When duck is braised for sauce in Maremma, pappardelle is the pasta of choice. Therefore, I encourage you to make your own fresh pappardelle, following my recipe here. (Of course, the sauce will be delicious on other fresh pastas, gnocchi or polenta; and the pappardelle are great with other dressings too!). I also recommend using duck legs for this dish rather than a whole duck, as I think they're tastier and make a better sauce. If you don't see packaged duck legs, ask your butcher to special order them for you.
1 pound fresh pappardelle
4 pounds duck legs, (5 or 6 legs)
½ cup dried porcini
6 cups poultry or vegetable stock, or as needed
1 large onion, chopped (2 cups)
1 cup celery , cut in 1-inch chunks
4 garlic cloves, peeled
6 fresh sage leaves
1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, loosely packed
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary needled, stripped from the stem
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus mroe for serving
1 teaspoon Coarse sea salt, or kosher salt, or to taste
1 cup dry white wine
black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
Grana Padano, or Parmigiana-Reggiano freshly grated
Prepare pasta dough and chill it.
Trim all the excess skin and fat from the duck legs. Heat 2 cups of the hot stock and put it over the dried porcini. Let soak for half an hour or longer. When the mushrooms have softened, drain and squeeze them, reserving all the soaking liquid; chop the porcini into 1/2-inch pieces.
Using the food processor, mince the onion, celery, garlic, and all the fresh herbs for 20 to 30 seconds, to a moist paste, or pestata.
Set the big pan over medium-high heat and film the bottom with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Lay all the duck legs in the pan, skin-side down, sprinkle on 1/2 teaspoon salt and sizzle for a couple of minutes until the skin-side is browned. Flip the legs over and continue cooking, adjusting the heat and moving the meat as needed, until nicely browned all over, then remove them to a bowl or platter.
If you want to continue cooking with the duck fat, leave 4 tablespoons of it in the Otherwise, pour it all out and use 4 tablespoons of olive oil instead. Return the saucepan to the heat and scrape in all of the paste from the food processor bowl. Stir it all over the hot pan, scraping up the browned bits, for 2 minutes or so until it is nearly dry and toasting.
Return all the duck legs to the pan and tumble them in the hot pestata. Scatter in the chopped porcini, stir and toss with the legs, and cook for several minutes until everything is sizzling.
Pour in the wine, raise the heat, turn and tumble the duck and seasonings until the wine has almost cooked away. Pour in the porcini soaking liquid (leave any mushroom sediment in the container) and sprinkle another 1/2 teaspoon of salt all over. Heat to a boil, turning the duck legs and stirring to amalgamate all the seasonings in the broth.
Set the cover ajar-leaving a crack for evaporation-and cook at an actively bubbling simmer, turning the duck frequently. Add stock every 20 minutes or whenever needed, so the liquid level is about 2/3 way up the meat. After 1-1/2 hours or so, when the duck is quite tender and loose on the bone, turn off the heat and let the legs cool completely in the covered pan.
Remove the duck legs from the saucepan and pull all the meat off the bones. Discard bones and cartilage; tear the meat into good size shreds. Spoon fat from the sauce and stir in the meat. If the sauce is dense, loosen it to a flowing consistency with more stock; heat to a bubbling simmer and cook for another 15 minutes. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Let the sauce cool again or use some or all of it to dress the pappardelle now.
To dress 1 pound of pappardelle, put half the sauce in a wide skillet (or the same pan you cooked it in, if you are using it right away); use all the sauce if cooking 2 pounds pappardelle. Have the sauce at a simmer when you drop the pasta into the cooking water. If it is concentrated, moisten it with stock or hot pasta water.
Cook the pappardelle in at least 6 quarts of salted water (8 quarts or more for two pounds), at a rolling boil, just until al dente, about 2 or 3 minutes. With a spider lift the strands from the pot, briefly drain, and lower them into the sauce. Toss the pappardelle over and over to dress them thoroughly-if the sauce is too thick, loosen it with spoonfuls of pasta cooking water; if the sauce is soupy, cook rapidly, tossing the pasta, until it thickens.