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Pappardelle with Red Wine-Stewed Duck

Wild ducks are in season during the winter months when the birds fly south to feed. Use either a wild or pen-raised duck for this classic Tuscan preparation, which also works well with chicken, game hens or even rabbit. A crusty sourdough baguette, a tossed green salad and a full-bodied red wine are the ideal accompaniments.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 duck, about 5 lb., cut into 8 pieces and skin
     and excess fat removed
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large celery stalk, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 3 oz. pancetta, finely diced
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups dry red wine, such as Chianti, Barolo
     or Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 lb. dried or fresh pappardelle noodles
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

In a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the duck pieces and cook, turning as needed, until they begin to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Add the onion, celery, carrot and pancetta and continue to cook until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups of the wine and the rosemary and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add the remaining 1 cup wine, stir well and continue to simmer, uncovered, until the meat begins to fall off the bones and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 1 1/4 hours more.

Using tongs, transfer the duck pieces to a bowl and let stand until cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones and tear into bite-size pieces; discard the bones. Return the meat to the sauce and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer until the sauce thickens a bit more, 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta, stir well and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), 5 to 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and transfer to a large warmed serving bowl. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss gently to coat evenly. Serve immediately. Pass the cheese at the table.
Serves 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Winter, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997).