broken pasta with pork ragu
At the end of July, a generally broiling, sticky month in New York City best experienced somewhere far enough away to catch a breeze not recently emitted from subway grates, I spied a recipe for a pork shoulder braised in chicken stock, aromatics, celery and thyme then torn into bite-sized shreds and tossed with broken-up pieces of lasagna noodles and finished with butter, lemon juice, parmesan and arugula that sounded so good, I had to make it the very next night for dinner. Even though it was 82 degrees out. Even though we’d been to the beach that weekend. I regretted nothing.
I realize braised pork seems like a deep-in-winter kind of dish. It’s hibernation fare, designed for cuffing season, but there is something distinctively light about this, or at least as light as a ragu can get. I credit the salad-y finish and no, you cannot skip it. The parmesan, lemon and spicy arugula finish is everything here, it wakes the whole dish up.
Lucky you if you went outside this morning and found your homegrown arugula (seriously the easiest thing on earth to grow, and more pleasingly spicy than you can buy anywhere) going strong and not recently eaten gnawed off at the neck by some animal you’d rather not know you have. I bet you already have parmesan, butter and lemon, if you’ve been paying attention around here. And the pasta — this is the most fun part — you get to bash up dried lasagna noodles into chunky shards, or if you already have a weird pasta shape-buying habit (guilty as charged) you might find you already own a giant bag of taccolo* pasta, which looks like tiny ruffled-edge noodles for an adorably doll-sized dish. Together, this makes a really warming but not coma-inducing hearty pasta that’s going on rotation all winter here. Go ahead and double it then freeze half (directions below) to make this even easier.
* which translates as jackdaws, a type of crow, and I cannot wait to hear what they could possibly have in common
Broken Pasta with Pork Ragu
My favorite part about is the brothy braise (not shown nearly enough in these pictures, feel free to puddle yours a bit more heavily), enriched at the end with butter, and the almost salad-y finish, bright with lemon, parmesan and arugula. Seasoning — salt, pepper and even the lemon at the end — is everything here so keep tasting as you go.
- 1 bone-in pork shoulder, about 4 pounds
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and cut into large pieces
- 1 large rib celery, cut into large pieces
- 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into large pieces
- 1 quart chicken stock, plus a splash or two more, if needed
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 9-ounce boxes dry lasagna, broken into 3-inch shards
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
- 2 tablespoons (although I use more) grated or shaved parmesan or grana padano cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)
- Large handful arugula leaves, cleaned
Prepare pork: Use a sharp knife to remove the thick skin from the pork, but not trimming off all the fat — leave a thin sheen. Season generously with salt and place in fridge until ready to use — overnight is ideal but a few hours will cut it as well.
Braise the pork: Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Heat a deep saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. When it shimmers, gently cook the onion, celery and fennel until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the stock and thyme and bring to a simmer, then season well with salt and pepper.
Rinse pork to remove excess salt, dry with a paper towel and add to seasoned broth. Cover and place in the oven for 90 minutes or more, until the meat just begins to pull away from the bone.
Allow both meat and broth to cool in the braise out of the oven for 30 minutes, or until you can touch the meat with your hands. Remove the pork and gently pull the meat from the bone, then tear the chunks into bite-size shreds. Place these in a large bowl.
Strain the braising liquid, pouring enough of it over the pork to barely cover it and keep it from drying out.
Pour the rest back into the pot, simmering it until it is reduced by half. Add pork and cooking liquid that has covered it, and warm it back to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Add the butter and stir to emulsify.
Bring large pot of well-salted water to boil. Cook pasta until al dente, or usually a minute shy of package directions. Drain and add to the pork ragu, simmering for 1 minute. Add the lemon juice, half the cheese and parsley, if using. Ladle into wide pasta bowls with and top with arugula and remaining cheese. We enjoyed this with an extra lemon wedge on the side.’
Do ahead: Should you wish to freeze this — we froze half and I was overjoyed to find it again last month — shred the pork and return it to the reduced cooking liquid, stopping short of the butter; freeze them together in a bag. Once defrosted, rewarm to a simmer, add a splash or two of pasta cooking water if needed to loosen it, and then the butter (this ensures you get the most flavor from it). Add freshly cooked pasta, lemon and parmesan from here.