Maialino Restaurant in New York City serves this hearty pork ragu as a sauce for dried lasagna pasta that has been broken into 3-inch pieces. It’s unusual in that it has no tomatoes–just onion, celery and fennel seeds for flavor. At the end of the cooking, the meat is torn into small pieces and tossed with the cooked pasta, grated cheese and fresh arugula for a little color and texture. Michele adapted this recipe from one that appeared in The New York Times.
This makes a lot of sauce. If you don’t want to use it all at once, pack some of the sauce away in the freezer for another meal. Note that it is also good with polenta or cooked beans instead of the pasta.
Serves 6 to 8: Makes 12 cups meat and sauce
4 pounds bone in pork shoulder
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium white onion, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 rib celery, cut into large pieces
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 cups Chicken Broth
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 pound dried pasta, such as broken lasagne
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups trimmed baby arugula
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Using a sharp knife, remove the thick skin from the pork, leaving a small amount of fat on top of the meat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the pork in a large slow cooker.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and fennel seeds. Cook until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and thyme and bring it to a simmer. Add the contents of the skillet to the slow cooker. The meat should be almost covered by the liquid. If not, add some water.Cover and cook on low until the meat just begins to pull away from the bone, and a small sharp knife inserted in the meat comes out easily, 8 to 10 hours.
Place the meat on a cutting board. With two forks, tear the meat into bite size pieces and discard the bones. Place the meat in a bowl. Strain the cooking liquid into another bowl. Skim off the excess fat. Discard the solids. Pour enough of the liquid over the pork to cover the meat. (Use the remainder for soup or stews.) When ready to serve, reheat the pork in its liquid in a large pot. Simmer until the liquid is slightly reduced.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boiling over high heat. Add the pasta and salt to taste. Cook, stirring often, until the pasta is tender yet firm to the bite. Drain well. Add the pasta to the pot with the meat. Add the butter and cheese and stir well. Stir in the arugula. Serve immediately.