Old Man Winter wants to play rough, eh? He thinks we will sit back and let him take hold of us in his frigid grip. Well, not me. I’m fighting the chilly with a chili – a little peperoncino (crushed red pepper) to be exact. Something to warm my soul and melt away these frigid temperatures; I need a meal that is comforting and with a little heat. Pappardelle with a Spicy Pork Ragu should do the trick. A hearty ragu made with carrots, celery, pork, tomatoes and a little red pepper. I have made my own pappardelle in the past but I want to save some time and use dried, pappardelle pasta. It was a little hard to find the pappardelle but I was able to buy it Whole Foods. If you can’t find it at the local mega mart, try linguine or even a nice ziti or penne.
This recipe uses what most chefs call the “holy trinity” – carrot, onion and celery. The French call it “mirepoix” but since we are cooking Italian, it is called “soffritto”. Whatever you want to call it, it’s good and the perfect base for this dish. In most cases, a pork ragu uses pork shoulder and is braised for a long period of time. Well, I don’t have that kind of time during the work week so I cheated and used ground pork. Using the ground pork reduced the fat in the dish (New Years Resolution) and it sped up the cooking process. However, I did use a dutch oven so I could “braise” the meat in the sauce for an hour in the oven to help make it a little more tender. It worked! Let me show you how I did it.
Pappardelle with Spicy Pork Ragu
1 1/2 pounds of ground pork
1 large onion diced
1 cup diced carrots – 1/4 inch dice
1 cup diced celery – 1/4 inch dice
5 garlic cloves – minced
1 28 oz can crushed plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon peperoncino (crushed red pepper)
1/2 teaspoon of sage
3 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh cracked pepper
1 lb pappardelle pasta (linguine, ziti or penne)
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a dutch oven, add 1 tablespoon of oil over medium high heat. Add ground pork. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until no longer pink, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from pan and place in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add onion. Cook for one minute. Add garlic. Combine and cook until onion is translucent, approximately 3 minutes. Add carrots and celery. Cook until carrots are a little tender, approximately 4 minutes. Add chicken stock and wine, scraping brown bits from the bottom of the pan. (This next part is optional – use an immersion blender to blend the ingredients roughly, leaving chunks) Add bay leaves,thyme, peperoncino and sage. Add salt and pepper – approximately 1 teaspoon of each. Return meat back into the pan. Cover with lid and place in the oven for 1 hour. (If you do not have an oven safe dutch oven, continue to simmer the sauce over medium-low heat and stir occasionally.) The last 20 minutes of cooking, prepare pasta according to package directions. Also, taste sauce and add additional salt and pepper accordingly. Top pasta with sauce and serve with FRESHLY grated parmesan cheese.
I know some people are saying, “I don’t have that kind of time to make dinner.” This dish is even better the next day so pack up the sauce in a container and store in the fridge. Warm it up the next day and serve with freshly prepared pasta. Want to make it even better? Place a layer of pasta and sauce in a baking dish (spray it with non-stick spray first) cover with shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan. Add another layer of pasta and sauce and follow it up with a layer of cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until nice a bubbly.
Though the weather outside is frightful, your insides can be warm and delightful. Show Old Man Winter that you mean business, make something hot and comforting. That should take the cold air out of the old man.