should be fork-tender, so be careful to keep the meat on the bone when lifting from the pot. Once at a manageable temperature, remove the skin and gently pull the meat from the bone with a fork. Once all your duck meat is shredded, add it back to the sauce and stir on a low heat until well combined. Remove your bay leaves and rosemary, before tasting and seasoning with salt and pepper as necessary.
To make your béchamel
- While your ragù is cooking, melt 60g butter in a saucepan, before adding an equal quantity of flour. Whisk until combined and cook on low heat for 1-2 minutes, until a roux is formed.
- Remove from the heat and gradually add the milk, stirring continuously until thickened. Ensure to add only a splash of milk at a time, as adding too much will result in a lumpy béchamel. Season with nutmeg, salt and black pepper to taste, and set aside.
Watch Roberta making a traditional béchamel sauce in our video guide:
To finish off your lasagne
- To assemble the lasagne, ladle a thin layer of ragù on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with a layer of lasagne sheets – don’t worry about overlapping sheets here. Follow this with another layer of ragù – be more generous this time; using the back of the spoon push it right to the edge. Follow with a layer of béchamel. Sprinkle over a generous handful of grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Repeat these steps (pasta, ragù, béchamel, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese) to use up both sauces and pasta. There should be at least 5 layers of pasta and the top should be sprinkled with Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Cook the lasagne for 40 minutes. Our Head Chef Roberta recommends covering your dish with aluminium foil for the first 10-15 mins, to ensure that the lasagne doesn't dry out in the oven.
- Remove from the oven and leave to stand for at least 5 minutes. To serve, slice into equal-sized portions and finish with freshly shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. Buon appetito.