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Rigatoni with Pork Ragu

rigatoni with pork ragu

Hope everyone had a nice Valentine’s Day!

Whenever I think of Valentine’s Day and food, I inevitably think of ragu. The thought process goes something like this (bear with me, here): Valentine’s Day -> a day when I’m pampered -> Rourke cooks for me -> Rourke likes pasta -> the first pasta dish Rourke ever made for me was ragu.

Is that a frightening peek into my psyche or what?

Anyway, I don’t think I’ve ever met a ragu I didn’t like. Meat, tomatoes, aromatics, and spices. What’s not to like? The mere thought of it conjures images of a matriarch, lovingly stirring a large pot of the gently simmering ragu with a wooden spoon. She’s in a large, eat-in-kitchen with a long wooden table, perhaps a small child and a pet adorably getting under foot. Except in my house it is my husband who is slaving, and I am both laughing and crying with incredulity at the HUGE mess he’s made: carrot peels randomly strewn across the kitchen counter and behind the toaster oven (how?!?), bits of diced onion on the floor, splotches of sauce all over the stove. Oh yeah, and my kitchen is about 7 feet long by 3 feet wide.

The recipe for this ragu comes from the Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast: Pasta cookbook. The inclusion of it in the book is a bit of head-scratcher, though. The book claims that all of its recipes are ready to serve in 30 minutes, yet the recipe calls for simmering the sauce for 1 hour. Wha? The first time Rourke made the recipe it was a weeknight and he hadn’t read through the instructions before making it (his bad). I don’t think we ate until almost 10pm that night. Either way, it’s a great, easy recipe and I’m glad we have it. Just make sure you plan accordingly.

Rigatoni with Pork Ragu
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Food Made Fast: Pasta
- serves 4 -

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 tsp. ground fennel seed
1 lb. ground pork*
1 cup dry red wine
32 oz. (4 cups) canned whole plum tomatoes, chopped, with juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
kosher salt
1 tsp. oregano (optional)
4 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
1 tsp. red chili flakes (optional)
1 tbsp. red wine or balsamic vinegar (optional)

Rigatoni and grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

1. In a heavy pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, about 10 minutes.

2. Add the ground fennel seed, oregano, chili flakes,and garlic (if using) and saute until garlic and spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Add the pork and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until the meat colors slightly, about 4 minutes.

4. Stir in the wine and cool until most of the alcohol has evaporated, 1-2 minutes.

5. Add the tomatoes, the tomato paste, 1/2 tsp salt, and vinegar (if using). Stir well to combine. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and the flavors have melded, about 1 hour. If the sauce seems to be drying out, add a few tbsp of water.

6. When ready, taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese over cooked rigatoni.

* You can also use 1/2 beef, 1/2 pork if that’s your thing. We like it that way, too.

Ingredients listed as optional are additions that we’ve made to the original recipe.

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