Hearty, delicious, comforting and EASY to make! This pork shoulder ragu is one of those dishes which simmers away for an afternoon on your stove top to transform a cheap cut of meat and few other ingredients into a richly flavored dinner perfect for a Sunday dinner, a snow day when you’re stuck inside, or company coming over since all the work is done hours before.
It’s time for some more slow cooked Italian comfort food here, and I couldn’t think of a better recipe than tender pork ragu!
Today I have for a perfect wintry weather meal. The kind I love to make when I’m snowed in and puttering around the house.
My husband gets the fire going. I start braising and filling the air with amazing smells of Italian ragu. And we both (along with our daughter) periodically go out to clear off the driveway and walk, working up our appetites for the feast.
Pork Shoulder Ragu
While I’ve been making Beef Bolognese for decades now (I’m thinking it’s been about 20 years!), pork shoulder ragu is a relative newcomer. I’ve only been making this recipe for about 6 years. 😮 Hardly any time at all! I got the original recipe from Fine Cooking, and as soon I saw it in the magazine, I knew I had to try it.
I’m glad I did, since we all loved the combination of pork shoulder and pork sausage. It’s such a great mix having the two textures and the two variations in pork flavor combined together. While I’ve made a few changes over the years to adapt the recipe to our tastes, you can see that the basics of the recipe come right from them.
These days it’s in the snow day rotation, along with a few other comforting, slow braised meals which I pull out as soon as the forecast says the word Nor’easter. A word which everyone on the east coast of the US knows well!
It hasn’t been too bad here so far this year – actually, it’s been rather warm – but there have been some years when we heard that word on a weekly basis and the snow piled higher than our heads.
Winter Comfort Food Dinners
- Traditional Bolognese Sauce – a classic
- Braised Italian Meatballs – my own long perfected meatball recipe!
- French Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine
- Beef Short Rib Ragu – especially good made ahead!
- Baked Stuffed Eggplant Parmesan
How do you make braised pork shoulder ragu?
To make pork shoulder ragu, braise chunks of pork shoulder and Italian sausage in a tomato and red wine sauce until the pork is falling apart. Once the pork is tender, shred it and return the pork to the sauce, adjusting the seasonings as needed.
1. Start by browning the pork shoulder. This gives the meat another layer of flavor which will make the sauce richer. Move that to a plate while you get the rest going.
2. Then get all the aromatics softened – onion, carrots, and garlic. Low and slow is the way to go here!
3. Once they are all tender, add the wine and let it simmer for a bit.
4. Now, you’re going to add in the tomatoes, the pork shoulder, and the sausage. Get that all to a gentle simmer and go sit by the fire!
5. After the long, slow braise your pork will be falling apart. Give it a hand and shred it all up, then add it back to the pot. Adjust your seasonings, make some pasta (or potatoes or whatever you like to serve with ragu!), and EAT.
Can you make pork ragu ahead?
Yes, you can!
Not only is this pork ragu a great recipe to make on a day when it’s snowy out and you’re puttering about the house, but it’s one of those perfect made-ahead meals!
Have time to make it on Saturday, but want to serve it on Sunday? No worries! Just let it cool, then chill it overnight, and rewarm it again the next day! No fuss. No muss.
Can you double pork ragu?
Want the benefit of all the slow braising for another meal (or four)? Divide the ragu into freezer bags, lay them flat, and stack them up. Pork ragu has just become a super quick weeknight meal that simply requires heating the sauce and boiling some water.
Can you make pork shoulder ragu in the slow cooker?
And, while I go for the slow braised in a pot cooking method, yes you can make this in a slow cooker! Several hours on low (6-7) will do you and then it’s into a pot after you shred the pork so the ragu can reduce and thicken.
However you make the ragu, remember that willpower is important. No matter how excellent it smells, it needs its braising time and you’ll just have to wait.
What sort of pasta should you serve with braised pork ragu?
