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Rigatoni with Pork Ragù

Rigatoni with Pork Ragù

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Serves 8.
By Dennis W. Viau; modified from a recipe in Southern Italian Cooking by Jo Bettoja.

Ragù is a chunky sauce, the opposite of marinara, a smooth sauce. Ragù is often made with meat, but I have tasted chuncky sauces made with vegetables. Probably the most common meat ragù is made with beef. This sauce is made with pork meat.

Ingredients:

For the Ragù:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1½ pounds (680g) boneless pork roast or shoulder, cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) pieces
¾ cup (185ml) dry red wine
¼ pound (110g) pancetta, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
Optional: ¼ pound (110g) prosciutto, finely chopped
1 6-ounce (170g) can tomato paste
1 28-ounce (800g) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
1 medium (10 ounces/285g) onion, finely chopped
10 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground in a spice grinder or small food processor
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
For the Pasta:
1½ pounds (675 grams) rigatoni or other short pasta such as penne
Optional: ½ pound (225g) ricotta cheese
Freshly grated Parmesan, or Romano cheese for garnish when serving

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the cubed pork. Sauté until lightly browned. Add the wine and simmer until most of the liquid evaporates. Heat the remaining oil in a large pot and sauté the chopped pancetta until browned, then add the prosciutto and sauté another minute.

Add the tomato paste, the tomatoes, onion, sage, bay leaves, and ground fennel seeds. Add the cooked meats. Add enough water to cover about two thirds of the meat and increase the heat to high. When it starts to boil, lower the heat to simmer the ragù for 3 hours, partially covered. Turn the meat occasionally and add a little water or stock, if necessary.

If necessary, cook, uncovered, to reduce the sauce; it should be a little thick. Season with salt and pepper. If possible, allow the ragù to rest a day before serving it.

Spoon the ricotta in a pasta serving dish. Heat the ragù and mix a few tablespoons of the sauce with the ricotta in the dish. Cook the pasta according to package directions, until al dente, in boiling salted water. Drain and add most the sauce, retaining some sauce for garnish. Spoon the sauced pasta into the casserole dish and bake until hot and bubbling around the edges 20 to 30 minutes.

Plate and garnish with sauce and grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.