Some pasta dishes can be pulled together in five minutes, others take a bit of extra love. Either way, given how boring pasta can be, your ingredients need to be the best to get a great final result.
Forget carbonara and arrabiata (though, when done well, both are winning dishes) as there are so many variations on the classic staple, which you can create from a cleverly stocked fridge or cupboard. Ingredients I keep to hand in case of emergency pasta suppers include diced pancetta, anchovies, bottarga, peas, frozen raw prawns and frozen cep mushrooms, which I slice and freeze when the foraging is good.
Of course, good olive oil, butter, garlic and seasoning are always crucial, but in terms of the pasta itself I have at least six types I use in different dishes. My favourite is from the Cipriani range (you can find it in many larger UK supermarkets); light and delicate, it cooks in just two minutes.
1tbsp corn or vegetable oil
4 medium duck legs, skinned, boned and chopped or minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 good knobs of butter
1tbsp fresh oregano or thyme
1tbsp plain flour
100ml red wine
1x 200g can of chopped tomatoes
500ml chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 servings of bucatini pasta
Freshly grated Parmesan to serve
Bucatini, a hollow spaghetti from Lazio, is perfect for meaty ragu-type sauces. I find duck legs, chopped up and braised, are the most economical cut to use for this dish as it seems a waste to use breast meat.
Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and fry the duck meat on a high heat for a few mins until lightly coloured. Add the onions, garlic and oregano and continue cooking for another 2–3 mins. Add the flour and cook for 1 min then slowly stir in the wine, tomatoes and stock. Bring to the boil, season and simmer gently with a lid on the pan for an hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid to check the meat is tender; if not, continue simmering until it is and the sauce is thick enough to coat the pasta but not stodgy. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to manufacturer’s instructions. Drain, toss the hot pasta with the butter and serve with the duck ragu spooned on top, and the Parmesan separately.