The wine writer Max Allen included a comparison of a few reasonably priced nebbiolo wines in his column in the Weekend Australian yesterday. One of these, stocked through Dan Murphy's, was the 2008 Pio Cesare Il Nebbio nebbiolo from Langhe. I'd already made a plan for duck ragu, and a fresh, bright nebbiolo sounded like a good match, so I ponied up the $35 (bit less in a 6, actually) to have a look at one.
The first thing I noticed was the poor quality of the cork. Shot through with creases and cracking, the wine had made it a third of the way through the length of the cork. That said, the wine was sound and as soon as it hit glass and decanter was expressive and perfumed. Layered red berries, sour cherries, a little strawberry - this is good to smell and taste. The acid is lip-smacking here, the tannins stretching across the length of the wine and building over time. A great accompaniment to a rich dish like duck ragu with fresh fettuccine.
And the ragu? A roast duck one, rather than a slow-cooked effort. Take a whole duck, season and stuff with half an orange, a handful of fresh thyme, two bay leaves and two sprigs of rosemary. Lay this on a bed of chopped onion, carrot and celery, large pieces of orange zest, and with more of the herbs stuffed into the bird. Give it 30 minutes at 170c to allow fat to render and be tipped off. Increase the temperature a little and give the bird another 30 minutes roast, with some stock in the tray to stop the vegetables burning. Baste the bird to get some skin colour. When it has had an hour, check the leg meat and see if you can give it ten or so minutes more at 250c to finish the skin.
Drain the duck into the roasting tray and set it aside for stripping the meat and skin when cooler. Add a cup or so of wine into the roasting tray and return it to the oven to mellow the wine. After at least ten minutes at 180c, the tray should have evaporated a bit and the contents can be strained into a jug. Let the jug settle out, and spoon or pour the rendered duck fat off the top.
While the sauce is coming along in the oven tray, infuse a couple of cloves of sliced garlic in olive oil in a low heat frying pan. When the oil tastes good, add some chopped fresh mushrooms (I used portabello this time), a little salt, some more fresh thyme, turn up the heat and get the mushrooms braising. When the mushrooms are done, add the strained sauce from the roasting tray, the chopped duck meat and skin, a little cream, a little fresh thyme and some pepper. Let this simmer while you roll out and cook the fresh pasta.
My basic pasta recipe is 100g flour and one egg per person, plus a little salt in the flour. This time I added an extra egg yolk as well, whizzed the dough together in the food processor and rested it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. As the ragu starts the final simmer, cut the dough into two pieces. On a well floured surface, work the halves flatter and then through the settings of your pasta machine until the desired thickness is reached. I find only a couple of steps down is best for this kind of ragu. Put the pasta through the fettuccine cutter, or hand cut for wider strips, then cook in a large pot of boiling salted water until almost done. Finish the cooking of the drained pasta back in a pan with the ragu to let the ribbons take up some of the sauce. It may need more salt at the end, so check the seasoning. Serve with a little fresh thyme and some grated cheese (I used grana padano) and glasses of nebbiolo. A salad of winter greens with simple dressing would be good after, if you need the virtue.