Slow cooker, Weeknight dinner
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Slow Cooker Duck Legs and Tomato Sauce (Duck Ragu)


Time for another journey to the dark side. Give me the drumstick at thanksgiving, and the legs from that roast chicken, and I’m a happy man. Duck legs are another favorite.

I wanted to make duck leg ragu ever since I read the recipe in Mario Batali’s cookbook. But I could never find duck legs. They’re too much of a specialty ingredient around here. I can find whole ducks, but duck legs were a special order, if I could get them at all. It was just too much of a hassle.

Then I made a trip to Cleveland’s West Side Market, to get a whole leg of lamb. While I was there, I found duck legs. I snapped up all they had in the case. Duck leg ragu, here we come!
*Thanks to Tami at for the tips on where to get lamb and poultry at the West Side Market.

This recipe is more involved than most slow cooker recipes, because the duck legs must be skinned before using. Duck skin has a huge layer of fat. If the legs are cooked as-is in the slow cooker, the sauce will be more duck fat than tomatoes.
*After peeling the skin off, chop it into strips and render it in a pan. That gives you duck cracklings and duck fat, two culinary treasures.

I served this ragu country style – half country style, really. I removed the duck legs and pureed the sauce right in the pot with my stick blender. I served each plate of pasta with a ladle of sauce and a duck leg perched on top. If you want an entirely rustic meal, serve the sauce as it is. If you want a more elegant meal, follow Mr. Batali’s lead – pull the meat off the duck legs, shred it, and stir it into the sauce.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Duck Legs and Tomato Sauce (Duck Ragu)

Adapted From: Mario Batali, Molto Italiano

Cooking time: 8 hours



  • 8 duck legs, skin and fat removed
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 dried porcini mushroom (about 1/4 ounce)
  • 8oz can whole plum tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs thyme and 1 sprig rosemary, tied together


1. Brown the duck legs:
Season the duck legs with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, sear the duck legs over medium high heat until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes a side. Transfer to the slow cooker insert.

2. Saute the aromatics:
Add the olive oil to the pan and heat until shimmering. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic; sprinkle with the salt, then add the tomato paste and stir. Saute until the onion is softened and the tomato paste darkens, about 5 minutes. Add the wine to the pan and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Pour over the duck legs in the slow cooker insert.

3. Slow cook the duck legs:
Add the mushroom and plum tomatoes to the slow cooker, then break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add the bundle of herbs, put on the lid, and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.

4. Finish the sauce:
Remove the duck legs to a platter. Throw away the herb bundle, then puree the contents of the slow cooker to make the tomato sauce. (I use my stick blender right in the slow cooker crock, but transferring to a blender or food processor would also work.) To serve family style, toss the tomato sauce with a pound of cooked pasta, and serve a big bowl of pasta with the duck legs on a separate platter.



*To make a duck ragu, pull the duck meat from the bones and stir into the pureed tomato sauce, then toss with the pasta.

*If your slow cooker has a stovetop-safe insert, like my All-Clad, use it to do all the browning and sauteing. Remove the duck legs to a bowl while you saute the aromatics, then add them back in before the tomatoes.

*Can’t find duck legs? Substitute chicken legs – they cook the same. Duck legs have a different flavor to them, more like red meat, but the recipe still works fine with chicken legs.

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:

Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce
Slow Cooker Chicken Legs with Herb Rub
Click here for my otherSlow Cooker recipes

Adapted from:

Mario Batali, Molto Italiano

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Filed under: Slow cooker, Weeknight dinner


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.

1 Comment

  1. April says

    Just made this (almost 8 years later!) The ragu was outstanding, and the duck preparation was simple enough for a first-timer. Much appreciated recipe!

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