Rigatoni with Spicy Calabrese-Style Pork Ragù

Rigatoni with Spicy Calabrese-Style Pork RagùSunday Gravy
We eat a lot of pasta in my family and it’s not ’cause we have even a drop of Italian blood. It’s because I believe my kids would starve if we didn’t have pasta at least once a week. To prevent starvation, I asked for a pasta maker for Christmas. I’m not talking about the hand crank models that you use to roll the dough and cut it. Been there. Done that. This is the kind that you insert all the ingredients, press a button, and voila, pasta your Nana would be proud of.

I requested this appliance while having blissful visions of my family gathered around my kitchen table on Sunday night, wearing content smiles, after consuming a hearty meal of fresh pasta topped with slow-cooked, melt-in-your-mouth meat gravy. (Cue dream sequence music.) Thanks, Mom, they say. You’re the bestest Mom ever! What would we do without you here to demonstrate your love using simple carbohydrates?

Oh, if only it were that easy!

Just like any other helpful gadget, it takes time to figure out how to get the results you’re looking for…especially when the directions are translated from Italian and leave more than a little room for interpretation. On my first attempt, the pasta was amazing, and my husband told me I should never buy dried pasta again. The second time, not so much.

This month’s Bon Appetit has inspired me to try once again. Its cover features a gorgeous plate of Rigatoni with Spicy Calabrese-Style Pork Ragù—the perfect meal for a cold February night…or it will be…once I get the translation right.  

Rigatoni with Spicy Calabrese-Style Pork Ragù
Adapted from Bon Appétit, February 2013
by Sara Jenkins

Makes 6 servings

Any short, tubular pasta will work with this meaty ragù.

1 medium onion, quartered
1 carrot, peeled, cut into 1″ pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into 1″ pieces
4 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh, coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 pound ground pork
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 pound mezzi rigatoni or penne rigate
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan plus more for sprinkling

Pulse the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 cup parsley in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Purée the tomatoes with their juices in a food processor and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking them up with a spoon, until browned (about 4 minutes). Add the ground pork and season with salt and pepper Cook the mixture until the pork is no longer pink, continuing to break up the ground pork with a spoon. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a plate.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add the reserved vegetable mixture to the drippings in the pot you cooked the meat in. Season it with salt, and cook, stirring often, until golden brown (about 8-10 minutes).

Stir the tomato paste and 1 cup water in a small bowl and add to the pot. Cook, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until liquid has almost evaporated (about 6-8 minutes).

Add the reserved meat and tomato purée plus 1-cup of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, adding more water as needed to keep meat nearly submerged, until meat is tender, about 4 hours. Season with salt.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid.

Add pasta and 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce; stir to coat. Stir in 3/4 cup Parmesan and remaining 1/4 cup parsley. Increase heat to medium and continue stirring, adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta. Divide among bowls; top with more Parmesan.

Do ahead
This ragù can be made up to 3 days ahead. Allow it to cool, cover and chill in the fridge. Or, you can freeze it for up to 2 months in a tightly-sealed container. Reheat the sauce before continuing.

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