Sauce: Pork Ragu

It’s been over a week since this recipe actually happened, and almost a week since we’ve posted anything here, so hopefully I can remember it in enough detail to make it work again.  I stopped at Los Paisanos Meat Market on Smith St. to take a look around and pick up a sausage for lunch (their lamb sausage on a roll with Newpond Farm cheese and red onions was delicious).  While I was there, I saw some cheap pork shoulder ($3.50 a pound, I believe) just asking to be braised, so I picked up a couple pounds and planned to make some pasta sauce.

I planned on making the pork (no surprise here) similarly to how we’d done it at the Dressing Room, which is to say, similar to any meat braise you might make.  Braising is such a great technique for tendering up flavorful, but often somewhat tough, cuts of meat, such as pork shoulder, brisket, or (caution: recipe foreshadowing) lamb’s neck.  But without further ado:


1 medium piece of pork shoulder (1 1/2 pounds)

1 large yellow onion

1 carrot

1 stalk celery

3 cloves garlic

1 small can (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes, seeded (optional) and diced

1 tbsp. tomato paste

Water or Stock (chicken or pork) to cover (1 cup?)

1/2 bottle white wine

Couple sprigs of herbs (I used some rosemary, oregano, and thyme)

Spices (I used red pepper flakes, fennel seed, maybe 1/4 tsp each)

Salt and Pepper


To start, I tied the pork so it wouldn’t completely fall apart while cooking.  You can do this with any sort of clean string (un-waxed, so it doesn’t melt into the meat while cooking) and most butchers will be happy to give you some string with whatever cut you order.  I got some oil nearly smoking in our pot, and quickly seared the pork, seasoned, on all sides, to get it nicely browned.  As it was nearly done, I tossed in a crushed garlic clove and a sprig of rosemary to add some flavor and aroma to the meat and juices.  When browned, I removed it from the pot and deglazed with a bit of white wine.

Searing the Shoulder

Searing the Shoulder

After the white wine nearly cooked away, I added some olive oil and sauteed the veg (carrot, onion, celery, all finely chopped) until they got soft and began to caramelize.  I added a tablespoon or so of tomato paste, and let that cook until it began to brown on the bottom.  At this point I began deglazing the tomato paste/veg mix every time it caramelized well in the pan.  Spread the mix out over the bottom of the pan and let it cook on medium heat almost to the point of getting burnt, then deglaze with however much wine you need to get all that caramelization off the bottom of the pan.  Go through that process a few times to help deepen the final flavor of the dish.

After I finished that deglazing routine, I added my diced canned tomatoes and water (since I didn’t have any stock) to the pot.  I put in some picked thyme and oregano, and placed the pork shoulder back into the liquid.  I also added some fennel seed, the chili flakes, and some cracked black pepper and salt.  You don’t want to oversalt the liquid, because it will reduce later and could become way too salty, so go light.  You can always add more later.

And now for the braising portion of our show...

And now for the braising portion of our show...

The pork after cooking

The pork after cooking

The pork should be almost completely covered by the liquid.  I then brought it to a boil, then turned the heat down all the way to let it simmer very slowly for a couple of hours.  When the meat is completely tender, and falling apart, the pork is done.  At that point, remove the pork, let it cool a little, and pull it into shreds.  Let the liquid reduce to a slightly thicker consistency, and add the pork back in to finish the ragu.  Season to taste.

The finished sauce

The finished sauce

That’s the basic sauce recipe.  We had this with rigatone, tho pappardelle or fusilli would be great.  One thing to consider when you’re serving this sauce is that it needs some fat to become fuller and creamier because of all the acid from the tomatoes.  So when I portioned out the sauce we’d need for our pasta, I added a splash of cream, a little butter, some olive oil, and grated a bunch of pecorino romano cheese into it.  You could use any or all of those things to make it taste richer with your pasta.  The basic sauce itself keeps for a few days in the fridge, and freezes well.  We had plenty of leftovers.

Rigatone and Ragu

Rigatone and Ragu


One response to “Sauce: Pork Ragu

  1. Great pork ragu! Substituted country ribs for shoulder, and served with rigatoni. I plan on making it again soon with a big shoulder so the boys can eat off of it for a few days. Happy Thanksgiving — see you in CT!

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