The city of Venice is one defined by its heritage - from grand Byzantine architecture to the direct pathway to the Adriatic sea, afforded by the many canals and waterways, echoes of the Ottoman empire ring throughout the city. Venice’s middle eastern heritage persists in its modern cuisine too - spices like cinnamon, saffron, and nutmeg are commonplace in Venetian cooking.
Few dishes are more emblematic of this heritage than the classic Venetian duck ragu, which blends rich duck meat with red wine, bay leaf, and cinnamon. Slow-cooked until the duck ceases to cling to the bone, this sumptuous ragu pairs perfectly with rich ribbons of pappardelle, the thick strands capable of capturing every last delicious morsel of fragrant, spiced duck.
Oh, to be in La Serenissima, the city or romance, the Queen of the Adriatic, Aperol spritz in one hand, a fork of ragù d'anatra alla Veneta in the other. We can certainly replicate this romantic scene with the recipe below, or by following along with Chef Roberta as she takes you through the process, step by step.
Or if we've whet your appetite, why not take it easy and order one of our restaurant-quality takeaways or recipe kits direct to your doorstep.
Our Venetian duck ragù recipe
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 135-140 mins
Calories per serving: 392kcal (excluding pasta)
- 4 duck legs, (skin on) or 2 duck breast (skin off and cut into smaller pieces)
- 800g tinned chopped tomatoes
- 500ml chicken stock
- 300ml good red wine - barolo or chianti both work well. *Chef Roberta loves using red wine for the rich dark colour however white wine is also perfect for this recipe.
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 80g onion, finely chopped
- 80g carrot, finely chopped
- 80g celery, finely chopped
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- Handful sage leaves, finely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 400-600g pasta of your choice (We love our duck ragù with pappardelle)
- In a large pot or dutch oven, 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. If using duck breast, you don't have to remove before adding the other ingredients.
- 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, carrot, and celery. Sauté over a medium heat until softened, then add the garlic and sage leaves. Continue to fry until the mixture is fragrant.
- Deglaze the pot with your 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, stock, cinnamon, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. 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 2 hours, stirring occasionally. *Note that if using smaller pieces of duck breast, it will take less time for the meat to become tender.
- 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. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Remove your bay leaves should you wish, before serving with your pasta of choice.
How should I serve my duck ragu?
While you can pair this robust ragu with any pasta of your choosing, pappardelle or paccheri work particularly well here. The latter have a thick, tubular shape that stands up to even the richest of sauces. Likewise, the long, flat shape of pappardelle ensures the pasta captures every last delicious shred of sumptuous duck. Finish your pasta with a generous helping of Parmigiano Reggiano, and enjoy!
What better way to complete this homage to Veneto, than with an ice-cold Aperol Spritz?