Country Pork Rib Ragu

The season may technically be Spring now, but here in the Midwest, we’re still in the heart of the Hungry Season, when the local produce options are still a steady diet of roots, roots, roots. We look longingly at Californians, who are beginning to taste the first fresh tastes of the season – but that’s still a good 2 1/2 months away for us.

So, while we may shed our parkas for spring coats and get back on our bikes, the kitchen is still in the winter season. And that’s okay, because I have bits of sunshine tucked away in the freezer in bags of frozen fruit from last summer that help us anticipate the bounty ahead. Our meat farm share, Grass is Greener Gardens, helps to keep my creative culinary juices flowing with providing us with a variety of different types and cuts of meat each month – as well as fabulous eggs, local cheeses and dried beans. And so, I came to the package of country-style ribs in the freezer this weekend.

Not feeling much in the mood (or weather) for BBQ, I decided on a slow-simmered vegetable ragu, that would take advantage of the flavorful pork. This one takes an hour and a half to cook, but once the dicing and browning is done, you can pretty much just let bubble away unattended. And the finished sauce is flavorful, robust, and perfect to spoon over a nice bowl of pasta.

Note to my Chicago readers – if you’re interested in joining a farm share, enrollment for our meat share for May-October is right now – download a form from Grass is Greener Gardens, and support local, sustainably raised meat. We love it, and we hope you do too. You can enroll for our veggie farm share through Home Grown Wisconsin’s website as well. If you don’t live in Chicago, look for farm shares near you at Local Harvest.

Slow Simmered Pork Ragu
Serves 4, makes 1 quart of sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds pork country-style ribs, trimmed of fat
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 medium onion, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup red wine
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes

  1. Heat oil in 12-inch, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Season ribs with salt and pepper and brown. 3 minutes on each side. Transfer ribs to plate; pour off all but 1 teaspoon fat from skillet. Add onion, celery, carrot and sauté 2 to 3 minutes. Add wine and simmer, scraping pan bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, until wine reduces a bit, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, rosemary and red pepper flakes and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Return ribs and accumulated juices to skillet; add tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently, turning ribs several times, until meat is very tender and falling off the bones, 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Transfer ribs to clean plate. Turn heat up to medium, and bring sauce to a gentle boil, uncovered, allow sauce to thicken and spoon off fat that accumulates at the edges of the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. When the ribs are cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones and shred with fingers, discarding fat and bones. Return shredded meat to sauce in skillet. Bring sauce to a simmer over medium heat and cook, uncovered, until heated through and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. To serve, toss sauce with drained pasta, and serve with freshly grated parmesan.

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