rigatoni + pork ragu

DSC_0047-1I hear we may be getting snow in the northeast this weekend…

And, if you were to peek into my kitchen on a blustery December or January Saturday night, this is what I’d be serving up…  It’s the quintessential winter dish; a totally hearty play on pasta that tastes way fancier and high end than it is. Maybe because the architect of the original recipe – the bones of this one – is pretty fancy:  Boston’s own, Barbara Lynch.

This pork ragu falls apart on your fork and hits all of the notes you’d want in a  winter dish – sweet, savory, tangy, and rich AF.  It’s not diet food, but if you make your plate pork-centric and go light on the pasta, you can cut some cals.  I used dried rigatoni, but to step it up a notch, go with fresh pasta and up the wow factor.  I’d also venture to guess it would be equally delicious atop a creamy polenta.  Serve it with a crunchy Caesar and a glass of Chianti and call it a meal, folks.  And, here’s a bonus – especially if you’re going to prepare it for company, which I recommend you do because you’re so fancy:  the ragu can be made a day in advance!  Keep your kitchen nice and tidy by getting all of the grunt work – chopping, braising, straining and shredding  – done the day before.  Now you have time to sip and mingle with your guests.  You could even make the case – as I do – that the reheats taste better.  My husband and I did dinner and a movie [check it out – disturbing, but awesome] at home last weekend and we enjoyed our posh dinner for two couch-side on the coffee table.  (This is Saturday night romance with two children in your 30’s, people.)  We then reheated the leftover sauce slowly in a saucepan and served with freshly prepared pasta on Monday night for dinner with the whole fam.  I’m not sure what kind of magic happens in the refrigerator with some dishes wherein they actually improve after sitting in an igloo, but this is definitely one of them.

As I touched on at the beginning, I based this recipe on Barbara Lynch’s “Pappardelle with Tangy Veal Ragu” out of her Stir cookbook that a good friend gave me years ago.  I have made it with the veal in the past and it was equally fantastic, but I wasn’t looking to spend 18.99/lb on shanks this weekend for just the two of us.  My money belongs to Amazon.com this holiday season : )  Anyhow, I subbed boneless pork picnic shoulder for it’s pauper price point, versatility and legendary braising status.  I was initially nervous to miss out on the marrow from the bones, but the fat from the pork held it’s own and made for a luxe sauce.

I hope you have the opportunity to make this dish sometime over the winter.  In the meantime, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…


rigatoni + pork ragu
adapted from Barbara Lynch’s recipe
Serves 6

3-4 lbs boneless pork picnic shoulder
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour for dredging
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cups dry red wine
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 28-ounce can peeled Italian tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped, juices reserved
2 cups beef broth
1 fresh rosemary spring
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1 lb. rigatoni
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

Cut pork into 1 1/2″ thick “chops” and season each with salt and pepper.  Put the flour in a dish.  Dredge each “chop” in the flour and shake off excess.  In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the pork in batches and brown well on both sides.  Transfer to a plate.

Add the garlic, carrots, celery, and onion to the pot and cook over medium heat stirring frequently until lightly browned; about 5 minutes.  Add the wine and vinegar and cook over high, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to a thick syrup, about 20 – 25 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and their juices, beef broth, rosemary spring, 2 tablespoons of the basil and 2 cups water.  Return the pork to the pot, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.  Cover partially and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the pork is very tender, about 3 hours.

Transfer the pork to a plate and let cool slightly before shredding it into bite-size chunks.  The meat should be falling apart easily.

Strain the sauce into a large saucepan through a fine mesh strainer, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid and flavor as possible; discard the solids.  If there is any visible fat on top of the sauce, spoon it off.  Simmer the sauce over medium-high heat until reduced to about 2 1/2 cups, 10 – 15 minutes.  Stir in the pork and the remaining 2 tablespoons basil and season with salt and pepper.  Keep the ragu warm over low heat.

To serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al-dente.  Drain thoroughly and return to the pot.  Add the pork ragu and toss gently.  Plate and garnish with fresh grated Parmesan.



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