|Meaty Ragu with Rigatoni|
I’m all for going with a little less meat in our diets, but whenever I slip this thought into my conversations with Mr. B, he quickly gives me that look– half daring, half shocked. Mr. B is a meat eater. Once, I suggested to his mother that he could cut back on meat just a wee itty bitty touch and she replied, “I didn’t raise my boy to be a vegetarian.”
What can I say? Usually, I don’t pay Mr. B’s love of meat any mind and I make whatever I want anyway. But, because he graciously eats my veggie burgers, two or three times a year I pay him back and make this super meaty ragu, which aside from a few vegetables to round out the flavor, is a manly meat lover’s dream.
This dish is easy to prepare–it’s finished in a crockpot–and even I have to admit, it is ridiculously satisfying. I like to serve it over thick rigatoni so that the shreds of meat get stuck inside the pasta, but I’m equally pleased with this sauce served over a big spoon of cheesy polenta. If there are any leftovers, they freeze well and thaw quickly, which is great, especially when you’re pinched for time and your manly man meat-lover is looking for his dinner.
1 pound boneless pork country ribs, or pork shoulder, cut into chunks
1 pound boneless beef blade steak, or boneless short ribs, or chuck roast, cut into chunks
1 pound of hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, outer leaves and core removed, sliced as thinly as possible
2 large onions, finely minced
6 garlic toes, peeled and finely minced
1 6 ounce package of mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed, and finely chopped
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
1 jar of pasta sauce, or 4 cups of homemade tomato sauce
1 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon ground fennel seed
1 bunch of Italian parsley, stems removed, finely chopped
2 bunches of fresh basil, stems removed, shredded into a fine chiffonade
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
salt and pepper to tasted
Unseasoned, toasted buttered bread crumbs
2 tablespoons vegetale oil
1. Dredge pork and beef in flour and salt and pepper.
2. Heat oil in a large frying pan and when hot, in small batches, add the pork and beef to the pan and sear the meat; remove to a platter.
3. Add the Italian sausage to the pan and brown; drain, reserving 1 tablespoon of drippings.
4. Reheat the pan and add the onions and fennel to the drippings; cook until soft. Add the mushrooms and garlic and continue cooking until the mushrooms are slightly browned and cooked through. Turn off the heat.
5. Stir in the Italian seasoning and ground fennel.
6.. Place the pork, beef and Italian sausage into a crockpot. Add the onions, fennel and mushroom mixture.
7. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and the tomato sauce.
8. Cook on high for 5-6 hours (time could vary by crockpot, but the sauce is finished when you can easily shred the meat).
9. After 5-6 hours, stir in chopped parsley, oregano and all but two handfuls of the basil.
10. Turn crockpot to warm and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
11. To serve, remove some of the beef and pork to a bowl and with two forks shred the meat. Add 2-3 cups of cooked rigatoni and a few spoonfuls of the ragu, with the Italian sausage, mix together. Add a few pinches of bread crumbs, some parmesan and a pinch of basil. Mix well.
12. Divide between warm pasta bowls. Garnish with additional basil, parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper.