Captain Pappardella, or how I decided to have Duck Ragù for lunch...

January 28, 2019


Some days are weirder than others. I picked this word intentionally. I said weirder. 

My family is weird. Maybe because is not a conventional one: I am a single parent with two wonderful but obnoctious teenagers. Maybe because we have more a friend's relatioship than a regular parent/children one. We are weird.

But facts are facts. We are not a normal family. I have an hastag for this #myfamilyisdifferent.

It is not a mistery that I have someone important in my life. An exceptional man that is bearing all this anormality with the outmost grace and loving patience. Mario.


I honestly don't understand yet how such a great, wonderful, beautiful and all around good person wants to share his life with a wreck, messed up, confusionary woman like me, but that is how it is. It's a keeper.


We live togheter, a few nights in my house and a few in his ( I love to escape my children on WE, I can and I will do it until I can).

Last night we stayed at Mario's house, and as I came back this morning, Matteo shared a funny thing that happened.

This morning he found 4 Kgs of dried Pappardelle in my car that was left locked in front of my house.

Matteo: " was it you mom?"

Me "No., I would have brought them in"

Matteo: .....

Me: ....

We asked around, investigated in the neighborood, called around and still we don't know who this silent hero that shares anonimously Pappardelle left and right is. We gave him a name: Captain Pappardella. 


After a little exitation and some inspection I decided that the Pappardelle are  good (sealed and perfectly closd package, not past the usage date) so I thought to honor the donor with a nice duck ragù. Because seriously, who doesn't have a duck breast or two in the freezer?

So wherever you are, whoever you are, this recipe is for you Captain Pappardella.



  • 1 duck breast, without its skin, 300gr/10oz

  • 2 italian sausages (no fennel!!)

  • 1 stalk of celery, one medium sized carrot, one medium sized onion, all chopped finely

  • 1/2 liter of vegetable broth made by boiling in water one onion one stalk of celery and one carrot for at least half hour

  • 1/2 glass of white wine

  • juniper berries (I used 4 or 5 smashed with the blad of a knife

  • 1/2 tsp peppercorns

  • 2 bayleaves

  • 1tsp thyme or marjoram

  • EVOO, salt and pepper

How I did it:


as usual a ragu starts with chopped onion, celery and carrot, in a generous amount of EVOO. If you have read my recipes before you know I will not brown them, I will make them sweat, at a very slow flame.



Once the carrots are done I will add the meats, crumbled sausage and the duck breast meat, cut in tiny pieces with a knife (we don't mince it, we blade cut it). Carrots are the harder vegetable used in this soffritto, once they are done the rest is done. While meats cook, I add the juniper, peppercorns, thyme or marjoram and the bay leaves.



I will add a little salt, very little as sausage has salt already and the broth adds flavor, and I will let the meats cook at medium flame, stirring occasionally.


As they cook they will juice. Once they have juiced I will lower the flame and let the juice be absorbed by the meats and veggies, so that at the end there is only the oil left in the pan, with no other moisture.


This is the moment to turn the flame to medium high and whip out the white wine and deglaze the pan, and again wait for the juices to be re absorbed. At the same moment, while you still wonder at who Captain Pappardella is, I strongly suggest a glass or two...not on the pan, in you.



On the side I have the veggie broth simmering. Once the juices are absorbed,and all you see in the bottom of the pan, along with the meats, is oil, I put a ladle of broth and let simmer at the lowest unnerving flame for at least one and half hours, adding broth when needed. When the ragù is almost ready I adjust with salt and pepper.

After the salted water I put on a pasta pan has reached a rolling boil I put in the pappardelle of mistery. 3 of us, 350grams.

Boy were they good!


On a large bowl I have put a couple of ladles of the sauce, immediately followed by the cooked pappardelle, half a ladle of pasta water and a couple of handful of grated Grana cheese and toss everything togheter.



Once served every dish, I will add a little sauce to each plate.


PS. If in the night you see a caped shadow working around your car, do not call the cops, turn on the flame under your pasta pan...Captain Pappardella is working!



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