Weekly Winner: Another Pork Pasta Palooza!

pork pastaYou know you’re doing something right when your husband equates a Friday night dinner with “some of the best pastas I’ve had in any restaurant”. Boo-ya, Spatula-drop!

Admittedly, it’s hard to go wrong with pork shoulder, cheese, and pasta — not just any pasta either but egg pappardelle.  Pappardelle is definitely my “favorite” pasta (if it’s possible to have a favorite) and I truly believe that one can save the world with a pork shoulder.

Pork, Fennel and Lemon Ragu with Pappardelle comes from Cook’s Illustrated.  It is definitely not a quick meal to make, but it is relatively “hands-off”.  The trick is to let the oven work it’s magic on that pork shoulder, breaking it down and making it luscious.  The lemon really freshens up the ragu so that it seems lighter but who are we kidding, this is definitely not diet food, but it is supremely delicious, satisfying, apparently “restaurant-quality” food.  That’s good enough for me!

Pork, Fennel and Lemon Ragu with Pappardelle

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

4 oz pancetta, chopped

1 large onion, chopped fine

1 large fennel bulb, 2 Tbsp fronds chopped, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored and chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

1-1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp minced fresh thyme

1 tsp pepper

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 (1-1/2 lb) boneless pork butt roast, well trimmed and cut in half across grain

1-1/2 tsp grated lemon zest plus 1/4 cup juice (from 2 lemons)

12 oz pappardelle

2 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1 cup), plus extra for serving

Procedure:

  1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat over to 350F. Cook pancetta and 2/3 cup water in Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until water has evaporated and dark fond forms on bottom of pot, 8 to 10 minutes. Add onion and fennel bulb and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften and start to brown, 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in garlic, salt, thyme, and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2.  Stir in cream and 2 cups water, scraping up any browned bits.  Add pork and bring to boil over high heat.  Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until pork is tender, about 1-1/2 hours.
  3. Transfer pork to large plate and let cool for 15 minutes.  Cover pot so fond will steam and soften.  Using spatula, scrape browned bits from sides of pot and stir into sauce.  Stir in lemon zest and juice.
  4.  While pork cools, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Using 2 forks, shred por into bite-size pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat or connective tissue.  Return pork and any juices to Dutch oven.  Cover and keep warm.
  5. Add pasta and 1 Tbsp salt to boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Reserve 2 cups cooking water, then drain pasta and add it to Dutch oven.  Add Pecorino and 3/4 cup reserved cooking water and stir until sauce is slightly thickened and cheese is fully melted, 2 to 3 minutes.  If desired, stir in remaining reserved cooking water, 1/4 cup at a time, to adjust sauce consistency.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with fennel fronds.  Serve immediately, passing extra Pecorino separately.

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