A Humble Italian Dish
The pork lends this sauce its fattiness, the wine gives a balanced acidity and the pancetta delivers all the wholesome saltiness you could ever want from an ingredient. I like this sauce with tubetti or short mezzi rigatoni, so that it gets into all the holes.
I developed this dish about 15 years ago for some classes I was teaching at Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul, and I met my wife the night I first taught this Italian classic to my students. I hope it works out as well for you.
Pasta with Braised Pork, Red Wine & Pancetta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 pound pancetta, sliced 1/2 inch thick and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 3 pounds trimmed boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch chunks
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3 sage leaves
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 1 rosemary sprig
- 1 small onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 small carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 celery rib, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 leek, white and light green part only, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
- One 14-ounce can tomato puree
- 1 pound dried strozzapreti or tubetti pasta
- Freshly grated pecorino cheese, for serving
In an enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the pancetta and cook over moderate heat until the fat has rendered, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a medium bowl.
Season the pork with salt and pepper and add half of it to the casserole. Cook over moderately high heat until richly browned all over, about 5 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the pork to the bowl with the pancetta. Repeat with remaining pork.
Wrap the sage, thyme and rosemary in cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine. Add this bundle to the casserole along with the onion, carrot, celery, leek and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the casserole and bring to a boil. Return the pancetta and pork shoulder to the casserole and simmer over moderately low heat until liquid is almost fully evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the stock and tomato puree and return to a boil. Cover and simmer the sauce over moderately low heat for 1 hour, until the meat is very tender.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente; drain. Skim the fat from the surface of the sauce and discard the herb bundle. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Add the pasta and toss until well-coated. Transfer to shallow bowls and serve right away, passing grated pecorino at the table.
MAKE AHEAD The recipe can be prepared through Step 3 and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Skim the fat off the surface before reheating gently.