Sardinian Ragu

Troubled times call for comfort food.

This week, not a day had gone by without some financial catastrophe grabbing headlines. Despite the passing of the bailout bill, Monday started inauspiciously with the Dow dropping 800 points during the course of the trading day. Tuesday saw the near collapse of Iceland because its Santa banks had borrowed a staggering 300% of GDP to fund shiny new toys over the past couple of years. Markets continued their downward spiral on Wednesday and Thursday, dropping over 500 points each day. By Friday’s close, I breathed a sigh of relief that it was only down 200 points. As one of the pundits put it, not down 500 is the new up.

So, last I looked, a few zeroes had dropped off my retirement account. What better way to ward off depression than by making a large batch of my favorite meat sauce.

I found this recipe a few years ago from Saveur magazine. They had a story on Sardinia and featured Mallòreddus a Sa Campidanesa (Sardinian Gnocchetti with Tomato Sauce). The basic recipe is up on their site http://www.saveur.com/article/Food/Malloreddus-a-Sa-Campidanesa, but I’ve made this enough times over the years that I’ve come up with a few tweaks of my own.

First, I like to eat this during the cold months, so I almost never use fresh tomatoes. I firmly believe, when out of season, canned trumps fresh.

Second, I find that using Spanish chorizo in place of pork salami works well in a pinch. The pimenton in the chorizo lends a smoky base to the sauce that differentiates it from other meat sauce recipes.

Third, I skip the ground pork altogether and double the portion for the pork shoulder. For some reason, the texture of ground meat does not improve with long cooking times and I always end up with lumpy meat in the sauce.

The pork shoulder, however, is a different story. I buy mine from a Korean grocery that slices them into 1-1/2” thick slabs. I don’t even bother cubing them into 1/2” pieces as the recipe states. If the whole piece fits into my cast iron pot, I use it as is; otherwise, I cut it into as few pieces possible to fit into the pot. This is partly out of laziness but mostly because the size doesn’t really matter in the end. Also, contrary to the recipe, I brown the meat before adding the other ingredients. Three hours later, voila, the pork is one quivering mass so tender that it can be shredded apart with two forks right in the pot.

When all is said and done, I get something akin to pulled pork. It reminds me of a disintegrated pochero, what it might have been had it been braised instead of stewed, with more concentrated tomato flavor but without all that extra soupy liquid and the distraction of the cabbage and potatoes.

The sauce is delicious with pasta. My husband and I almost never make it to the dining table, choosing instead to lean on the counter beside the stove and eat (slurp) it standing up.

Ingredients:
1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic chopped
1-1/2 lb pork shoulder
1 pc chorizo or italian sausage, sliced into 1/2” chunks
2 28oz can whole tomatoes
bay leaves
fresh thyme

Directions:

  1. Season pork shoulder with salt and pepper.
  2. Brown meat in olive oil in a heavy cast iron pot. Remove meat from heat.
  3. Add onion slices and garlic and cook until soft and brown. Scrape the browned bits of meat juices at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
  4. Add chorizo or sausage.
  5. Return pork shoulder into the pot.
  6. Pour in canned tomatoes.
  7. Add bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
  8. Turn down heat, cover and let simmer for 3 hours.
  9. Shred meat and mash sausage.
  10. Add pinch of sugar to taste if the sauce is too sour.

Because the sauce takes so long to cook, I prefer to double the recipe, do a large batch at once and freeze them in pint size containers.

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~ by Jaded Fork on October 12, 2008.

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