Porky pancetta ragù
Serves 6 | prep 30 mins | total time
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 250g unsmoked diced pancetta
- 1kg pork shoulder, diced in 3cm pieces
- 2 carrots, chunkily sliced
- 2 red onions, halved
- 2 sticks of celery, sliced
- 7 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
- ¼-½ tsp crushed dried chilli flakes, to taste
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- a big handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 3 tbsp tomato purée
- 200ml white wine
- 400g chopped tomatoes
- 500ml chicken stock
- a splash of good-quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
- 450g pappardelle
- 15g basil, leaves picked and roughly chopped
- 30g Parmesan, finely grated
- Put a large ovenproof casserole over a medium heat, then pour in the oil and when hot, tip in the pancetta. Stir for a few minutes until it begins to turn golden, then lift out onto kitchen paper.
- Crank up the heat, season the pork, then tip into the smoking oil; cook for 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally until all the liquid comes out and reduces away, leaving you with just oil in the bottom of the pan. Only now can the meat actually start the sealing stage, creating caramelisation on the flesh, which all adds to the flavour at the end.
- Meanwhile, put the carrots in a food processor and pulse, then add the onions, celery and garlic and pulse again until it's all of a similar size – do not purée to mush. Preheat the oven to 160°C, fan 140°C, gas mark 3.
- Once the pork is nicely browned, lift it out with a slotted spoon to join the pancetta and then tip in the veg, chilli flakes, fennel seeds, parsley, bay leaves and oregano.
- Fry, stirring from time to time, for about 6 minutes until the veg begins to soften, then reintroduce the pork and pancetta to the pan, squirt in the tomato purée and stir so everything is well coated.
- Keep stirring for just a couple of minutes, then pour in the wine, which will fairly quickly reduce and be absorbed.
- Tip in the tomatoes and the chicken stock; season lightly with salt and a bit more heavily with black pepper as you bring it all to a simmer.
- Pop it in the oven with the lid on for 2½-3 hours. The ragù is ready when the pork is tender to the point of breaking up when you squish it. Now leave it to cool completely; once cool, transfer to the fridge overnight.
- When you're ready to eat, put a big pan of water on for the pappardelle with a splash of oil and some salt, and once at a rolling boil, drop in the pasta and stir immediately – cook according to the pack instructions until al dente.
- Meanwhile, gently heat the ragù on the stove and warm a big serving dish and shallow serving bowls in a low oven.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain it, but keep a cupful of the pasta water.
- Off the heat, put the pasta back into the pan it was cooked in, ladle in the hot ragù and if it looks a bit sticky or oily, then glug in about a third of the saved pasta water at a time until you're happy with the look and consistency.
- Use tongs to move it all over to the serving dish, scatter on the basil and some Parmesan and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
This qualifies as seriously slow as, although the ragù only takes a few hours to cook, it is so much better if it sits overnight (or at least cools completely) before being reheated and tossed through the pasta. You can also make the ragu in a slow cooker – see tip, below.