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Seared Duck Breast with Pumpkin Cream Rigatoni

Great fall recipe from Justin Townsend, founder of Harvesting Nature. Check out this recipe and more:

To me, this recipe screams fall, even more so than pumpkin spice lattes. The creaminess of the pumpkin sauce pairs perfectly with the crisp, bold flavors of the duck. I absolutely adore this recipe. I have cooked versions of the dish for many friends spread across the United States. It was an immediate hit and will likely earn its place on your top shelf of favorite recipes. For pumpkin, fresh is best, but it takes some time to steam a cut-up pumpkin so I will leave the choice to you on canned vs. fresh.
I always try to keep the whole duck and then break it down for individual uses later. Some folks do not enjoy the taste of waterfowl, but I am not one of those people. I love the earthy, meaty tones in the meat. Much of the claimed off-putting taste comes from the fat. Diver ducks and sea ducks are notorious for a “fishy” or “muddy” flavor. Hone in on the fat and test it out. The darker or more yellow the fat, likely it will hold a bold flavor. Cut a small piece and fry it up for a taste test. If the flavor agrees with you then leave it on for this recipe. If not, remove as much as you can from the breasts.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cooking Time 40 minutes
Serves 4


  • Duck Breasts  ·  4 
  • Salt and Pepper  ·  To Taste 
  • Rendered duck fat, clarified butter, or oil  ·  1 tablespoon 
  • Rigatoni  ·  1 pound 
  • Butter  ·  1 tablespoon 
  • Minced Shallots  ·  1 tablespoon 
  • Garlic, minced  ·  2 cloves 
  • Fresh Thyme, minced  ·  1 teaspoon 
  • Fresh Pumpkin, pureed  ·  2 cups 
  • Heavy Whipping Cream  ·  1 1/4 cup 
  • Grated Parmesan  ·  Sprinkled  


  1. If there is any fat on the duck then score it crossways. Amply season with salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Set aside.
    Note: If you want an amazing sear on the duck breasts then you will want to make sure they are completely dry and close to room temperature before searing. I usually towel off the breasts, put them on a plate and place them in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes before I let them come up to room temperature. The circulation from the fridge will dry them.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. This is also a great time to begin cooking the pasta if you have not.
  3. Bring a large cast iron pan to medium-high heat. Once heated, place the breasts in the pan fat side down. Allow them to cook for 5 minutes. Don’t move the meat while searing.
  4. Flip the breast fat side up and place the pan in the oven. Allow the breasts to cook to an internal temperature of 135 degrees, about 5-8 minutes.
  5. Remove the duck breast from the oven and allow them to rest for 10 minutes.
  6. While waiting, bring a sauce pan to medium heat. Melt the butter.
  7. Add the shallots, garlic, and thyme to the pan. Allow to cook for approximately 2 minutes.
  8. Stir in the heavy cream, pumpkin, salt, and black pepper. Simmer the sauce for approximately 5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Set aside.
  9. Slice the duck breasts after the resting period.
  10. Toss the pasta in the sauce. Add the pasta to the plate and top the pasta with the sliced duck breasts. Garnish with parmesan, bacon crumbles, and red pepper flakes.

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