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Pasta with Sicilian Pork and Sausage Ragù

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Serves 8-12

Yields about 2 quarts

  • by Domenica Marchetti from Fine Cooking
    Issue 113

When Italian-Americans talk about “Sunday sauce” or “gravy,” they mean this classic southern Italian ragù.  Tomatoes are prominent, and the sauce’s flavor is brightened by the fennel in the sausages.

  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lb. boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt)
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 1 cup dry red wine, such as Sicilian Nero d’Avola
  • 3 cups strained tomatoes or tomato purée
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 1/2 lb. sweet Italian pork sausage (3 links)
  • 2 lb. short, sturdy pasta, such as penne, rigatoni, or cavatappi
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
Make the ragu

Heat the oil in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Season the pork generously on both sides with salt and pepper and sear the meat on both sides until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Using tongs, transfer the pork to a deep platter.

Reduce the heat to medium low and add the garlic and onion to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, 7 to 8 minutes. Return the pork to the pot, raise the heat to medium high, and add the wine. Let it bubble for a minute or two and then add the tomatoes and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low to maintain a gentle simmer.

Remove the sausages from their casings and break the meat apart over the pot, allowing it to fall into the sauce in small clumps. Cover the pot and simmer gently, adjusting the heat as necessary, for 30 minutes. Uncover and turn the pork shoulder; then re-cover and continue to cook at a gentle simmer, turning the meat once or twice more, until very tender, about 1-1/2 hours.

Transfer the pork to a cutting board with tongs and let cool for a few minutes. Using two forks, shred the meat and return it to the sauce. Cook over low heat until the meat and sauce are heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta and serve

When ready to serve, bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente—you want it to still have some bite because it will continue to cook a bit while you’re tossing it with the ragù. Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water and then drain the pasta. Return it to the pot and toss it with some of the ragù, adding a little cooking water if it seems dry. Serve the pasta with more ragù spooned over the top, garnished with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, if you like.

Make Ahead Tips

The ragù can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat gently before tossing with the pasta.

Serving Suggestions

Start the meal off with an Arugula & Fennel Salad with Orange & Fennel Seed Dressing & Toasted Hazelnuts and make it a really special Sunday dinner by serving a classic Tiramisù for dessert.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 200; Fat (g): 10; Fat Calories (kcal): 90; Saturated Fat (g): 3.5; Protein (g): 17; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 4.5; Carbohydrates (g): 5; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1; Sodium (mg): 760; Cholesterol (mg): 50; Fiber (g): 2;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Results were pretty good for the limited effort required. My 2-cents on the timing issue is I think it should read "1.5 hours MORE" or "for a total of 2 hrs." instead of "about 1-1/2 hours" as at that point things got "tender" for me. I'll be making this again but will not use a tomato puree. I'll switch to crushed or dice tomatoes as the puree seemed a bit washed out & lacked the acidity I was expecting. I think that will also help the 'tenderness'.

This was a great recipe to make on Sunday, eat on Monday. Easy to do. Tastes authentic, rustic. Personally, our family all liked it but felt we would be equally happy with plain ol' spaghetti.

Wow, this was fantastic. Thanks, gchark, for the advice on finishing in the oven...I also doubled it because I had 4 lbs of pork, and 2 additional hours in the oven was perfect. Absolutely delicious! A single recipe would feed 8 people, but I doubt 12.

Excellent recipe! I doubled it because there was only a 4 lb pork shoulder in the meat case, and I'm so glad I did. I cooked it on the stove top for the first hour and a half, and then put it in a 250 degree oven for 2 more hours to finish it. The pork was very tender and easy to shred. My guests raved that it was restaurant quality!

I had more sausage than pork shoulder for this and fried a little tomato paste with the onions for a little boost,I also added diced carrot because that's good in any meat braise.This recipe was great but I can't see it dressing two pounds of pasta, I used a 1 lb box of cavatappi and the dish was perfect, looked exactly like the picture. I agree the cooking time for the pork is longer. This is a great dish to cook while watching football, get everything to the simmering point by kickoff then shred the pork right after the third quarter, dinner is ready right after the game.Whatever the occasion, this will make your guests very happy.

Delicious! I made a double batch and portioned some out for the freezer. I agree with the others that one might have to adjust the cooking time for the meat.

Another great ragu recipe from Fine Cooking. Pork shoulder can take awhile depending on the weight so you do have to adjust it. I think the time specified in the recipe was correct for me but I did have the same weight and also I think your pot can have something to do with it. I used a cast iron dutch oven and the lid is on there tight so maybe that helps with the cooking time.

Excellent recipe, easy and only gets better as leftovers. I HIGHLY recommend it with gnocchi instead of pasta. Also, referencing another comment--the cooking time will depend on the thickness of the pork shoulder. For the 2 lbs the recipe calls for, if that is in one big chunk instead of a few separate pieces, it will take an additional hour+ to make it fall apart the way you want it to. So either divide it before browning, or just allow extra time. It'll get there, and it's worth it!

I really like the recipe and think the ingredients work well for a very good tasting sauce. My one disagreement with the recipe is with the time required to properly cook the pork shoulder. One hour and thirty minutes is not sufficient and really requires about 3 hours. Given the additional time, the meat shreds beautifully and produces a very good ragu.

I made this recipe on a Friday and used it the next day for a dinner party. It was fabulous especially using mini rigatoni pasta. The only change I made was using 3 cups of roasted summer tomatoes (recipe from fine cooking august 2004) that I had made earlier and pureed. The sauces was rich and flavorful. The pork was tender and shredded easily. The only change I will do next time is to use spicy italian sausage just to give the dish a little kick.

I made this last weekend and it was absolutely fantastic. Started with a pork butt closer to 3 lbs, so I adjusted the other ingredients accordingly. I also added a little oregano and Italian seasoning mix near the end after tasting it and feeling it could use a little something extra. Our guests raved about it.

This turned out...OK. Biggest problem was the fork tenderness, or lack thereof, of the pork shoulder. I cooked this for almost two hours (recipe called for 90 minutes), and still needed a knife to slice (not shred) most of the pork into very small slices (i.e., 2x match sticks). Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm guessing the cooking time needs to be more like 3-4 hours to get the pork shoulder tender enough to be fork-shredded. (Note: I make a lot of pork BBQ, so I'm fully aware of pork consistency needed here.) Thanks.

This is a wonderful recipe. I used a 25.5 ounce bottle of Alessi Passata (strained tomatoes) and hot Italian sausages instead of sweet. I also added about a half teaspoon of cracked fennel seed and finished the sauce with a tablespoon of butter for added flavor and because I used a leaner cut of pork (loin - which was all I had). I refrigerated the sauce overnight to deepen and meld the flavors, I will be making this often.

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