1. Remove the skin from the duck breasts. Gently peel them off and, to avoid removing any of the meat, use a small knife to cut where they’re still attached. Roughly cut the skins into strips. Remove any sinew from the breasts and then cut the duck into 1cm cubes. Set aside.
2. Heat a large frying over a medium-high heat and add the strips of duck skin. Once the fat begins to render, add the diced pancetta. Leave on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta starts to brown and crisp. This should take about 10 mins.
When ready, drain through a sieve over a bowl and transfer to kitchen paper to drain the excess fat. Finally, when cool, remove and discard the strips of duck skin so you’re left only with the pancetta.
3. Put a saucepan on a medium heat and add in 2 tbsps of the reserved duck/pancetta fat. Add in the diced shallot and celery, along with a good pinch of salt. Leave to sweat for 10-12 mins. You want them soft but without colour.
4. Meanwhile, return the frying pan to a high heat. Add in another 2 tbsps of the reserved duck/pancetta fat and, when hot, add in the diced duck meat. Season well with salt and pepper. Fry for a few mins, or until all the duck is nicely browned.
Once coloured, transfer the duck to the now softened vegetables (keep the frying pan as you’ll use it later to finish the dish).
NOTE: the duck might release some liquid as the pan cools down. Don’t worry. Leave the pan on a high heat and let the liquid evaporate. Once this has happened it will begin to colour and fry again.
5. Add the chopped thyme to the veg and duck. Cook for a minute on a gentle heat. Now turn up the heat and, when everything starts to sizzle, add in the red wine and port. Allow to boil for a couple of mins - or until the harsh alcohol flavour disappears - and then add in the chicken stock and bay leaf.
Bring to a simmer and pop on a lid (keep the lid slightly ajar so the liquid can evaporate). Leave to cook on a low heat for an hour (you want a gentle simmer rather than an aggressive boil). Stir halfway through and check that it’s reducing nicely. If it’s not, turn the heat up slightly.
6. Towards the end of the hour, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. This is for the pasta.
7. After an hour the liquid should have reduced to a sauce-like consistency. Use a whisk to break down the duck meat to finish the ragú. Transfer back to the large frying pan and keep warm.
8. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the packet’s instructions for ‘al dente’. When cooked, transfer the pasta to the ragú along with half a ladle of the cooking water. Turn up the heat.
Stir through the ragú, tossing the pan vigorously so the pasta and sauce combine. Add in the diced butter and the chopped parsley, tossing again until the butter combines with the sauce.
9. Check the seasoning for salt and pepper. Serve in warm bowls and finish with the grated parmesan.