Neapolitan Ragù is a slowly simmered Italian meat and tomato sauce, made with large chunks of meat rather than ground meat. The meat is usually pork but can be beef, sausage, or a combination. The sauce from cooking the meat is usually served over pasta and the meat is served in a separate bowl to be eaten as a main dish or secondo. This rich and deeply flavored sauce is incredibly satisfying and delicious!
My love for this dish stems partly from nostalgia. This ragù is exactly what we would eat at Nonna’s house for a family meal on Sunday afternoon. It would be left simmering on the stove while she went to mass and when we arrived, the house would be filled with the mouth-watering aroma of the aromatic sauce. This is my adaptation of Neapolitan Ragù. The pork is cut into small pieces before cooking and “married” with the pasta before serving. I braise the ragù in the oven, but it can be cooked on the stove-top if you prefer. It must cook very slowly.
I like this hearty ragù with penne pasta or mezzi rigatoni which holds up to the sauce and gets into all the ridges and holes, but it is also delicious served with pappardelle pasta. This makes a lot of ragù, but it is even more flavorful the next day and freezes well. Leftover ragù is delicious over soft, creamy polenta or rice or spooned inside a bun for a yummy sandwich!
Pasta with Braised Pork Ragù
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1” chunks
- Salt and pepper
- 3 ounces pancetta, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- ½ yellow onion, diced small
- 2 small carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 celery rib, diced
- 2 small leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
- ½ large fennel bulb (or 2 teaspoons fennel pollen), diced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 1 to 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 to 3 cups Mezzetta Spicy Marinara or crushed chopped tomatoes in purée
- Chili pepper flakes for added heat (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 275 degrees.
- Salt and pepper the pork well.
- Heat olive oil over medium high heat in an oven proof pot with lid. Lightly brown the pork in batches. Don’t crowd the meat. Remove each batch before adding more meat to the pot. Add a little more oil if needed. Remove the meat and set aside.
- Add the pancetta to the empty pot and cook until the fat has rendered. Don’t brown the pancetta.
- Add the chopped vegetables, herbs and bay leaf and cook, stirring frequently, for 5-10 minutes until softened.
- Add the pork to the pot and cook until everything is simmering.
- Add the wine and cook together for 10 minutes or more to reduce the wine and cook off the alcohol.
- Add 1 cup of stock and 2 cups marinara or tomatoes. Adjust the consistency to your taste by adding more stock or marinara. Bring to a boil.
- Cover and transfer to oven and cook until meat is very tender, about 90 minutes. If cooking on the stove-top, reduce heat to simmer and continue to cook until meat is tender. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Serving ragù is not as simple as spooning it over your pasta. Pasta should always cook with the sauce for a couple of minutes to “marry” the two components. You can do this in the same pot you cooked the pasta in.
- Add the drained pasta back to the pot over low heat. Spoon some of the ragù into the pot and toss together. Simmer together for 1-2 minutes. The starch in the pasta will create a cohesive sauce.
- Spoon additional ragù over the plated pasta along with lots of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.