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Orecchiette with Duck

A delicious orecchiette recipe from the Pasta cookbook. The flavoursome duck legs are met with a rich and smoky sauce of pancetta, red wine and rosemary.

From the book

Theo Randall


You don’t have to buy a whole duck for this dish. It’s much better made using the legs rather than the breasts, because the meat is juicier and has more flavour. It’s also a lot cheaper.

When you cook the orecchiette, make sure it’s not too al dente, as it’s a very dense pasta and takes longer than you might think to cook through to the centre.

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1 tbsp olive oil
2 duck legs
100g smoked pancetta, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 tsp chopped rosemary
400g can of chopped tomatoes
A glass of red wine, preferably Valpolicella
400g orecchiette
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Essential kit

You will need a heavy-based casserole dish.


Heat the oil in a heavy-based casserole, add the duck legs and brown them all over. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the pancetta, onion, carrot and celery to the pan and cook until the vegetables have softened. Stir in the rosemary, tomatoes and red wine, then return the duck legs to the pan. Bring to the boil and season. Cover the casserole, place in an oven preheated to I60°C/ Gas Mark 3 and cook for about 1½ hours, until the duck meat comes away from the bone easily Take out the duck legs, remove the fat and skin, rip off the meat in small pieces and set to one side. With a spoon, skim off the excess fat from the casserole – there will be quite a lot, as duck is generally very fatty. Return the duck meat to the pan, mash everything together and season to taste. Reheat gently.

Cook the orecchiette in a large pan of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain, reserving a little of the cooking water; and add to the sauce. Leave to cook on the stove for 2-3 minutes so the flavours of the sauce can be absorbed by the pasta. If the sauce appears very concentrated, add a little of the reserved pasta water. Toss well so each disc of orecchiette has a bit of sauce in its dimple, then serve with a glass of red wine, preferably Valpolicella Superiore.

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