As for the pasta, a short or skinny pasta (like spaghetti) will work fine. The pasta police won’t come after you. At least I don’t think they will…
But I think a wide noodle is best with a chunky ragu! Fettuccine or pappardelle or tagliatelle. They balance each other and I especially like the way the pappardelle fold over the sauce so you get a forkful of pasta surrounding some of the sauce and pork.
Not that I make fresh pappardelle all the time!
Usually I go with a dry fettuccini or pappardelle. But, I’ve been working on my fresh pasta making lately and wrote up a step by step guide to basic, fresh pasta, and I figured it was good time to practice.
Since I know that sounds like a lot of work, I should note that I took advantage of the ragu’s easy reheating and made the ragu on day 1, which I then reheated while I made the pasta on day 2. Though, since 99% of the work in making ragu is done hours before, you could totally make pasta the same day.
My daughter and I have made the pasta and sauce together several times with Bolognese. I had to take photos, so spreading out was the way to go for me.
I will say that with the rich, beautiful pork shoulder ragu and the fresh pappardelle (and a lovely glass of red wine), I felt like I was in a great Italian restaurant. The only difference was we had to do the washing up after dinner, but we also started a fire so it balanced out.
A roaring fire, a glass of wine, snowflakes coming down, and pork ragu. Sounds like a perfect winter evening to me.
If you try my recipe for Braised Pork Shoulder Ragu, I would love to hear from you in the comments with your experience and rating! And I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
You can connect with me by subscribing to my emails (see the form in the sidebar or below the recipe card), liking my FACEBOOK page, or by following me on PINTEREST.
– Happy Braising, Annemarie
Italian Braised Pork Shoulder Ragu
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 lbs pork shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into a few large chunks
- salt and pepper
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes, pureed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried thyme, or 1 tbsp fresh
- 1 tsp dried oregano, or 1 tbsp fresh
- 1/2 lb sweet Italian pork sausage
- 2 lbs dried or fresh pasta, preferably thick noodles like fettucini
- shredded parmesan cheese, for topping
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Season the pork shoulder with salt and pepper. Once the oil is shimmering, add the pork and sear it all all sides until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the pork to a bowl and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to low. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic along with another sprinkle of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft, but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and increase the heat to medium-high again. Let the wine boil for about 5 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes and herbs.
- Now add back in the pork shoulder. Then break up the sausage into small clumps and drop them into the sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil, then cover the pot and lower the heat to keep it at a simmer. Simmer the sauce for 3 - 3 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender and pulls apart easily.
- Remove the chunks of pork shoulder from the sauce and shred them by pulling the pieces between two forks. Once the pork is shredded, add it back to the pot. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, and/or herbs as needed. Let the sauce continue to gently simmer uncovered on low while you cook the pasta.
- Heat up a large pot of well salted water. Add the pasta to the water and cook until it is done to your liking. Scoop out about 1 cup of pasta water and then drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the pot you cooked it in and add about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Then ladle in some of the pork ragu. Simmer the pasta and ragu together for a few minutes, adding more pasta water if needed, until you have a thick sauce which coats the pasta.
- Serve the pasta with more ragu over the top and pass around the parmesan cheese.
- Inspired by Pasta with Sicilian Pork and Sausage Ragu from Fine Cooking.
- This recipe doubles easily and freezes well. I often make a double recipe, then portion out the sauce into freezer bags, and lay them flat in the freezer for ease of stacking and quick defrosting.
- If you want a bit of heat, switch out all or part of the sweet sausage for hot Italian sausage.
- I prefer a thicker tomato sauce, so I use crushed tomatoes. For a thinner sauce, use only whole tomatoes.
- The sauce can be cooked on the stove top or in the oven. If you want to cook it in the oven, heat the oven to 325F, bring the sauce to a good simmer on the stove top, then cover the pot and let braise for the 3 - 3 1/2 hour cooking time.
- The sauce can also be cooked in the slow cooker. Cook it through step 2, then transfer it to the slow cooker for 6-7 hours on low. Once it's done transfer the ragu back to a pot, shred the pork, and let it simmer and thicken on the stove top.
