Homemade Rigatoni with Pork Ragu
So this is a dish that was inspired by my usual Saturday trip to go see my buddy, Tom, at Lazzaroli Pasta Shop. I usually go to get some of his fresh mozzarella cheese (which you can only get on Saturdays). But unfortunately on this Saturday, I got there late and I forgot to call. So….there was no cheese for me. I was sad. BUT THEN, I saw the homemade rigatoni. I haven’t cooked rigatoni in a while. Tom says it’s the best fresh pasta he makes. (By homemade, I mean Tom made it and I took it home!) In addition, Tandy Wilson, a James Beard Semifinalist (go vote for him here!), serves this rigatoni at City House with an oxtail ragu. Now, my mind was really churning. Rigatoni….meat ragu….who needs cheese! So, I put a smile on my face, got the rigatoni, fetched a bottle of wine, and went straight home to cook.
Now, I didn’t really have any fresh meat to make a ragu with. But, I did have some big chunks of pork tenderloin left from Monday’s recipe. It would be great with some pork butt or pork belly (you do remember my obsession with pork belly?) After a glass of wine it hit me. I’d caramelize some onions + garlic, make a thick tomato sauce, add some of my cooked pork and braise it for an hour or so until it just fell apart. My mouth started watering at the idea of this meal. (It’s actually watering now too as I’m reliving the memory!) Since the braise is nice and rich, I added some orange zest, parmigiano, and parsley to add freshness and acidity to the dish.
And you see that plate in the picture? Yeah…I ate 3 portions of that. It was THAT good.
Homemade Rigatoni, Pork Ragu, Orange, Parmigiano, Parsley (serves 4)
(recipe courtesy of Vivek Surti)
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
3 oz guanciale, pancetta, or bacon
1 tsp red pepper flakes
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 14.5 oz can of whole tomatoes
1 lb pork chunks (I used pork tenderloin, because I had it on hand. Pork butt/shoulder or pork belly would be really awesome here)
1 lb of fresh rigatoni pasta (you could used dried rigatoni as well)
1 orange, zested
parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated (as much as your heart desires)
flat leaf parsley leaves, for garnish
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the ragu, add some olive oil to a pan and get it over medium heat. Add the onions, season them with salt and cook for about 15-20 minutes until they are really brown and caramelized. Add the garlic and the guanciale and cook until the guanciale starts to render its fat. Add the red pepper flakes, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf and cook until they release their aromatics, about a minute. Then add in the can of whole tomatoes and break the tomatoes up with a wooden spoon. Season with salt. Cut your pork (whatever kind you use) into chunks and throw them into the tomato mixture. Make sure there is enough liquid to cover. If there is not, just add water to just cover all the meat. Bring the mixture up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook over low heat for about 1 hour (if using pork tenderloin) to 2 hours (if using pork shoulder) until the meat is incredibly moist and tender. Using a spoon, break up all the meat chunks so they are evenly distributed in the sauce. Taste the sauce, and more salt and pepper if you need to. It should taste rich, porky, tomato-y, and just delicious.
Bring a huge pot of water up to a boil and season with salt (that’s 6 quarts of water with 2 tablespoons of salt – from the carbonara post! When the mixture is at a boil, add the rigatoni and cook for about 3-5 minutes or until they are just done. Add the noodles to the sauce and finish cooking the noodles, an extra minute or so. Bringing the sauce together with the noodle is NECESSARY for a good pasta dish. There should be a perfect ratio of noodle to sauce – not too much of either.
When ready to serve, put some of the pasta on a plate. Sprinkle some orange zest, parmigiano cheese, and parsley over the top.
Get some of this pasta, a big glass of red, and call it a night. The world is a wonderful place.