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Pork Ragù al Maialino
Serves 4
Sam Sifton, NYT 9/29/10

Last September, NYT food writer Sam Sifton wrote about Marc Forgione’s (son of respected chef and restaurateur Larry Forgione) restaurant, Maialino.

Pork Ragu al Maialino

The most popular pasta dish on the menu, a humble a pork ragu was developed from the age old cook’s imperative to avoid waste by creative use of all of the farm’s bounty. In this case the restaurant’s signature dish of roast suckling pig resulted in lots of tough, dry leg meat. The chef decided to braise the leg in a simple stock of garlic, vegetables and fresh thyme, and then pull it off the bone and combine it with Malfatti, pounds of pasta scraps created everyday by cooks who roll and cut fresh pastas.

The braising liquid was refined, the process was tweaked and the resultant Ragu al Maialino went on the menu. It was such a hit that pork legs became a special order and the Malfatti had its own cutting section.

“Be creative if you can, but use up all of a food because waste is a sin” …the age old cook’s imperative to avoid waste by creative use of all of the farm’s bounty that has produced some of the best recipes of every culture. This is one of them.

An accomplished cook, Sifton adapted the restaurant’s recipe for home cooks using pork shoulder instead of leg and suggesting lasagna noodles broken into scrap like shapes.

Hints

  1. The first time I made it I used torn pieces of Barilla No Cook Lasagna and added fresh sautéed chanterelles after the parsley. The second time I used Sagnarelli, a short, flat ribbon shape. The torn pieces look much more like Malfatti. I also omitted the arugula because I couldn’t find any that day.
  2. Using a pressure cooker to braise the pork reduces preparation time considerably.
  3. The lemon, thyme and fennel make this recipe. Don’t leave any of them out.

    Fresh Fennel

Ingredients

1 pork shoulder, bone in, about 4 pounds
Kosher salt
3 tbs. olive oil
1 medium white onion, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 rib celery, cut into large pieces
1 small fresh fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into large pieces
1 quart chicken stock, enough to cover pork
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tbs. unsalted butter
2, 9oz. boxes dry lasagna, broken into 3” shards
2 tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 tbs. grated grana Padano cheese*
1 tbs. chopped fresh parsley
Small handful arugula leaves, cleaned

*I substituted Parmegiano Reggiano

Procedure

  1. Using a sharp knife, remove the thick skin from the pork, leaving sheen of fat on top of the meat. Season aggressively with salt and place in the refrigerator for as long as overnight.

    Pork Shoulder Blade Bone In

  2. Preheat oven to 350º. Place a deep saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add 2 tbs. olive oil. When it shimmers, gently cook the onion, celery and fennel until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the stock and thyme and bring to a simmer, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Rinse pork to remove excess salt, dry with a paper towel and add to seasoned broth. Cover and place in the oven for 90 minutes or more, until the meat just begins to pull away from the bone.
  3. Allow both meat and broth to cool on the stovetop for 30 minutes, or until you can touch the meat with your hands. Remove the pork and gently pull the meat from the bone, then tear the chinks into bite-size shreds. Place these in a large bowl.
  4. Strain the liquid into a separate bowl and then pour enough of it over the meat to barely cover. (Use the rest for soup.) Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  5. Put a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil.
  6. Place a large pan over medium-high heat and add the pork and braising liquid. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the butter and stir to emulsify.
  7. Meanwhile cook the pasta* according to directions on package. When it is finished, drain and add to the sauce along with a splash of pasta water. Simmer for 1 minute, then add the lemon juice, half of the cheese, a tbs. of olive oil and the parsley. Stir to incorporate.
  8. Serve immediately, topped with (room temperature) arugula and the remaining cheese.

*If you use Barilla No Boil lasagna, cook it no longer than 5 minutes.

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