Today is the first day of autumn. I have to say I can’t feel it! Ahhh… It is still very warm in Los Angeles. 82˚F (27.7˚C) right now. For a few days, it was nice and cool. I could smell the crisp in the air. I was so happy that I spin around like Maria in The Sound of Music. I was inspired to make something warm and comforting like this ragu. Sadly, the weather quickly bounced back up. Hope your side of the world is not as hot!
Bryan loves this ragu so much, that he called it “dinner party good”. I can’t disagree! It was that incredible!
To make a ragu, we need meat! This recipe used pork butt. Pork butt is not the butt part. In fact, it is the shoulder. It is tender and flavorful. I love using that part of the meat for Cantonese style BBQ pork.
Back to the ragu, seared the pork first. Then sautéed the veggies. Added wine (of course), crushed tomatoes, herbs, spices and water to braise everything for a good hour until the meat was almost falling apart. Tossed in some spinach and dried currant. The sweet currants brought nice sweetness and lightened up the dish. At last, stired in the al dente pasta. Nommmm… Savory goodness… Who is ready for dinner?
Pipe Rigate with Pork Ragu
– ¾ pound boneless pork butt (cut into 1½ cubes)
– 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more
– ½ small onion (finely chopped)
– ½ carrot (peeled and finely chopped)
– ½ celery stalk (finely chopped)
– 1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
– 1 small sprig rosemary
– 1 sprig oregano
– 1 bay leaf
– 10 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
– ¼ cup dry red wine
– 1/8 teaspoon black peppercorns
– 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
– dash ground cloves
– ½ pound pipe rigate or other small shell pasta
– 3 tablespoons dried currants (optional)
– 2 handfuls baby spinach
– 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
– ¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
– ground black pepper
- Season the pork cubes with salt and pepper.
- In a large heavy pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sear the meat on all sides until browned, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a large plate.
- Remove all but 1 tablespoon fat in the pot. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook until golden brown, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rosemary, oregano and bay leave, pork, tomatoes, wine, peppercorns, nutmeg and cloves. Add enough water just to cover the meat. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until the meat is very tender, about 1 – 1½ hours.
- Turn off heat. Discard the herb stems and bay leaf. Shred the meat with 2 forks. Turn the heat back on to medium. Cook uncovered until sauce is thickened, about 8 – 10 minutes.
- Put the currants in a ½ cup of hot water. Soak them for about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water (salted) to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Reserve ½ cup pasta water. Drain the pasta.
- Back to the ragu, add currants and spinach. Stir until spinach is wilted. Add pasta. Combine everything. If needed, add some the reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in butter and ¼ cup grated Parmesan. Transfer pasta to serving plates. Top with extra Parmesan. Serve immediately.
- Pork can be made 2 days ahead. Do not shred. Cool, cover and keep in the fridge.
- I love the currants in the pasta. If you can find them, use them.
- You can substitute dried herbs with fresh herbs (½ teaspoon dried rosemary and ½ teaspoon dried oregano).
(Adapted from Bon Appétit)