Weeknight Ragù

This comfort food dish was very well-received in my house. Everyone in my family was fighting over the leftovers! It was easy, full-flavored, and absolutely delicious.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I modified the proportions and substituted sour cream for the heavy cream. I also adjusted the consistency of the finished dish with pasta cooking water. Great.

Yield: Serves 8

  • 6 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 3/4 lbs ground pork, turkey, beef, or chicken, preferably dark meat
  • kosher salt
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 Calabrian chiles in oil, finely chopped, or 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 7 T double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 7 T sour cream or heavy cream
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs (20 to 24 oz) rigatoni, gemelli or other short pasta
  • 2 oz Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • basil leaves, for serving
  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium to medium-high.
  2. Add ground meat in 12–14 pieces (patties), spacing evenly, and season with salt.
  3. Let cook, undisturbed, until deeply browned underneath, about 3 minutes.
  4. Turn over and cook until deeply browned on opposite side, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. (It won’t be cooked through.)
  5. Add remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to pot over medium heat.
  6. Cook onion, stirring often, until softened and just beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  8. Add chiles/red pepper flakes and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until paste is slightly darkened in color, about 3 minutes.
  9. Return meat to the pot and break up into small pieces.
  10. Add sour cream/heavy cream and 2 1/4 cups water.
  11. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat, and simmer gently until liquid is reduced by one third and flavors have come together, 15–20 minutes.
  12. Season ragù with salt and pepper.
  13. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid.
  14. Add pasta to ragù along with 1 cup pasta cooking liquid and Parmesan.
  15. Cook, stirring and adding more pasta cooking liquid if needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes.
  16. Transfer to a serving dish or individual bowls. Garnish with basil and reserved Parmesan. Serve.

Italian Sausage & Mushroom Ragu with Pappardelle

I love Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street television show and cookbooks. I recently joined their mailing list too. I have received a million emails from them since about offers and products, etc., but getting recipes like this one makes it worth the spam. 😉

This was our Election Day comfort food meal. It was quick and absolutely delicious. Perfect. The recipe was inspired by chef Vitaly Paley of Portland, Oregon, via 177milkstreet.com, contributed by Julia Rackow. I used cremini instead of portobello mushrooms and modified the proportions. I loved how the mushrooms lightened up the meaty sauce.

Yield: 6 servings

  • 2 T salted butter
  • 7 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and finely chopped or portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed, caps finely chopped
  • 2 large shallots, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, preferably bulk (I used sausage links and removed the casings)
  • 1 cup full-bodied, dry red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 14 1/2 to 16 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 16 oz dried pappardelle or tagliatelle
  • minced fresh parsley, for garnish, optional
  • grated Parmesan, for serving, optional
  1. Finely chop the garlic and mushrooms in a food processor.
  2. In a 12-inch skillet over medium, heat the butter and garlic until the butter has melted and the mixture has begun to sizzle. (I used a wide enameled cast iron pan.)
  3. Add the mushrooms and shallots and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and the shallots have softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the sausage and cook, stirring and breaking the meat into small pieces, until no longer pink, 8 to 10 minutes. Discard any accumulated fat, if necessary.
  5. Increase to medium-high and add the wine. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  6. Stir in the broth, cinnamon, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Continue to simmer until the broth has reduced by about half, 5 to 6 minutes.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the tomatoes and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  8. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Set aside, covered.
  9. While the sauce simmers, in a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil.
  10. Add the pasta and 2 tablespoons of salt and cook until the pasta is al dente.
  11. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking (pasta) water, drain the pasta and return it to the pot or a serving dish.
  12. Add the sauce to the pasta (I layered it) and toss to coat. If needed, add a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta water to adjust the consistency of the sauce. (I did not add pasta water but kept it to add when reheating the leftovers.)
  13. Serve garnished with parsley. Pass grated Parmesan at the table, as desired.

Pressure Cooker Pork Ragu with Pappardelle

I made this dish to celebrate Valentine’s Day with my meat-loving husband. ❤ One of his absolute favorite dishes is a pork ragu served over pappardelle; this dish is a wonderful weeknight version.

