Italian gnocchi ragu with Southern tweaks will take you to hog heaven

TheKitchn.comDecember 25, 2012 

Pork Ragu with Semolina Gnocchi.


  • Pork Ragu with Semolina Gnocchi For the pork ragu: Canola oil 4 pound bone-in pork shoulder (approximately), trimmed of excess fat 2-3 slices bacon, chopped 1 cup chopped onions 1 / 2cup chopped carrots 1 / 2cup chopped celery 3-5 garlic cloves, minced 1 tablespoon tomato paste 1 cup dry white wine 2 tablespoons cider vinegar 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, with juice 1 cup chicken stock Kosher salt and pepper Pinch red pepper flakes Pinch of sugar 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano Parmesan cheese, to serve HEAT oven to 325 degrees. Pat the meat dry and season with salt and pepper. HEAT a few glugs of canola oil in a Dutch ovenover high heat. Sear the pork on all sides until golden brown. Remove it from the Dutch oven and set aside. REDUCE heat to medium. Add the bacon and let some of the fat render, about 5 minutes. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook until soft and translucent, another 5-7 minutes. Toss in garlic and continue to cook for another 30 seconds. ADD the tomato paste and cook over medium heat, stirring for 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and cider vinegar and reduce by half, turning up the heat if necessary. USE a pair of kitchen scissors, meanwhile, to cut the tomatoes into large chunks while still in the can. Add the tomatoes with juices and chicken stock to the Dutch oven. Nestle the pork into the sauce and season generously with salt, pepper, a generous pinch of red pepper flakes and a generous pinch of sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and transfer the pot to the oven. COOK for about 3 hours, turning the pork once, until the meat easily falls apart with a fork. Remove the pork to a large cutting board while still fairly hot. Stir the minced oregano into the sauce. REMOVE excess fat, discard the bone, and carefully shred the meat; it is harder to “pull” once it has cooled. Place the shredded pork back into the Dutch oven and toss with its sauce. Cool to room temperature; refrigerate overnight. The sauce will naturally thicken (and the fat will congeal) as it cools, allowing all of the flavors to marry.
  • More information For the semolina gnocchi: 4 cups whole milk 1 cup semolina flour 1 cup grated Parmesan, divided 3 eggs yolks, lightly beaten 1 teaspoon kosher salt HEAT the milk for the semolina gnocchi in a heavy pan until a ring of bubbles form around the edges. Using a wooden spoon, gradually stir the semolina flour into the pot. Continue stirring constantly and firmly (there will be a bit of resistance) for 15-20 minutes, making sure to clear the bottom and edges of the pan. The mixture will be very dense and should pull cleanly away from the sides of the pot. REMOVE the gnocchi from the heat and let cool for a minute. Stir in the 2/3 cup grated Parmesan, then the yolks (with vigor so the eggs don’t scramble) and salt. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill overnight. HEAT oven to 375 degrees and place rack in the uppermost position. Use a small spring-form ice cream scoop to shape even-sized balls of gnocchi and place on a greased baking sheet or dish. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and bake for 15 minutes, until the Parmesan begins to turn light golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. Arrange gnocchi in the bottom of pasta/serving bowls, ladle ragu over top, and serve warm. Garnish with freshly chopped herbs and grated Parmesan, if desired. To serve the ragu, reheat on medium-low until warm, adding additional chicken stock or water if you want a less thick ragu. Adjust seasoning, if desired. Serve with warm semolina gnocchi, although this would also be delicious over Parmesan grits or pappardelle. Yield: 8 servings

I recently dined at a favorite Italian joint, where I enjoyed a mind-blowing dish of braised oxtails heaped over semolina gnocchi. I thought I’d enjoyed every type of gnocchi known to man, but alas, these little blobs of heaven struck a chord. Paired with the warm, fatty oxtails, it was rich and hearty enough to keep the frost at bay.

I immediately began to concoct a version of the recipe in my head. Always being fascinated with the similarities between Italian and Southern cuisine, I wanted to make a similar dish using flavors more familiar to me, while still keeping it true to its roots. I decided to make my ragu using pork shoulder and bacon (two of my favorite ingredients!), as well as cider vinegar for a bit of Southern flair.

For the gnocchi, I actually wanted to create a similar style dumpling using grits. I made two attempts, and while the results were tasty, they were far more labor intensive than I wanted for this recipe. That being said, you could dump this ragu over creamy stone-ground grits and (literally) be in hog heaven.

The beauty of this recipe is that while it takes a bit of time (two days, mostly unsupervised), it will provide you the ultimate in nourishment for a week. Make it on a Sunday and you will have a Monday night dinner to remember. Or a Tuesday and Wednesday dinner for that matter. Heck, I was still excited about it on Friday. Oh, and those dumplings? They’ll be finding their way to my table again, in as many ways as I can dream up.

© 2012, APARTMENT THERAPY. Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.


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