Pappardelle With Braised Pork Ragù is very much like a pasta dish you will find in Italy. If you have traveled to Tuscany, more than likely you had pappardelle al cinghiale, a wide pasta served with a rich sauce of wild boar, tomatoes and red wine. While you will find this much loved dish served all year in Tuscany and some other regions of Italy at both local trattorias and fine dining establishments, it is most popular during the fall hunting season and into the winter.
Since I don’t had access to wild boar in our small seaside town in Florida, although it can be ordered online from suppliers such as D’Artagnan, I made my version of this classic Tuscan recipe with pork shoulder which is also known as pork butt or Boston butt depending on where you live.
The best way to cook either wild boar or the pork shoulder is by slowly braising the meat in wine and stock in the oven or on the stove top until it is tender. It can also be prepared in a slow cooker and I’ve given directions for it as well.
Pappardelle With Braised Pork Ragù
Serves 6 to 8, generously
- 1 boneless pork shoulder also known as pork butt or Boston butt, fat trimmed if necessary (approx. 3 – 4 lb.)
- 1/2 tsp. each of salt, freshly ground black pepper, onion powder and garlic powder
- 1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 c. red wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 2 c. beef or chicken stock, or as needed
- 1 large can whole Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand
- 4 oz. of dried pappardelle per person, cooked according to package directions
- Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, optional
- Fresh chopped parsley or basil, optional for a garnish
Heat the oil in a large heavy bottom Dutch oven or oven proof pot over medium high heat. Season the meat with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder, add to the pot and brown on all sides. Remove the meat to a plate. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add the wine, scrape the bottom to loosen the browned bits and let cook until reduced by half. Add the herbs, stock and tomatoes. Add the meat back to the pot, it should be immersed in the braising liquid, if not add a little more stock or water, if necessary. Lower the heat, cover the pot and cook at a gentle simmer for about three and a half to four hours, stirring now and then. If the sauce is gets dry, add a little stock or water. If the sauce is a little too thin, crack the lid a little for the last 30 minutes of cooking. The meat is done when it is fork tender.
Remove the meat from the sauce and let cool enough to handle. Pull the pork apart with a fork, discarding any fat. Skim any accumulated fat from the sauce, remove the bay leaf and sprigs of herbs and return the pork to the sauce and reheat.
When ready to serve your meal, cook the pasta according to directions on the box. When done, save about a cup of the water and drain the pasta and then return it to the pot. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss carefully. If it seems too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water. Serve, topped with cheese and parsley or basil, if desired. Any additional sauce can be served on the side.
Optional Slow Cooker Instructions: Place onions and garlic in the bottom of a slow cooker. Season the pork with the spices. Heat oil in a sauté pan and sear the pork on all sides. Place pork on the bed of onions in the slow cooker. Deglaze the sauté pan with the wine, pour over the pork, then add the remaining ingredients. Cover with lid and start the slow cooker. It will probably take 6 hours on high or 8 hours on low, depending on your slow cooker and the size of the pork. When done, it should be tender enough to pull apart with a fork.
- The meat sauce can be braised on the stove top, in the oven at 350 degrees or in a slow cooker. The time will vary on the method used but you will know the meat is done when you can pull it apart with a fork.
- The sauce can be prepared with white wine, if you prefer.
- If you have access to wild boar, use it in place of the pork. If so, the cooking time may be longer.
- If you would like, additional seasonings such as oregano, basil, and sage can be added as well as chopped carrots or celery.
- The meat sauce can be prepared a couple of days in advance and refrigerated.
- The dish can also be made with beef, lamb or venison. Adjust times as necessary.
- The pork can also be served with another thick pasta, polenta or even mashed potatoes.
This classic Tuscan pasta dish is perfect anytime of the year but it is especially good in the fall and winter. Like most meats that are braised, the longer this dish is simmered, the better the flavor. This is one of those recipes that seems to get better after it sits so it is perfect for when you want to cook a meal for friends. The braised pork ragù can be made a day or two in advance, refrigerated then reheated right before you cook the pasta for your guests…perfect no hassle entertaining.