This recipe was adapted from the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen. We ate it with roasted asparagus and cauliflower with a custardy French Apple Cake for dessert. My Valentine was pleased! 🙂

Yield: 8 servings

  • 3 links (about 8 ounces) sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 lb. boneless pork shoulder, trimmed (I used country rib meat)
  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, torn, plus more for garnish, if desired
  • 1 lb. pappardelle pasta
  • freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
  1. In pressure-cooker pot on medium-high, cook sausage in oil 5 minutes or until fat has rendered, breaking up meat as it cooks.
  2. With slotted spoon, transfer to large bowl.
  3. Season pork all over with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  4. In batches, add pork to pot; cook 4 minutes or until browned on two sides, turning once halfway through. Transfer pork to bowl with sausage.
  5. To pot, add carrots, onion and garlic; cook 8 minutes, stirring often.
  6. Add wine; cook 3 minutes.
  7. Return meat to pot and add tomatoes, milk, bay leaves and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  8. Cover and bring up to pressure on high. Reduce heat to medium-low, maintaining pressure. Cook 20 minutes. Remove from heat; let pressure release naturally.
  9. Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle according to the package directions.
  10. Uncover cooker and discard bay leaves. Fork shred the pork. Stir in basil.
  11. Serve tossed with pasta, garnished with Parmesan.

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Broken Pasta with Shredded Pork & Arugula

Arugula is my absolute favorite item in my CSA share. It is so peppery and fabulous. I loved that this cozy comfort food dish used it as a glorious and bright topping along with lemon juice and cheese.

This dish was adapted from chef Nick Anderer of restaurant Maialino in New York, via Smitten Kitchen. I used boneless pork shoulder ribs instead of a whole pork shoulder, increased the lemon juice and cheese, added a carrot and omitted the fennel. I also cooked the meat in a slow cooker instead of the oven.

I reserved half of the cooked meat, after step 9, to freeze to enjoy at a later date. Nice.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

  • 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder rib pieces (or 1 bone-in pork shoulder, about 4 pounds)
  • coarse salt
  • 4 T olive oil, divided
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 2 large ribs celery, cut into large pieces
  • 1 carrot or 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into large pieces
  • 1 quart chicken stock, plus a splash or two more, if needed
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 20-ounces dry lasagna, broken into 3-inch shards
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 4 tablespoons (or more) grated or shaved parmesan or grand padano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, if desired
  • Large handful or two of arugula leaves, cleaned
  1. Prepare pork: Use a sharp knife to remove the thick skin from the pork, but not trimming off all the fat — leave a thin sheen. Season generously with salt and place in fridge until ready to use — overnight is ideal but a few hours will cut it as well.
  2. Sear the pork: Heat a deep saucepan over medium-high and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. When it shimmers, gently cook the onion, celery and carrot (or fennel) until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Dry pork with a paper towel to remove some excess salt. Season with pepper. Add an additional 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, then add the pork and cook until browned on all sides.
  4. Add pork to a slow cooker. Add broth, vegetables, and thyme sprigs. Cover.
  5. Cook on high for 3 hours. Remove pork from braising liquid. Allow to cool enough to be able to handle.
  6. Using two forks, tear the meat into bite-size shreds. Place in a large bowl.
  7. Strain the braising liquid, pouring enough of it over the pork to barely cover it and keep it from drying out. Place back in the slow cooker insert and set to warm.
  8. Pour the rest of the braising liquid into the original saucepan and simmer it until it is reduced by half.
  9. Add pork and cooking liquid that has covered it, and warm it back to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed. (**At this point, I reserved half of the meat and braising liquid to freeze for use at another time.**)
  10. Add the butter and stir to emulsify. (Because I removed half of the pork, I used 1/2 of the amount of ingredients listed above for the remainder of this dish, including the butter.)
  11. Bring large pot of well-salted water to boil. Cook pasta until al dente, or usually a minute shy of package directions. (I used no-cook lasagna noodles and cooked them for about 8 minutes.)
  12. Drain and add to the pork mixture, simmering for 1 minute.
  13. Add the lemon juice, half the cheese and parsley, if using.
  14. Ladle into wide pasta bowls with and top with arugula and remaining cheese.

Note: If saving some of the pork to use later, rewarm the defrosted pork and braising liquid to a simmer, add a splash or two of pasta cooking water if needed to loosen it, and then the butter. Add freshly cooked pasta, lemon juice and parmesan from here.

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