Yummm!! This was a super way to use pork shoulder.
I added extra carrots and mushrooms to my sauce. I used 4 cans of diced tomatoes and a tomato paste because it’s hard to find the other types of canned tomatoes.
I x4 ed on all the spices, and it was amazing. I’ll definitely be making this again and again.
This is an excellent recipe!! It’s perfect for dinner parties because you can make it ahead of time and let it simmer. It was very tender and juicy. We used our favorite cheese pecorino Ramano to go on top:)
Donna Achee says
This recipe was absolutely delicious. I cooked it in the oven at 325 degrees for 3 hrs. Perfection!
Want to try slow cooker version next time.
Roy Scott says
Can I use Boston Butt ?
Definitely. Just trim and use as you would the shoulder.
What a delicious recipe!!
I made this dish exactly as written and it was perfect.
I am adding this to my permanent repertoire!
Cynthia Green says
I haven’t tried it yet but I know instinctively that it’s a winner. I have to compliment you on your recipe writing skills and the fact that your webpage is clean and easy to read, all good in my book
Thanks and I hope you try this! It’s one of my favorites.
How long and on what temp would you cook it in an Instantpot?
Hmmm. Not an expert on Instant Pot but when I do my short ribs I use 45 minutes and then natural release. So I would suggest getting everything to a simmer on the saute function then putting it on pressure for the 45. Natural release and you’ll have dinner. (I will see about testing this myself soon.)
Well this fell flat for us 😞 Followed the recipe exactly and it was just okay. I expected so much more flavour considering all the wonderful ingredients . The meat was wonderfully tender, the pasta we loved too (Had not made pappardelle before). But the sauce? Ordinary.
Can’t please all the people all the time I guess.
What to do with the ton of sauce leftover?
I’m sorry this wasn’t to your taste! Perhaps you like more spice? As for the remaining sauce, how about lasagna? More herbs, spices, lots of cheese. That should work.
I was looking through a bunch of recipes and came across yours. It sounds great! I’ve got all of the ingredients but have a question about the sausage. Is it in casings or not? If no, then do you brown it first before you add? I was thrown off when the recipe called for “breaking it up”. I am a novice cooker but enjoy trying new recipes. Thank you!
No worries, everyone has to start somewhere! I’ve been guiding my teenager through kitchen experiments lately. 🙂
I usually use the sausage meat without the casings, but if all you have is cased sausage just squeeze it out. And the sausage is not browned – that’s why I have you add it directly to the sauce. (This keeps it nice and soft in the ragu.) So, take your sausage meat and break it up into smallish pieces and drop them into the sauce.
Thank you for the speedy reply! I’ll let you know how it turns out. Figure I’ll use a Chianti for this.
Could this ragu be finished in the oven for 3 or 3-1/2 hours instead of on the stove?
Definitely and I should add that to the recipe instructions! To use the oven, heat it to 325F and move the rack to the bottom middle position. Once the sauce comes to boil, cover and put it in the oven for the cooking time (3 – 3 1/2).
Just made this last night along with Homemade papperdale pasta and words can’t even describe how amazing this was. The sauce had this amazing depth of flavor and made with garden tomatoes it still had a bit of lightness and freshness to it. I did add in some mushrooms towards the end because we love mushrooms. This recipe is perfect and is definitely going to be a Sunday favorite dinner!
Thank you for the comment and feedback. 🙂 What a great use of garden tomatoes! And I bet the mushrooms complemented the ragu nicely.
I made this today in my instapot and it was tasty! I will likely make the next one on the stove because I can see the advantage to being able to watch the liquid level. Fantastic recipe!
Wonderful! And a great use for an Instant Pot when you don’t want to heat up the house.
I’m planning to make this but I’m not sure what whole tomatoes, pureed means. Should I just buy a can of whole tomatoes and blend them in a food processor? Thanks!
Exactly! A can of whole tomatoes you have pureed yourself. Canned tomato puree is completely different and not right for this recipe.