It’s rare that something I cooked myself will bring me to tears. Unless I’ve ruined it. But in this case, my tears welled up at the first bite of this pappardelle with pork rib ragu because it brought back a flood of happy memories in Tuscany, sipping incredible wine and enjoying plates of pasta and cinghiale, wild boar. Since I lack any connections to wild boar hunters at the moment, this is probably the closest I’ll get to pappardelle al cinghiale in my kitchen. The recipe is easy, in that it doesn’t require any fancy technique, but it does require a good 3 hours to slowly braise the ribs in red wine until the meat falls off the bone. It’s even better if you can let it rest overnight, letting the flavors meld, and just re-heat for the final seasoning with balsamic vinegar and tossing with the pasta the next day. Goes nicely with a Tuscan dry red like Sangiovese, Montepulciano red, or Brunello di Montepulciano. Enjoy!
Pappardelle with Pork Rib Ragù
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 3 lbs. (1.5 kg.) meaty pork spare ribs, cut into individual ribs
- fine sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
- 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed but whole
- 1 1/2 Tbs. fennel seeds
- 2 tsp. dried rosemary
- 1 tsp. dried ground sage
- 1 tsp. dried ground thyme
- 1 tsp. sweet paprika
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
- 1 can (28 oz./ 875 g) diced tomatoes (or more, to taste)
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cups dry red wine
- 2-3 Tbs. good balsamic vinegar
- 1 lb. or roughly 500 g. fresh pappardelle
- parmigiano-reggiano cheese, freshly grated
- chopped fresh parsley
- Preheat the oven to 300 F/150 C. Warm 1 Tbs. of the oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy-bottomed and oven-proof pot over medium heat. When oil is hot, add as many ribs as you can fit in the bottom in one layer without crowding and season with salt & pepper. Brown on one side, about 4 minutes, then use tongs to turn them over and brown on the other side, another 4 minutes. Transfer the browned ribs to a platter and repeat in batches. Add more oil if necessary between batches.
- Discard all but 2 Tbs. of the fat remaining in the pot. Add the onion and cook a couple minutes, then add the carrot and celery. Use a wooden spoon to scrape off any browned bits off the bottom as you cook the veggies (add more olive oil if you need to keep them from burning). When veggies are softened, after about 5 minutes, add the garlic and herbs & spices and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Then add the tomatoes, bay leaves and red wine and return the ribs and any accumulated juices and raise the heat to bring to a boil. Add more water and stock if the liquid level is more than a half-inch below the top of the ribs (the ribs will cook down later and will start melting into the sauce).
- Cover and transfer the pot to the hot oven and let cook for 1 hour 30 mins., checking every 30 mins or so to stir. Uncover and return to the oven to cook another 30 mins. to let the sauce thicken. (Check every 10 mins. or so to make sure it doesn’t get too thick or burn).
- Remove the pot from the oven and let cool on the stovetop. Transfer the ribs to a platter to let cool enough to handle. Remove any bones that separated from the ribs, and the bay leaves from the pot. Once the ribmeat is cooled enough to handle, remove those bones and shred with your hands, careful to remove any bits of bone or joints. Return the shredded pork to the pot.
- If time allows, let the whole pot cool and then refrigerate overnight (the flavors are even better after a day). The next day, scoop out the accumulated fat on the top with a spoon. Or: let the pot cool enough so the fat rises to the top, and scoop it out with a spoon.
- Prepare the pappardelle according to package directions. Warm the pot up again and taste for seasonings; add more spices and salt & pepper and/or more diced tomatoes (I added an additional 1/2 can) and/or more liquid to taste (I added some pasta water from the pappardelle). Add 2 Tbs. of balsamic vinegar and let bubble and mix in with the flavors of the ragu. If desired, add more.
- When pappardelle is done to al dente, add to the ragu in the pot and mix well. Plate and sprinkle generously with grated cheese and parsley.