In Southern California summer starts early and ends late. Some people say we have no real “seasons” here, but that’s not really true. We have them, they’re just a little more muted than in other places. That, and we don’t have to suffer things like ice storms or 90% humidity, so really, I can’t complain. Still, as we head into October, I find myself craving those heartier dishes which say “Fall” even if the temperature outside is still hovering near 80 degrees.
Recently I made this slow simmered ragú using one of the last roasts from our pig. I decided to serve it with handkerchief pasta, a cut of pasta I’ve wanted to make ever since I had it at Delfina in San Francisco a couple of years ago. There are a lot of different recipes out there for a “traditional” Italian ragú; some have beef, some pork. Some ragús include sausage or bacon and some use ground meat or use whole cuts like I do here. Some use canned tomatoes, some just a little tomato paste and other use fresh. I used fresh tomatoes because I still had some from my garden to use up. The point is, every cook’s ragú will be different, and that’s ok, as long as it you like it.
This is not a “quick” meal. Make sure you allow plenty of time to cook the sauce (6-8 hours). Once it’s cooking it doesn’t need a ton of attention, just a gentle stir every hour or so.
This recipe yields about 3 quarts of sauce including a lot of meat, perfect for a dinner party or a few meals at a later date. While the sauce takes a long time to cook, you can you can turn it into a quick meal for later if you freeze the leftover sauce in 1 quart containers. The recipe can also be scaled down depending on the size of your roast.
In southern Italy, where I’m headed in a couple of weeks, the tradition is to serve the sauce with the pasta, and serve the meat as a separate course. You can certainly do that here, though I preferred to include the tender pieces of meat with the pasta as a single dish.
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 lb pork roast, bone in.
2 cups small diced onion (about 12 oz weight)
1.5 cups small diced carrot (about 8 oz weight)
1.5 cups small diced celery (about 8 oz weight)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 cup red wine
12 cups tomatoes, cooked into sauce, or the equivalent amount of canned tomatoes*
2 ea bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
* A note about the tomatoes; I peeled and seeded about 10 lbs of garden tomatoes and then cooked those tomatoes down for a couple of hours to make a basic “tomato sauce.” I then used 12 cups of those tomatoes for this recipe and the rest to make basic marinara. The point is to use tomatoes which have already been cooked some or the sauce may come out too raw tasting or too watery.
1. Season the roast with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed stock/soup pot. Brown all sides of the roast in the hot oil and remove to a plate.
2. Add the onions into the pot, cooking them in the oil left from browning the roast. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes. Add in the carrots and celery and cook until all vegetables are soft. Add in the garlic and the dried oregano and cook for another 2-3 minutes. In Italian, this mixture of diced vegetables, garlic and herbs, cooked in olive oil until soft is called a soffrito.
3. Add the red wine and stir, letting it reduce by half. Add in the cooked (or canned) tomatoes and stir to combine.
4. Put the roast back in the pot. The liquid should almost cover the meat. Bring the sauce to a low simmer. Cover and allow to cook for about 4 hours, checking and stirring every hour. You’ll want to flip and rotate the roast if any of it is sticking out of the sauce so that the meat evenly cooks.
5. After about 4 hours the meat should be tender and starting to fall apart. At this point I removed the meat from the sauce so I could remove the bones (this was a blade roast so some of the bones were sharp). Break up the meat into smaller pieces and return it to the sauce. Meat on the side: If you want to serve the meat on the side, make sure you leave it in slightly larger chunks.
6. Leave the lid off the sauce and continue simmering, allowing some of the liquid to reduce away and thicken the sauce. This should take another 2 hours but I let mine go for another 4 hours (8 hours total cooking time).
Option: I wanted the sauce to have a slightly smoother, thicker texture after it was cooked down, so I removed the meat temporarily and used in immersion (stick) blender to puree it slightly (about 20 seconds) before putting the meat back in.
Serve the sauce with fresh pasta (below) or over the pasta of your choice.
1. Make one batch of Fresh Pasta dough. The dough recipe makes enough to serve 4-6 people (depending on your portion size; main course/appetizer) when rolled out as described below.
2. Roll the pasta into strips. I used the #6 setting on my pasta rollers and rolled out the dough into strips about as wide as the rollers.
3. Cut the strips into squares (about 4″) using a pastry wheel cutter with a serrated edge or cut with a knife. I liked the zig-zag edge look just because it was cute, but no, it’s not necessary.
4. Cook in salted water for 2-3 minutes until tender.