This recipe for pork ragout with penne pasta has quickly become one of my favorite comfort foods ~ especially on a chilly winter’s night. I love it with a simple salad on the side. I admit, it takes a little patience and time to prepare as the pork is slow roasted. BUT, the tender, savory and fragrant ragout is so worth the effort.
This recipe practically feeds an army, so it makes fantastic left-overs. I think it’s perfect for the holiday season when you’re short on time, but like to come home to a home-cooked meal that’s easy to reheat. I make this dish on a Sunday when I have a little extra time (Sunday sauce). Then I plan to use the left-overs during the busy work week. It also freezes well if you prefer to divide it up for later use.
A bouquet garni is a tidy little bundle of herbs used to flavor soups, stews and ragout.
In this recipe, I use a bouquet garni for the fresh herbs. To make a bouquet garni, simply use kitchen twine to tie your fresh herbs together in a little bundle. I also like to place the herbs in cheesecloth and tie it up. I do this mainly because of the rosemary. It is optional. I love the flavor and scent of rosemary with pork. But, it has a tendency to break apart when slow cooked. I’m not fond of too many little poky spears of rosemary in the sauce. Containing everything in cheesecloth helps eliminate this problem. The bouquet garni is simply removed and discarded after the dish is cooked.
Adding Parmesan cheese rind:
The rind of Parmesan cheese is packed full of flavor and is edible. Don’t toss it out. I keep rinds in a reseal-able bag inside the fridge. Toss them into soups, stews and this ragout. It’s one of nonna’s secrets.
To prepare this delicious pork ragout with penne pasta, use a large Dutch oven. I love my Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron Dutch Oven (7 1/4 quart size) for these types of dishes. It evenly distributes the heat perfectly and is a snap to clean up. Worth every penny.
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Useful kitchen tools for this recipe:
- 1 3 lb pork shoulder roast (about 3 lbs) Cut the pork into 3-4 inch chunks
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp olive oil plus more for drizzling on top finished dish
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 4-5 medium-sized cloves garlic minced
- 1 medium to large sized onion diced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes plain
- 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 3 inch piece Parmesan cheese rind
- 1 pinch red chili pepper flakes
- freshly grated parmesan cheese for topping
(Optional) Prepare a bouquet garni containing rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. Set aside.
Pre-heat the oven to 300 F.
Prepare the pork and dry it with paper towels. Season all sides of the pork with the sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. On the cook-top, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the pork on all sides. Work in batches if necessary to not overcrowd the pot. Remove the pork to a plate and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium and add another tablespoon of olive oil. Next cook the onions and season with a generous pinch of salt. Cook the onions until they begin to soften. Stir and scrape up brown bits in the pot. Add the garlic. Next, add the white wine and deglaze the pot. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, then add the chicken broth, crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce. Add the herbs (bouquet garni), Parmesan cheese rind, and red chili pepper flakes. Add all the pork back into the pot covering it with as much sauce as possible. Bring it to a simmer, then turn off the heat on the stove-top. Place the pot covered into the pre-heated oven and bake it for about 2 - 2 1/2 hours or until the pork is very tender and falls apart easily.
Remove the pork to a large jelly roll pan. Using two forks shred the pork. (It should just melt and fall apart easily). Remove the bouquet garni from the sauce and discard it. Return the shredded pork back into the sauce and stir it up.
At this point you can toss a desired amount of pork ragout sauce with cooked penne pasta. Be sure to cook your pasta in salted water. During the last 2-3 minutes of cooking the pasta al dente, finish it in the sauce. I usually do this separately in a large chef's skillet and just ladle in the desired amount of sauce. Add a little pasta water if necessary to thin. Top with freshly ground Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.