Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easy Peasy - Pork Ragu

I am digging this dish - it's so easy to make, and if you're like me, with no real sense of portion control, you can make a vat of it, freeze some and have a handy dish on hand easily - you know in case someone comes by for a visit.  To be clear it will seem time consuming and labor intensive to make this, but it's actually pretty easy and so worth it!

As always the recipe is open to interpretation, you'll need to rely on yourself to adjust the flavors the way you like them.  I'll just give you a few basic steps to get you going down the right path.

Things you'll need;

  • 3 quart stock pot 
  • Slow cooker - this is a personal preference, you could fully slow cook on the stove top or in the oven, but the slow cooker or Crock Pot allows you to walk away and the sauce will practically cook itself.
  • Pork shoulder - also called pork butt, 3-4 lbs depending on how large your pots are
  • One large onion - I prefer sweet varieties like Vidalia but most any kind would suffice
  • One or two peeled smashed garlic cloves
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Dried herbs - my favorite blend is Herbs De Provance, but use whatever you like - typically something with oregano, basil and fennel work well with tomato sauces
  • A cup or so of Parmesan cheese grated/flaked
  • Olive Oil
  • Beef stock/broth
  • Marrow/soup bones if you can get them
  • Strained tomatoes/Tomato sauce  - the one in my local market comes in a 26oz box which works well, and I look specifically for brands that don't have any additives like sugar or salt, just 100% pure strained tomatoes.  If you want to be hardcore you could also stew whole tomatoes and puree them yourself but personally I like the convenience of a nice box of strained tomatoes.
  • One small can tomato paste - the tomato paste adds a significant tang to the final sauce with little effort

Roughly chop the onion, into 1-2 inch cubes - use it to line the bottom of a slow cooker crock.
Drop in one to two cloves of garlic 
Add pork shoulder and marrow bones, loosely packed.
Pour beef stock over the contents leaving space at the top - at least an inch from the rim of the slow cooker. (the pork fat will render, if you fill it to the brim you could get some significant overflow.)

Cook at medium to high heat for 4 to 6 hours minimum until the pork falls apart with little effort using a fork

Separate the pork from the cooking liquid and set aside, don't throw away the cooking liquid, that will be part of your sauce base.  Don't worry about getting all the bits, this step is really just to make handling the whole lot a little easier.

In a 3 quart pot, mix the cooking liquid along with the strained tomatoes and tomato paste.  I don't bother to strain off the fat - it adds flavor, and once the sauce is refrigerated, it will float to the top and congeal so if I'm feeling the need to pretend to be healthy I can simply lift the cold layer of fat off and toss it.  Although I advise against it :)

Once the tomatoes are fully incorporated, add the pork back to the mix.  Add spices, salt and pepper to taste (tasting as you go along is key) and mix well.  Take it easy on the salt right now, you're going to add Parmesan which is quite salty in it's own right. Turn the heat on to medium and let the sauce simmer for a bit - you want the dried herbs and spices to impart their flavor the sauce.
Let the sauce simmer for about 20 or 30 min, and give it a taste - add the Parmesan and stir it in - give the sauce a little taste again to determine if you really need salt - remember it's easier to add salt than it is to eat a dish that tastes too salty.  
Serve the pork ragu over fat slices of crusty toast, or a home made pasta or top slices of grilled eggplant with the mix for a carb-conscious treat!



  1. I made this today and would make it again! I made it for tomorrow but that didn't stop my husband from having a bowlful after dinner.

    Where does the olive oil come in?
    I used 1 pint of beef broth.
    I used 1 5-oz container of parmesan but think it needs 2!

    Have you tried doing all of it together in the slow cooker? I'm not sure it was easier to separate the meat from the liquid to simmer the sauce on the stove and then put the meat back in.

  2. I'm so glad you tried it! I use the olive oil out of habit, I notice the flavor but it's subtle and could easily be omitted. More parmesan is a great idea, I'm trying to watch my sodium intake but I'd be lying if I didn't say I sprinkled more on top when I plated. Separating the meat and the sauce is totally optional, I've never tried the whole thing in a slow cooker - that's a great suggestion! I bet it makes the whole process easier....Thanks Nysa!

  3. Hey Chi..was great meeting you, love your food blog, great recipes and pretty easy to follow. I just have one question about the marrow bones, how many and do I leave them whole?? I'm thinking the perfect Sunday dinner! Look forward to swapping recipes one day! Thanks! Maria :)