Guys, in case you haven’t heard, over 40% of California is finally out of the drought! Yahoo!
True, I live in Southern California precisely because it’s 75 and sunny pretty much all year, but I’ll admit I’ve been sort of digging the rain this month.
Lots of rain means evenings with the fireplace on, the smell of smoke wafting through the neighborhood, with a pop of coolness from the fresh rain.
It also means extra snuggles and movie nights, baking cookies, and simmering or braising delicious soups and stews for hours on end, decadent flavors filling the apartment and feeling like home.
If you’re like me, huddled up indoors on the weekend, chillaxing (and maybe Netflixing?), you should make this ragu.
Yep, I’m just putting it out there.
Making this ragu will make your whole weekend awesome.
Plus, it makes such a huge batch that it’s the perfect excuse for a dinner party.
Pork ragu starts with a whole pork shoulder, but it braises for hours and hours until the meat just falls apart into tender shreds.
It’s one of those meals you crave. The umami flavor of the sauce is off the charts, but well balanced with the acid from the red wine and sweetness of the tomatoes, carrots, and onion.
It cooks down into a thick ragu that’s able to stand up to the hearty pappardelle pasta. No wimpy thin sauces here, this bad boy thickly coats every noodle and guarantees tons of flavor in every bite.
The real secret to take this from great to mind-blowing, is the finishing touches. Get yourself some high quality extra virgin olive oil (I really like this brand), some flaky Maldon sea salt, freshly grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses, and fresh basil. Decorate each bowl before serving, and get ready to have your mind blown.
P.S. Got extras?
This ragu freezes excellently. Simply place batches in freezer safe tupperware or ziplocks, making sure that all extra air is removed to prevent freezer burn. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months, removing 1 batch at a time as needed for easy weeknight dinners. You can toss it with any shape of pasta, and is even excellent served over polenta!
- 5 lbs bone-in pork shoulder, cut into 3x3 inch pieces, bone and excess fat discarded
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Generous sprinkles of kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 2 large yellow onions, finely diced
- 2 extra large carrots, finely diced
- 3 stalks of celery, finely diced
- 1/2 lb pancetta, diced
- 1 head of garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 2 cups dry red wine, plus 1/4 cup reserved for end of cooking
- 2 28- oz cans whole san marzano tomatoes
- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs of fresh oregano
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 quart beef stock
- 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 lbs dried or fresh pappardelle pasta
- Blend of freshly grated parmesan and romano cheese, for serving (optional)
- Maldon sea salt, for serving (optional)
- Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, for serving (optional)
- Minced fresh basil, for serving (optional)
Add the 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large enameled cast iron dutch oven and warm over high heat. While the oil heats, season the pork well on all sides with kosher salt and ground black pepper. When the oil is shimmering, add half the pork to the dutch oven and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the first batch of browned pork and set aside on a plate, and repeat with the second batch. Keep the pork set aside for later.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, carrots, celery, and pancetta to the same dutch oven. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is crispy and the vegetables have a nice golden brown color to them. Don't skimp on this step, since it is the base of the flavor of the dish. You want some dark bits on the bottom of the pan that you'll stir up later when you add liquid.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Next, add the garlic and tomato paste to the dutch oven and cook for about 1-2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant. Pour in the red wine and cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until the wine is mostly evaporated.
Add the 2 cans of tomatoes, including the sauce in the cans. Use a spatula to break up the tomatoes in the pot. Add the fresh thyme, oregano, bay leaves, and 2 cups of beef stock. Use tongs to nestle the pork pieces back into the dutch oven so they are fully submerged in the liquid, adding any accumulated juices to the dutch oven as well. Increase the heat to high and bring everything to a simmer.
Remove from the heat, partially cover the dutch oven with the lid, and place in the oven. Let braise for about 3 hours, until the pork is fall apart tender.
About 30 minutes before you're ready to eat, start cooking the pasta. You'll probably have to cook it in 2 batches unless you have a ginormous pot available. To cook it, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions (time will vary, depending on whether you bought fresh or dried pasta). When the first batch is done, drain the noodles and toss with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil to prevent the noodles from sticking together while the 2nd batch cooks. When the second batch is done, drain, toss with a little bit of olive oil, and add to the first batch.
When the ragu is done braising, remove the dutch oven from the oven and set on the stove. Use a spoon and/or a pair of forks to shred all of the pork pieces into fine shreds and stir the sauce until evenly combined. Stir in a splash of balsamic vinegar, 1-2 tablespoons total, and another 1/2 cup of red wine. If the ragu is a little too thick, add more beef broth to thin to the consistency you desire (although this should be a thick sauce that will stand up to the thick pappardelle noodles and coat them well).
When ready to serve, add noodles to your bowl, top with a generous amount of ragu, drizzle with high quality extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with flaky maldon sea salt, and top with parmesan/romano cheese and a bit of fresh basil. Enjoy!