Cooking is a balance between time and temperature. Raise the heat and everything speeds up: flames jump, pots sizzle, grease spits. Lower the heat, however, and the turmoil subsides. Contents of the pot simmer gently with a just a blip and shudder. Time stretches, aromas fill the house, while deep rich flavors emerge. That’s the beauty of slow cooking, the effect is luxurious, belly warming and delicious.
This recipe of pork ragu is uncomplicated, its complexity comes from nothing more than a few ingredients thoughtfully combined and left to get to know one another over low heat. And while the ragu is quietly puttering away all you have to do is slow down and relax. I enjoy serving this dish over polenta that has been finished with a heavy snow of parmesan and a generous knob of butter. But this would also be lovely with boiled or mashed potatoes or even served over pasta. -s
Pork Ragu with Polenta
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 lb. pork spare ribs, cut into individual ribs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
¾ cup dry red wine
1-28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
For the Polenta
6-7 cups chicken broth, or water
1 ½ cup polenta
¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Freshly grated parmesan cheese for serving
To make ragu, warm the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add as many ribs as will fit without crowding pot and season with salt and pepper. Brown the ribs on the first side, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn and brown on the other side, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer to a platter. Repeat to brown the remaining ribs.
Discard all but 2 Tbsp. of the fat remaining in the pot. Add the carrot, onion, celery and garlic to the fat in the pot and stir to coat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté the vegetables until soft, about 7 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the wine, and stir to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Simmer for a minute or so and then add tomatoes, and bay leaf. Return the ribs to the pot along with any accumulated juices and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer. Cook very gently, stirring from time to time, until the meat is tender, about 2 hours. Uncover and cook until the sauce has thickened about an hour longer. Transfer the ribs to a clean platter and let cool briefly. Take the meat off the bones, it should come off with very little effort. Return the meat to the pot, discard the bones. Keep warm while you make the polenta.
To make the polenta, bring the broth to a boil in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium-high heat, Season with salt to taste. Sprinkle in the polenta in a very slow, steady stream, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the polenta is very thick and comes away cleanly from the bottom of the pan, about 30 minutes. Stir in parmesan and butter until completely incorporated.
Divide the polenta among wide, shallow bowls and spoon the ragu over the top. Sprinkle with additional parmesan if desired.
Adapted recipe from Rustic Italian, by Domenica Marchetti