There are days when you want feeding, and you want feeding now. On those days, you’re probably going to plug in your Instant Pot and make a four minute mac & cheese sinking into your comfiest chair and allow yourself to be enveloped and comforted by the cheesy goodness. Other days, you will have time to inhabit your kitchen. Make pasta from scratch and a rich meat sauce that will fill your home with tantalising aromas and have you salivating as it cooks. Briskness and efficiency have their places in all of our busy lives but when you’ve tasted my Instant Pot Duck Ragu, you’ll see your pressure cooker performing to it’s very best.
I may be guilty of trying to push my Instant Pot to make everything in, well, an instant but once you’ve spent ten minutes rendering out the fat of a couple of duck legs (and keeping it for your perfect roast potatoes this Christmas) then cooked them with a couple of star anise, fresh rosemary and some lightly crushed garlic cloves for 45 minutes, the flavour and texture you are rewarded with will have you weak at the knees. If you were to roast duck legs, you would need them in a hot oven for at least 90 minutes and even so, the threat of rubbery meat lollypops is the clear and ever present danger but cooking under pressure in a flavoured stock gives you the softest, most unctuous duck which falls off the bone with minimal persuasion.
As a game bird, duck is has a much richer, fuller flavour than chicken or turkey. Hungry Hubby and I really love crispy duck with hoisin and pancakes as the rich meat, crisp skin and potent, punchy flavours of the Chinese version of BBQ sauce work perfectly together. For my ragu, I’ve used star anise to flavour the meat as it poaches and rosemary, that so very herbal, hardy herb I so associate with this time of year. Don’t waste the garlic in the cooking liquid, add their sticky sweetness to the ragu and please be generous with the black pepper and Parmesan cheese when you serve. Making fresh pasta is a very easy pursuit once you have a trusted pasta machine to make the rolling easy – dried pasta may be convenient but the flavour of these fat ribbons of fresh egg pasta with their silky soft texture will be all the enticement you need to make your own. A special meal for two hungry people, tortured by the smells of this rich ragu or a lighter meal for four with some focaccia and salad on the table too.
- 2 skin on, bone in duck legs
- 2 star anise
- 2 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
- 2 stems of fresh rosemary (about 6 inches long approx.)
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 rib of celery
- 1 small red onion
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 3 tbsp Marsala wine
- Fresh pappardelle pasta (recipe follows below)
- Start by slashing the skin on the duck legs several times to facilitate rendering out the fat.
- Using the Sauté mode on medium, cook the legs in the Instant Pot for 10 minutes, turning occasionally to brown the skin and render out as much fat as possible. (It is very worth spending the time to get as much as you can - strain it through some cheesecloth into a sterile jar and keep in the fridge for future roast potatoes.)
- Cancel the Sauté mode and pour off the excess fat, reserving it as above. Return the duck legs, star anise, garlic cloves and one of the stems of rosemary to the pot then just cover with cold water. Place the lid on, set to Sealing and cook on Manual for 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, either throw the celery and onion into the food processor and pulse to a fine confetti (or soffritto as the Italians do) or use a very sharp knife and mince them up finely by hand. Chop the remaining rosemary to give approximately 2 teaspoons worth and set aside for now.
- When the alarm sounds, do a Quick Pressure Release. Drain the duck legs, keeping the garlic cloves and squeezing the soft contents of their papery skins into the soffritto and rosemary. Discard the water, herbs and spices.
- Meanwhile, put a large pot of water on to boil, salt it then add the fresh pasta. Reserve a cup (250ml) of the pasta water.
- Place the pot back on Sauté mode and add a tsp of the reserved duck fat back into it, followed by the soffritto, garlic and rosemary. Cook for 2-3 minutes until softened and fragrant, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, remove the skin from the duck legs and flake the meat with two forks.
- Add the tomato purée into the pot, stir well then deglaze with the Marsala. Add the shredded duck.
- Use enough of the pasta water to bring all the ingredients of the ragu together into a sauce, albeit a none-too-liquid one. Season very well to taste with salt and pepper, and add in the cooked, drained pasta, stirring well to distribute the ragu over the ribbons of pasta.
- Serve in deep bowls with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper.
- 200g tipo 00 flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp of sea salt
- Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor with the dual blades in and pulse until it comes together in damp crumbs (or knead it all together by hand in a large bowl).
- Bring together to a smooth ball and wrap in clingfilm, chilling until needed - give it a minimum of 30 minutes but use within 2 days maximum.
- Knead and flatten the pasta dough to a flattish disc shape then feed through your pasta machine, from the widest to the narrowest setting. I usually give it 2 goes on the first couple of settings, folding it in half each time which helps get it good and even, and very elastic.
- Cut the long strip in half then cut into 1.5cm wide strips - I tend to fold the pasta over itself gently and use my sharpest knife and it never sticks. You can rub it lightly with a little extra flour if you are worried about it sticking as you cut through the layers.
- Unfold the strips and hang on a pasta drier (or clean clothes maiden if that is all you have!) to dry. I give it a minimum of an hour.
- When ready to cook, bring a very large pan of water to the boil, add a further teaspoon of salt and cook for 2-3 minutes until the pasta is cooked. It will have swollen and doubled in size, and it will be floating when it's ready. Reserve a cup of the pasta water (250ml) to add to the duck ragu before draining.
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