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Wholemeal Bigoli pasta with Lake Garda duck sauce

Recipe from Nino Zoccali's cookbook, Venetian Republic

PREP TIME 20 minutes
COOKING TIME 1 hour 45 minutes

One of my favourite places in Italy is Lake Garda in the Veneto – particularly a little town called Costermano. The region is famous for its production of high-quality extra virgin olive oil – a long term passion of mine. And while the towns along this area have a predominantly fish-based cuisine, much like the Venetians, they’re also very big on game meat, especially duck.

125 ml (½ cup) extra virgin olive oil
150 g (5½ oz) butter, cut into cubes
1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) duck marylands
155 g (1 cup) finely diced onion
80 g (½ cup) finely diced carrot
70 g (½ cup) finely diced celery
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
250 ml (1 cup) Custoza white wine (any fruity dry white wine can be substituted)
800 ml (3¼ cups) Chicken stock (see below)
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sage leaves
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons milk
400 g (14 oz) wholemeal Bigoli dried pasta (any large sized wholemeal spaghetti can be substituted)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, to serve

Place the olive oil and half the butter in a large casserole dish over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the duck marylands and brown evenly on all sides.

Remove the duck and add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook until the onion and vegetables become translucent. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the white wine and cook for a further 2 minutes, then add the chicken stock, rosemary, sage leaves, bay leaves and milk. Return the duck to the casserole dish. Continue cooking over low heat for 50–70 minutes or until the duck is tender. Lift out the duck and shred the meat, discarding the bones.

Reduce the liquid in the casserole dish for a further 15–25 minutes until it thickens to a sauce consistency. Add the shredded duck meat to the sauce.

Bring a large pan of salted water to a rapid boil and cook the pasta for 6 minutes (to al dente) or longer, to your taste). Drain the pasta, toss with the duck ragu and stir in the remaining diced butter.

Serve with the freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.


For an even more traditional version of this, use lard instead of butter to sauté the duck and vegetables. You can also add a small amount of cooked and chopped duck liver and giblets to the casserole with the duck meat.

Chicken broth

Prep time: 15 minutes, plus 2-3 hours chilling
Cooking time: 2½-3 hours
(Makes approximately 2.5 litres (87 fl oz/10 cups))

1-1.2 kg (2lb, 4 oz - 2lb, 10 oz) free-range chicken or boiling hen
1 kg (2lb, 4 oz) fresh chicken bones, thoroughly washed
100g (3½ oz) carrot, roughly chopped
100g (3½ oz) celery stalks, roughly chopped
100g (3½ oz) leek, roughly chopped
100g (3½ oz) onion, roughly chopped
100g (3½ oz) Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rind
3 flat-leaf (Italian) parsley sprigs
4 litres (140 fl oz/16 cups) water
fine sea salt, to taste


Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer without a lid for 2½ to 3 hours. Skim away the excess fat and other particles that come to the surface of the liquid throughout the cooking process.

Remove the chicken, shred the meat from the bones (discard the skin and bones), strain the liquid through a fine strainer and refrigerate. If there is excess fat, it will solidify at the top of the refrigerated broth. Remove this with a spoon before using the broth. The cooked chicken can be used in other recipes. Chicken broth can be made in advance and frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

Note: the shredded chicken meat can be used in soups or pie fillings.

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