Ragù is an Italian meat-based sauce normally served with pasta. For the meat, I chose duck breasts and as for the pasta, I decided on pappardelle which is a large, very broad and flat pasta. The “ruggedness” of the pappardelle goes very well with the peasant-style ragù. To spruce things up a bit, I added aubergine and fava (broad) beans.

The original recipe can be found here, but I changed it quite a bit to replace the swede (or rutabaga) which is difficult to come by in South Africa.


Ingredients for the ragù
  • 2 duck breasts, skin on
  • 200g fava (broad) beans in the pods, (100g if the pods are removed)
  • 120g aubergine cubes (I used baby aubergines and quartered them)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 parsley sprigs, leaves picked and stems chopped (and some more for garnish)
  • 8 thyme sprigs, leaves picked, stems discarded
  • 150 dry red wine (I used a Merlot)
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 400g canned tomatoes (I used canned cherry tomatoes)
  • 250ml quality chicken stock
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp seedless raisins
  • 1 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • Parmesan cheese to serve
  • 240g pappardelle
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt


Remove the beans from the pods, boil the beans in water for 2 minutes, remove it with a slotted spoon and put the beans in ice water. Remove the skins on the beans and set it aside.

Carefully remove the skin of the duck breasts with a sharp knife. Cut the skin into 1cm x 2cm pieces and season it slightly with salt. Season the duck breast with salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides.

The duck with the skin removed

Heat up the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet or casserole which has a lid. Fry the skin on low to medium heat until it is brown and crisp. Remove the skin with a slotted spoon and set it aside. In the same skillet containing the duck fat, fry the chicken breasts on both side until it has a deep brown colour. Remove the duck and set it aside.

The duck fried in duck fat

Add the aubergine to the same skillet and fry for 2 minutes over medium heat. Remove the aubergine with a slotted spoon and set it aside.

The aubergines fried in duck fat

Add the onions and fennel seeds and cook until the onions are soft. Then add the garlic cloves, bay leaves, parsley and thyme and cook for 3 minutes.

First the onion and fennel seeds and then the garlic, bay leaves, parsley and thyme added

Turn up the heat to high and add the red wine. Cook for about 3 minutes to reduce the liquid a bit. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil.

The ragù sauce coming along nicely

Return the duck to the skillet. Turn the heat down, cover and let it simmer slowly for 45 minutes.

The duck back in the sauce

Remove the duck from the skillet and turn up the heat to reduce the sauce so that it becomes thick, but you still have enough to cover the pasta. Shred the duck breasts using a fork and put the meat back in the sauce.

Shredded duck

Add the red wine vinegar, raisins, beans and aubergine. Stir slightly, make sure the heat is very low and remove from the heat when the pasta is ready.

All the bits together

Boil 2.5l of water in a large pot and dissolve 50ml of salt in it. Cook the pasta until it is al dente. Strain the pasta reserving about 80ml of the water. Put the pasta back in the pot and mix it with the reserved pasta water. Add the ragù to the pot and toss well.

Serve with toasted pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, duck skin and parsley on top.

Toasted pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and parsley

We enjoyed this with a bottle of 2020 Pinot Noir from Kranskop.

Coming all together

Related Posts