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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pork Ragu

Pici

Sorry to have kept you waiting a while for this recipe.  I've just been a bit busy.  But better late than never, yes?  So, the ragu I made to go with my heretic pasta the other night was made with pork, because, as I said before, why offend only one religion when you can do three at once.  Ha.

The recipe came from Paul Bertoli's amazing book, Cooking by Hand.  This is not a book for the faint of heart, I should warn you.  The Ragù alla Bolognese recipe alone is over 1,500 words--but who am I to complain about long winded treatise on a traditional dish, you've seen my Pad Thai recipe, right?

The recipe calls for beef, ground chuck, skirt, or hanger steak to be precise, but I made it with ground pork butt instead, because my friend Beccy doesn't eat beef.  (Yeah, you can choose your friends but you sure can't choose what they eat!)

So, here's my slightly bastardized version of Paul Bertoli's Ragù alla Bolognese.  Hey, if you want the real thing you could always go buy the book.

3 pounds pork
3.5oz pancetta, finely chopped
2 tablespoon of butter
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
a few sage leafs
3 oz tomato paste
6 cups of meat broth (water will do in a pinch, really)

You start by browning the meat.  Heat a large pot (I used my 8qt. Dutch Oven) over high heat, add a little oil, then spread the ground pork over the surface of the pot and brown it quickly of both sides.  I found that doing this with half the batch of meat at a time allows the meat to brown up quickly and not overcooked by the time it's done browning.  So if you do a half batch, spread half the pork over the surface of the pan and let brown, then flip it to the other side.  Once brown on both sides, remove the first half of the pork.  Let the pot stand to heat back up a bit, then add the other half of the meat and brown it up the same way. 

Ragu1

Return the first half of the pork back to the pot, lower the heat to medium, break up the brown pork into chunks.  Add the pancetta and stir to mix well.  Cut the butter into a few pieces and spread them over the top of the meat.  Let melt for a few seconds, then stir well to mix.  

Ragu2

Add the celery, carrots, and onion, give it a stir and let the vegetables sweat with the meat for about 15 minutes.  Add the sage leafs.  Turn the heat down a bit if it looks like things are cooking up too quickly.  While the vegetables and meat are cooking, heat up the meat broth or water in a medium pot. 

Ragu3

After 15 minutes, add the tomato paste to the meat/veg mix.  (You don't have to weigh it really, I just use roughly 2/3 of my 4.5oz tube.)  Stir to mix and let cook another 5 minutes.  

Add about 1 cup of broth or water to the ragu pot, stir to mix well.  Let the meat absorb the liquid until almost dry, then add 1/2 cup more, and let the meat absorb it again.  Continue adding 1/2 cup at a time, and let the meat absorb the liquid before adding more, until you've used up about 3 cups (or half the amount) of the broth. 

Lower the heat to simmer and add the rest of the broth.  Let the ragu cook for at least an hour, until the liquid reduces to the consistency you like and the meat soften.  Add water (or more broth) if the liquid in the ragu evaporates too quickly.  I'd add a little salt here too if your broth doesn't have salt (or if you use water.) 

When the ragu is cooked properly.  Check the seasoning.  You might need to add a bit more salt.  I like to add a little splash of sherry vinegar (or young balsamic vinegar) just to round up the flavor a bit.  Add a little pepper if you'd like.

Serve the ragu with freshly made pasta, preferably Strozzapreti or Pici. 

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