This is a hearty rustic Italian dish perfect for large family gatherings. The recipe takes about 7 hours to prepare, but if you get organised and prepare all the elements ahead it's a great way to cater for large numbers. You could cook the ragu the day before and the flavour will be even better. 






Skill level

Average: 3.2 (35 votes)


  • 1 kg rigatoni*
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil
  • 125 g prosciutto
  • 125 g mortadella
  • 125 g ham
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
  • ½ cup basil, chopped
  • 160 g (2 cups) grated cheese (parmesan and pecorino)

Meat ragu

  • 1.5 kg duck or chicken, jointed into 8
  • 1.5 kg pork shoulder with rind, cut into 5 cm pieces
  • 1 rabbit, jointed into 8 pieces*
  • 800 g minced beef
  • 125 ml (½ cup) marsala
  • 125 ml (½ cup) brandy
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 long red chilli, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground mace or nutmeg
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 810 g can chopped tomatoes
  • 170 g tomato paste
  • 125 ml (½ cup) dry red wine
  • 1 cup basil, chopped

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


DRINK 2008 Piana Del Sole Salento Negroamaro, Italy ($14) 

Place duck, pork and rabbit pieces in a large saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until meat starts to change colour, draining in a colander halfway to discard meat juices. Drain and wash meat pieces, then transfer to a large tray and pat dry with paper towel. Wipe pan clean. Return meat to pan, add minced beef and place over high heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until beef starts to change colour. Add marsala and brandy and toss well to coat. Cook for a further 5 minutes or until liquid is almost evaporated. Add olive oil, stirring to coat meat. Add onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until onion is softened. Stir in remaining ragu ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2½ hours or until meat is tender. Transfer duck, pork and rabbit pieces to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed. Return pan over low heat, add 250 ml boiling water, partially cover and cook for a further 30 minutes or until ragu thickens. Season. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, cook rigatoni, 500 g at a time, in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 10 minutes or until almost tender. Drain and toss in a large bowl with olive oil and one-quarter of the ragu until well coated. Thickly slice prosciutto, mortadella and ham, combine in a bowl and set aside.

Preheat oven to 200°C. To assemble, spread ¼ cup ragu over the base of a 35 cm x 29 cm x 6 cm baking dish. Top with one-third of the pasta, then half the sliced meats, half the egg quarters and half the basil. Top with one-third of remaining ragu, half the combined cheeses, half the remaining pasta, then remaining sliced meats and basil. Top with remaining pasta, remaining ragu and remaining egg quarters. Press down to compress layers. Scatter over remaining cheeses, cover with foil and bake for 2 hours. Remove foil and bake pasta for a further 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Place duck, pork and rabbit in a covered baking dish 30 minutes before the end of cooking to reheat, and serve with the pasta.

* Rigatoni, available from supermarkets and delis, is a ridged, tube-shaped pasta that is great for holding thick pasta sauces.

* Visit for step-by-step instructions on jointing a rabbit, or ask your butcher to do this for you.

As seen in Feast magazine, Issue 11, pg54.

Photography by John Reyment.