Pappardelle with Tuscan Duck Sauce

Pappardelle Aretine

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Yield: 1 quart Sauce, enough for



Appears in


By James Peterson

Published 1991

  • About

Duck is cooked into pasta sauces in many regions of Italy. Each region has its preferred pasta shape and its own style of cooking and serving the duck. In some regions, the duck is left in large chunks—even on the bone—whereas in other places the duck flesh is finely chopped. This recipe falls somewhere in between.

Most Italian recipes call for removing the duck skin and cooking the whole duck, but this sauce is especially good when made with leftover duck thighs, which can be saved in the freezer if the breasts are being used for other dishes. In general, duck thighs are better for braising because they tend to stay more moist, although if the duck meat is being finely chopped, any dryness will be imperceptible. Making a stock from the duck carcass, reducing it, and adding it to the sauce is an ultimate, but not essential, refinement.


whole Pekin duck or thighs and drumsticks from 2 ducks 5 lb or 5 lb 2.3 kg or 2.3 kg
olive oil 2 tbsp 30 ml
onion, finely chopped 1 medium 1 medium
carrot, finely chopped 1 small 1 small
celery, finely chopped ½ stalk ½ stalk
garlic cloves, finely chopped 3 3
prosciutto, 1 slice ( inch/3 mm thick), finely chopped (optional) 2 oz 50 g
ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped or drained and seeded canned tomatoes, chopped 3 lb or 2 (28-oz) cans 1.35 kg or 1 L
red wine 1 cup 250 ml
sage leaves 3 3
fresh pappardelle, fettuccine (tagliatelle), or linguine or dried tubular pasta such as penne or rigatoni lb or 1 lb 675 g or 450 g
salt and pepper to taste to taste
freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano


  1. If using a whole duck, remove the breasts, thighs, and the first (thicker) wing joints. Reserve the giblets. The carcass can be used for making stock or discarded.
  2. Brown the giblets, if using, and the duck pieces, skin side down, in the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Remove and reserve the giblets as soon as they are browned. Brown the duck pieces as long as possible without letting the skin burn, about 20 minutes. Keep the breasts skin side down over moderate heat so they render the maximum of fat. Turn the pieces over and brown them for 5 minutes more on the meat side. Take the duck pieces out of the pan and reserve. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) of the fat and add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and prosciutto. Sweat over medium heat until the onion turns translucent, about 10 minutes.
  3. Put the browned duck pieces and giblets, except for the liver, back into the pot with the vegetables. Add the tomatoes, wine, and sage. Cover the pot and simmer very gently for 2 hours. Be sure regularly to skim off fat. Don’t let the broth boil.
  4. Remove the duck pieces. Reduce the sauce gently, skimming every 15 minutes, until only 1 quart (1 liter) of sauce remains.
  5. While the braising liquid is reducing, bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil for cooking the pasta. Pull off and discard any fat and skin clinging to the duck pieces, take the meat off the bones, and chop the duck meat, giblets, and liver into roughly ¼-inch (5 mm) pieces.
  6. Cook and drain the pasta.
  7. Stir the chopped duck into the sauce. Just before serving, season with salt and pepper. Add the pasta, toss, and serve immediately. Pass the Parmesan cheese at the table. The giblets can be either incorporated into the sauce or sprinkled over the finished plates.