Luscious comfort food the Italian way

Dodi Newman

The days are getting shorter, the temperatures are dropping. This is a great time to indulge in some luscious comfort food like this Italian pork ragout — a variation on Italian Beef Stew with Rosemary by the late Craig Clairborne first published in 1971. The ragout cooks in an hour or so but delivers the flavour and texture of a slow-cooked dish. Do not be tempted to trim all the fat from the meat, but leave a generous amount. The success of the ragout, the depth of its flavour, and the pork’s tenderness depend on it.

I like it best served over Parmesan risotto or Parmesan-flavoured polenta, though pasta stirred with pesto and grated Parmesan is quicker. In tribute to the season, accompany it with butternut squash topped with a bit of crumbled fried sage, and fennel sprinkled with tarragon and braised in butter.

The recipe serves six to eight people. It can be prepared ahead and reheated. Leftovers freeze beautifully.

 

Pork, tomato and rosemary ragout

 

2½ pounds (1 kg) boneless pork shoulder

1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried rosemary leaves, crumbled

1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried thyme leaves

1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground black pepper

½ teaspoon (2½ml) salt

2 tablespoons (30 ml) virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, cut into small dice

1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into small dice

2 cloves garlic, minced or squeezed though a garlic press

½ cup (125 ml) dry red wine

1 28 ounce (800 ml) can unseasoned diced tomatoes

1 bay leaf

1 cup (250 ml) chicken stock, preferably homemade

 

Trim the pork gently, leaving a generous amount of fat on the meat, and cut it into 1½ inch (40 mm) cubes. Season pork with the rosemary, thyme, pepper, and salt.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven with a heavy base — preferably one of enameled cast iron — over medium-high heat. Sear pork in the hot oil until well browned on all sides, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Stir onion and carrot into pot; cook, stirring now and then, until onion is soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Pour in the wine; stir, scraping the bottom of the pot to release any browned bits from the bottom. Stir in the tomatoes, bay leaf, and stock. Bring to a simmer; cook for 30 minutes or until meat is very tender and the sauce has thickened.