This is the meal you make for the special people in your lives. The hours you spend rolling out the pasta dough, braising the duck and peeling the tomatoes is worth every single second, because it’s your way of giving something back to the people who give to you.
It’s been almost one year since Alejandro and I jumped in the car and left our family and friends in New York. I remember driving through Tennessee, looking out at endless rows of trees with brightly changing leaves, wondering what our new life would be like. Who would we invite over for dinner? Where would we go for Thanksgiving? Who would I call for Sunday brunch? During those two weeks, as we zipped through the contrasting landscapes of America, I felt homeless. I felt free. I felt…
Fast forward to the fateful day we met Claudia Hanson in front of Bakesale Betty’s in Oakland. Alejandro and I, with our little terrier named Ema, were sitting on Telegraph Avenue enjoying Betty’s famous chicken sandwich. Claudia walked by with her dog, Rocket, and after a five minute chat we realized that Rocket is Ema’s puppy, who Claudia and her husband adopted the same time we adopted Ema. Months later, not only do we have company for Sunday brunch, but I also have a lifelong friend.
Claudia’s family quickly became part of our everyday lives, from her mother Wally helping us find our new home, to her sister-in-law Jeanine who taught me to cook rice in a bamboo basket. Claudia, her husband Peter, and the rest of their kin, accepted us into their family when ours is 4000 miles away. And for that, I made them Autumn Lasagna, with braised duck ragu and homemade pasta.
Autumn Lasagna with Duck Ragu and Roasted Carrots
5 pound duck, quartered
3 1/2 pounds early girl dry-farmed tomatoes, peeled and crushed. Reserve the tomato juice in a separate bowl.
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
4 carrots, finely chopped
Another 4 carrots, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 cups dry white wine
1/2 tube double concentrate tomato paste
1 bunch fresh marjoram, chopped
2 cups freshly grated pecorino pepato
3 eggs (see below for fresh pasta recipe)
1 1/2 cups flour
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Heat up a large cast iron dutch oven. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add onions and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Add 1/2 cup of water and cook until water evaporates, about 7 minutes. Add the finely chopped carrots, garlic and celery, and cook until soft, 10 minutes.
Turn the heat to medium-high, and add the duck pieces to the pot. Push the vegetables to the sides. Brown the duck on all sides. Add the wine, 1/2 cup at a time, scraping the bits off the bottom of the pot. Cook until the wine evaporates, about 15 minutes. Lower heat to low.
Add the crushed tomatoes to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for one hour. Stirring occasionally.
Remove duck pieces from the sauce. Take off the skin and remaining fat, and shred the meat off the bones. Add the meat back to the sauce, and stir in the tomato paste. Stir in a large pinch of the marjoram, salt and pepper. Let cook on low for an additional 45 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add the reserved juice from the tomatoes.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Put the 1/2 inch carrot pieces on a foiled baking sheet. Drizzle on olive oil and add salt and pepper. Mix with your hands. Roast for 25 minutes. Set aside when done.
Lower the oven to 350F. Spoon some sauce on the bottom of your lasagna pan. Add a layer of fresh lasagna noodles. Then a thin layer of sauce, some roasted carrots, and a layer of grated pecorino. Repeat until you reach the top of the dish. The last layer should be pasta, then sauce, then cheese. You should have about six layers total. Lightly drape foil on top, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes more, then broil for one minute to brown the cheese and crisp the top layer.
Garnish with fresh marjoram leaves and a drizzle of good olive oil.
Fresh Pasta Recipe
Add the flour to a large mixing bowl, and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix with your hands, slowly incorporating the flour into the eggs. Mix just until a dough forms. If the dough is wet, add more flour, one tablespoon at a time. Knead the dough on a floured surface for 8 full minutes. To knead, dig forward with the heels of your palms, turn 90 degrees, and push forward again. Turn the same direction each time. The dough will be smooth when ready.
Divide the dough into six equal parts, and pass through each notch of a pasta machine, starting with the widest. You should have long, thin lasagna noodles when finished.
Where I Shopped:
Duck: Ver Brugge, Oakland
Early girl tomatoes: Happy Boy farms, Berkeley Farmers’ Market
Carrots, marjoram: Avalos Farms, Berkeley Farmers’ Market
Fresh organic eggs: Old Oakland Farmers’ Market
Pecorino pepato, tomato paste: The Pasta Shop, Oakland
Local Lemons is up for two foodbuzz awards – “Best Recipe Blog” and “Best Green/Sustainable Blog.” If you enjoyed this recipe, please vote for me!