Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuscan Ragu of Pork Shoulder

This being Texas, most people use a pork shoulder for BBQ or carnitas tacos, but we decided to put an Italian twist on your basic pork shoulder. We adapted this recipe from the Ragu Cinghiale Bruschetta served at Siena restaurant here in Austin. While the restaurant prepares it with wild boar (a common ingredient in Tuscany and Texas actually), my butcher talked me into purchasing an 8 pound pork shoulder last weekend. So we decided to make a Tuscan ragu with the behemoth hunk of meat and now have plenty of leftovers packed securely in the freezer. I think the outcome tastes remarkably similar to the dish at Siena and it was worth the trouble to make. Because there was a little bit of trouble, and I'm here to share with you how we made it all work out.

I bought a pressure cooker last year and absolutely love how it can make a dish that usually takes hours in the oven in about an hour or less. So we thought, "why not make our ragu in the pressure cooker??" Great idea, but after an hour and a half, we were left with a greasy mess. After 15 minutes of draining fat carefully with a shallow spoon, picking out the fat bits and manicuring the meat, we put it back into a dutch oven with the rest of the bottle of wine and 2 tbs balsamic vinegar, added another clove of chopped garlic and placed it in the oven for another hour. It turned out beautifully!! This tastes great over pasta (I enjoyed mine over some gluten free fusilli), grilled bread, polenta, on pizza or wrapped and baked in pastry for "Italian" emapanadas. It's so versatile!

7-8 pound bone in Pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
1 bottle of Tuscan Sangiovese (we actually used a blend of sangiovese, merlot and cab)
1 28 oz can of peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes
1 small jar of tomato paste
2 tbs aged balsamic vinegar
10 cloves of minced garlic
1 large carrot, cut into small dice
1 large white onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
3 tbs dried oregano
3 tbs dried basil
2 tbs garlic powder
2 tbs onion powder
4 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1 tbs sea salt or more to taste

In a large skillet with 1 tbs olive oil, we browned the roast on all sides until carmelized and golden brown, about 15 minutes total.

Meanwhile in my pressure cooker with the lid off, we made a "sofrito". This is the key to adding a depth of flavor to the base of the ragu and basically you just carmelize the onion, carrot and celery until soft in about a tablespoon of olive oil, about 15 minutes on medium heat.

 Herbed up and just about ready to pressure cook

We added the pork to the pot, the herbs (only half the parsley- save the rest to stir in just before serving),  garlic, half the wine bottle, tomatoes (not the paste) and the garlic. Covered it and cooked about 1.5 hours.
 This Monte Antico wine was fabulous! Only cook with what you'd drink!

This is where things got messy. Pork shoulder is pretty fatty, so when I opened the lid, I was greeted with an oily mess. In my mind I had pictured myself opening the lid to find the ragu perfectly tender, not greasy and ready to serve. Don't discount using the pressure cooker if you are crushed for time, but realize it will still need to be doctored after. I was so annoyed that I didn't have time to take a picture, though I wish I had. A few choice words later and after skimming and manicuring the meat, I put it in a Dutch Oven, added the paste, about 2 tbs of balsamic vinegar, the rest of the wine. In hind sight, I think it's better to just cook the whole thing low and slow in just wine, sofrito and herbs until softened (about 3 hours), manicure it and then add the tomato sauce, paste and balsamic plus more wine, maybe even a bit more fresh garlic to add another layer of brightness,  and simmer for about 6 hours in the oven at 200 degrees. NOTE: it tastes even better the next day so is a great pre-prep meal for a dinner party.

This recipe made about 8 cups total.

Here we served it on rustic bread cut 1 inche thick, drizzled with olive oil and grilled in a panini press.You need a thick slice to hold the juices and ragu.


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