It’s only Wednesday, only half way through the week and I’m pooped! Anyone else? Maybe it’s because it’s the middle of winter and the cold zaps all my energy or maybe it’s because of the crazy busy social weekend I just had. Either way all I want to do right now is curl up, on the couch with a big cuddly blanket and a warm comforting bowl of pasta and ragu. This recipe for Weeknight Pork Ragu is one of my all time winter favourites! Simply because I can have delicious, comforting ragu…on a weeknight!
When I mentioned that I had a crazy busy social weekend were you picturing me partying to the wee hours, brunches out in the morning and more drinks and dinner with friends? Ha! Anyone who knows me will be rolling around on the floor right now laughing. Totally not me. I’m in bed at 9pm these days. As it happens my last weekend was packed full of social engagements for my son.
Plus one engagement for my other son.
When did my pre-schooler and toddler get a better social life than me?
So now I’m paying for the weekend, with what feels like a hangover, because of all the birthday parties, sleepovers and playdates my darling boys arranged (and yes, the four year old did arrange them himself, he and his friends make arrangements at preschool and in the play ground). I’m seriously dreading the teenage years!
Right now I need comfort. A big bowl of comfort. With minimal effort, of course. My Weeknight Pork Ragu is so comforting, full of flavour and can be ready on a weeknight. It is rich, but light, salty but sweet. My absolute favourite part is the unexpected tang you get from preserved lemons in it. If you don’t have preserved lemons then that is fine, substitute it with the finely grated zest of 1 lemon, but I really think you should get some preserved lemons if you can. They have such a delicious and unique tang and saltiness that pairs so well with the rich pork and adds some lightness to the dish. If you haven’t used them before, make sure you remove all the flesh and discard this, you only want to use the rind (that includes the pith) for the ragu.
I love to pair this with big thick ribbons of parpadelle pasta, it’s my favourite. I buy the dried egg variety, but if you fancy it, make your own because that just takes the dish to a whole new level! Alternatively, you can always sub in whatever pasta you have on hand, even polenta is delicious!
Okay, so I’m going to leave you to make this right now and go sit down with a coffee and feel sorry for myself while I recover from the weekend.
Weeknight Pork Ragu
- 2 Tbsp cold-pressed olive oil
- 100 g/3.5oz (about 4 rashers) free-range streaky bacon
- 500 g/1lb free-range pork mince
- 1 medium brown onion, finely diced
- 1 medium carrot, finely diced
- 1 rib celery, finely diced
- 200 g/7oz brown/cremini mushrooms, finely sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1/2 preserved lemon, flesh removed and discarded, rind finely diced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups beef stock/broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 500 g/1lb dried tagliatelle or pappardelle (or homemade pasta)
- 60 g/2oz baby spinach leaves
- grated parmesan, to serve
Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed frying pan (skillet) over medium-high heat. Add bacon, cook for 2 minutes and then add the pork mince. Cook, stirring regularly to break up the clumps of mince, until meat is cooked and starting to brown. Remove and set aside.
Turn down the heat to medium-low. Return the pan to the heat with remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add the onion, carrot and celery and a pinch of sea salt. Cook, stirring regularly, for 5-8 min, or until the onion is soft. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3-5 min or until the mushrooms are starting to become soft.
Add garlic, rosemary and lemon and cook for 2 minutes.
Turn the heat back up to medium-high and pour in the wine and cook for 1 minute or until you can no longer smell the raw alcohol smell. Return the cooked meat back to the pan.
Add the beef stock and bay leaf then turn down the heat and simmer for 15-20 min or until the sauce has thickened. This is quite a light ragu so you are looking for most of the liquid to be evaporated but still a little bit left, enough to coat your pasta. The liquid that’s left will still be quite runny.
While the ragu is cooking, cook your pasta according to the instructions on the packet. For dried tagliatelle or pappardelle you will need to heat a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta for around 10-12 minutes until al dente. Drain before serving.
Remove the bay leaf, stir through the spinach leaves and season with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.
Serve immediately with pasta and a generous amount of grated parmesan sprinkled on top.