Homemade Gnocchi with Duck Ragu Recipe from Le Marche.
Homemade gnocchi with duck ragu is a fabulous traditional recipe from the Marche region in Central Italy. It’s one of those hearty and filling Italian recipes that I think are perfect for special occasions and holidays through the autumn and winter!
Gnocchi col sugo di papera.
Known as gnocchi col sugo di papera in the local dialect, this traditional dish can be found on offer in many trattorias and restaurants in the Marche region. Although this is mostly an autumn/winter dish enjoyed during the cold weather months, ducks are also typical farmyard birds and, therefore, eaten throughout the year.
In Le Marche, they also serve this duck ragu with fregnacce (fazzoletti pasta), tagliatelle or pappardelle pasta ribbons. However, with potato gnocchi is the most common combination. In fact, in a number of towns and villages of the region, they also have annual gnocchi with duck festivals (sagra in Italian). Duck is eaten with pasta or gnocchi in other Italian regions too. Here in Veneto, where I live, bigoli with duck ragu is practically a signature dish.
A little about potato gnocchi.
Although Italians have been eating some kind of gnocchi since Roman times, potato gnocchi only date back to the start of the 18th century. This is long after potatoes were brought to Europe from South America by Spanish explorers and introduced to Italian kitchens. During the 16th and 17th century, potatoes were regarded with suspicion in most parts of Europe. In fact, they were used only as animal feed, as food for prisoners of war and as sustenance for the starving!
Today, potato gnocchi are traditional throughout Northern and Central Italy. You can find them made with eggs, like in this recipe, or with just flour and water. With eggs or without, potato gnocchi are pretty easy to make. The secret is in the type of potato. The best potatoes are dry and floury with white or light yellow flesh. I often use Russet potatoes, which are the most popular here in Italy. But I have read you can also use Desiree potatoes or even King Edwards.
For this recipe I used potatoes from Bologna (patate di Bologna DOP). These are oval with a light yellow flesh. Apparently, the variety of this potato is ‘primula’ and it’s only really grown here in Italy. However, seeds and even the potatoes themselves can be bought in other countries. If you find them, grab them! The gnocchi I made with them were divine, so light and pillowy!
But, if you can’t make your own gnocchi, don’t despair! Use ready-made gnocchi. This duck ragu gnocchi dish will taste wonderful anyway!
Making these potato gnocchi.
The recipe for these homemade potato gnocchi is much like most others. The main difference is that the gnocchi dough has Parmigiano cheese in it. Also, these gnocchi are not normally grooved. In fact, these are small squares of dough that you need to squash down a little to make a slight cavity in them. This is the traditional way they make them in Le Marche.
But, you can also make grooves in them using the tines of a fork or a gnocchi board. Check out my homemade potato gnocchi recipe or the pumpkin gnocchi recipe to see what those look like. You can even serve this duck ragu with pumpkin gnocchi if you prefer! I haven't tried it but I bet it's delicious!
The duck ragu for this recipe.
The only other recipe I have for duck ragu on The Pasta Project is the one I mentioned above from Veneto. These two recipes are pretty similar, but not identical. In fact, this one is a little simpler as it has fewer ingredients. But, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste as good! Both are delicious!
For this duck ragu, you will need duck pieces, onions, celery, carrots, white wine, tomato passata and tomato paste. The steps for making this sauce are similar to many Italian pasta ragu recipes. Sauté the ‘sofritto’ (onions, carrots and celery), add the duck, brown it, add the wine and let the alcohol evaporate. Finally add the tomato passata and tomato paste. Then just simmer until the duck is cooked. Pretty easy, right?
Variations of this duck ragu from the Marche.
I found this recipe in my favouite Italian cookbook called La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy. This book is published by the Italian Academy of Cuisine, so all the recipes are authentic. However, like every popular Italian recipe, there are slightly different versions.
My only deviation from the original recipe was to add a little fresh rosemary. However, some recipes include a couple of cloves and some nutmeg and marjoram. Others add parsley and sage. I also came across recipes for this gnocchi with duck which had other meat in the sauce, particularly veal hind shank or other cuts that need slow cooking. I didn’t add other meat.
Duck can be fatty! So if you prefer, it's an idea to remove the skin and fat from the duck pieces before cooking. I think the fat adds flavour. So, I usually drain off any excess oil once the ragu is ready.
Make this recipe faster.
If you want to get this dish on the table faster, you can also make this dish using ready-made potato gnocchi and ready deboned duck. Whether you make it that way or as I have done, I’m sure you’ll be adding this dish to your special occasion menu!
Please do let me know if you make this super dish. I’d love to hear how it turns out and if you liked it. Please leave a comment here on the blog or on The Pasta Project Facebook page.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Save this recipe for later?
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Other delicious gnocchi recipes to try.
- Cheesy Italian Potato Gnocchi Recipe
- Gnocchi with Gorgonzola 5 ways.
- Gnocchi Gorgonzola, radicchio and walnuts.
- Cinnamon butter gnocchi.
- Gnocchi alla Bava.
- Breadcrumb gnocchi with sausage and beans
If you are interested in learning how to make homemade pasta and other types of gnocchi, check out my shop page for some great video online courses from my friends in Rome! Nothing beats learning to make pasta from Italians! Plus while you're there why not order a copy of my newly published autumn/winter pasta recipes cookbook!