Duck leg ragu

Bolognese is a hit in our house, as it is in many across the UK, but sometimes it’s nice to ring the changes.

Slow cooking duck legs in a tomato-based sauce until it is so tender that it falls off the bones and shreds easily, is a wonderful way of achieving a flavour-packed ragu to serve with pasta.

Unlike duck breasts, duck legs are usually relatively inexpensive and two legs can go a very long way in the sauce. Cooking them on the bones means you’re getting instant flavour going into your sauce.

Duck can be fatty so to save that going into the sauce, I skin the legs before cooking. But waste not want not, the skin can go in the oven at the same time as the sauce – it turns golden and crispy like crackling – and can be served crumbled over the top of your dish to add a surprising crunch in some mouthfuls.

Serves 4

Ingredients Equipment to have ready
7g porcini soaked in 50ml hot water Sharp knife
1 tbsp olive oil Chopping board
1/2 onion, finely chopped Casserole pan with lid (hob and oven proof)
1 stick celery, finely chopped Teaspoon and tablespoon measures
1 medium carrot, finely chopped Baking tray lined with tinfoil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 2 forks
Splash of balsamic vinegar Large plate
1.5 tbsp tomato puree
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1/2 tin chicken stock
1 Grana Padano/Parmesan rind
1 heaped tsp Marmite
2 duck legs, skinned (keep the skin)
Salt and pepper
Cooked pappardelle, basil and grated Grana Padano/Parmesan (to serve)


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 140C Fan.
  2. Heat the olive oil in casserole pan on a low heat.
  3. Sweat the onions, celery and carrots with a good grinding of black pepper until they are soft but not browned. I like to speed up this process by putting the lid on the pan for 3-4 minutes and then removing it to get rid of any steam and liquid from the vegetables.
  4. Squeeze out the porcini and finely chop. Put the liquor to one side for later.
  5. Add the chopped porcini to the pan along with the garlic. Cook for a minute or so, stirring all the time, until the smell of the garlic has dissipated.
  6. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and the tomato puree. Stir through and cook out for a couple of minutes.
  7. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, followed by the stock and the porcini liquor. Stir well.
  8. Drop in the Grana Padano/Parmesan rind and stir in the Marmite.
  9. Bring to boil then turn down to a simmer and add the duck legs.
  10. Put the lid on and transfer to the oven for around 2 hours, until the meat is falling away from the bones. Check and stir after 1 hour.
  11. Put the duck skin onto a baking tray lined with foil and season with salt.
  12. Put the skin into the oven to crisp up, draining off the fat after 1 hour (keep the fat in a sealed jar in the fridge and use it to cook your roast potatoes).
  13. Once crisp, remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  14. Once cooked, remove the duck legs from the sauce and transfer to a plate. Using two forks, remove the meat from the bones and shred.
  15. Return the meat to the pan and stir through the sauce.
  16. Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary by adding salt and/or pepper.
  17. Break up the crispy duck skin into little pieces.
  18. Serve the ragu over some pappardelle and sprinkle with the crispy duck skin, cheese and basil.