Ode to Fall: Pappardelle with Pork Ragù

~ Pork and Tomato Ragù with Pappardelle ~

I am going to ignore that it is 90 degrees outside. It’s fall after all. For those of you who know me, it’s that time of year when I have a little rant about missing New England weather. September is the time when the air puts on a chill just like a wooly cloak, the sun lowers seductively in the horizon, winking and casting its golden light while the aroma of turning leaves fills the air. I know I shouldn’t complain while I don my sunglasses and smear on more sunscreen, but I do. As I walk about the house in shorts and flip flops, I like to pretend that I am still in northern Europe or Boston, switching out my tank tops for fluffy fleece and packing tissues in my pocket to stop a runny nose. I might need a fan right now, but I can also indulge in warming fall comfort food.

Pappardelle with Pork Ragù

If you can stand it, refrigerate the ragù overnight before serving to allow the flavors to develop. This recipe will make enough ragù to serve a family of four with enough leftover to freeze for a second meal.

2 pounds pork butt, excess fat trimmed, cut in 2 inch chunks
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, finely diced
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
2 (28 ounce) cans Italian plum tomatoes with juice
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 pound pappardelle pasta, cooked until al dente
Grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Salt and pepper the pork. Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat until it’s shimmering. Add pork in one layer in batches, without overcrowding. Brown on all sides; transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining pork. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat. Add onion, carrots, garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Carefully add wine (it may spatter.) Cook, stirring up the brown bits and to burn off the alcohol, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Return pork to the pot and submerge in the sauce. Simmer, covered, over low heat until pork is very tender, about 2 hours. Remove lid and continue to simmer, skimming fat occasionally with a spoon, until sauce is thickened, 45 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over cooked pappardelle with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Boar Ragu with Pappardelle

Boar Ragu with Pappardelle

Ever since a trip to Umbria last year when we ate a succulent wild boar ragu in an obscure village restaurant, I have had boar on my mind.  The ragu was served over a platter heaped with pappardelle. The meat was falling apart tender, dissolving in a rich wine sauce perfumed with juniper and cloves. Since then, that meal has been a popular conversation topic in our family when reflecting on our trip. So, I decided to try and make my own boar ragu.

Boar meat may be ordered from your butcher and, depending on where you live, you may find it in specialty stores that carry game meat. I ordered my meat from Broken Arrow Ranch in Texas, where they raise ranch-raised boar. The meat arrived frozen in a cooler box and I popped it into my freezer, so it would be ready when I devised a recipe.

The flavor of boar may be likened to a cross between pork and lamb. Boar meat is very lean and rich in protein. It has more protein than beef or pork and is lower in cholesterol than chicken. Not bad for an animal deemed an exotic pest in the U.S. Due to its mild gamey flavor and lack of fat, boar meat benefits from marinades and slow cooking, and it’s well matched with spirits and aromatic spices such as cloves and juniper.

Boar Ragu with Pappardelle

As the ragu simmers, the boar meat will absorb a good deal of the liquid. The ragu may be made up to 2 days in advance, allowing the flavors to develop with time. As an alternative to pasta, serve over polenta. Serves 4-6.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boar shoulder, cut in 1 inch chunks
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 large garlic cloves
1 – 28 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juices
2 cups full-bodied red wine
4 bay leaves
Bouquet garni: 1 tablespoon crushed juniper berries, 8 black peppercorns, 6 whole cloves, tied in cheese cloth with kitchen string

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet. Season boar all over with salt and pepper. Add boar to the skillet in batches and brown on all sides, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Transfer meat to a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Sauté onion, carrots and garlic, scraping up brown bits, until they begin to soften, 4 minutes. Return boar with any juices to the pan. Add tomatoes, red wine, bay leaves and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer over very low heat, partially covered, until meat is falling tender and sauce is reduced by half, 2 hours. Serve with pappardelle and top with grated cheese.