My new book got off to a roaring good start this weekend when I made an outstanding duck ragu to go with pappardelle in a hearty, old-fashioned dish from Arezzo, our neighboring town in Tuscany. Pappardelle al sugo d’anatra started with a confit of a half dozen whole duck legs, roasting them slowly for several hours with nothing but salt and pepper, until much of the fat had melted off and the meat was succulent and full of flavor.
(The fat, of course, got strained and stored in the fridge for the next time I fry potatoes—nothing better than duck fat for the chore.)
The duck meat was stripped off the bones and used to create a fundamental ragu based on the usual soffritto, tomatoes, sage, bay leaves, and of course olive oil. By chance I’d found at Maine Street Meat, my local miracle store, pappardelle made in Gragnano, the quintessential pasta town south of Naples (Italy, not Maine) by the venerable firm of Garofalo. Boiled 8 minutes, then tossed with the rich duck ragu and topped with a handful of grated parmigiano reggiano, it was a dish for a cold night in January.
What is the new book? My daughter Sara and I are about to sign with Viking/Penguin to produce The Four Seasons of Pasta, based on the way we cook, eat, and serve pasta right the year round, changing ingredients with each season and reflecting on what it means to be in winter, as we are right now, with lots of meaty ragus and root vegetables; or in the freshness of spring (I love the French word for those early green vegetables—les primeurs, the early birds); or summer with its seaside delights and tomatoes—the quintessential ingredient—for so many pasta dishes; and then in autumn, season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, rich and warm with multi-colored squashes and spicy winter greens like my favorite broccoli rabe, aka rapini.
So the duck ragu is filed and we’re on to the next steps—pennette with cauliflower, then shells with garlic, parsley and butter, and on into spring.