Slow Cooker Pork Ragu with Fennel, Mushrooms and Parpadelle

February 22, 2015
Pork, Winter, Comfort Food, B-Team Recipes

Read more about this recipe, and using slow cookers, in Sally's blog post

Serves: 4 to 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1½ pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound assorted mushrooms (cremini, shiitake and oyster), cleaned and thinly sliced
1 large shallot, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small-medium bulb of fennel, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes, with juice
¾ cup dry red wine
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 pound parpadelle (or any desired pasta shape)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1½ cups baby arugula

1. Heat the oil in a large pan over high heat until it begins to shimmer -- or, if your slow cooker has a “brown” function, add the oil to the slow cooker and heat to medium-high. Liberally season the pork on both sides with salt and pepper and add to the pan (or slow cooker). Cook until browned on both sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the pork to a plate and set aside.

2. Drain all but 2 teaspoons of the fat from the pan and discard. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and their liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Add the fennel to the cooker and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel begins to soften, about 4 minutes; stir in the shallot and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste and fennel seeds and cook for an additional minute.

3. Set the slow cooker to low and add the mushroom mixture, pork and any accumulated juices, along with the tomatoes, wine, thyme and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the pork on low, until fork tender, about 8 hours or as directed by your slow cooker’s manual. Remove the pork to a cutting board, loosely tent with foil, and let rest for 15 minutes. Using two forks, shred the pork into large pieces.

4. Remove the lid from the slow cooker, turn the heat to high, and cook the liquid until it reduces slightly and begins to thicken, about 15 minutes. Stir the pork into the reduced sauce and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.

5. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 4 minutes. Remove a cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta and set aside. Drain the pasta well and return it to the pot that you cooked it in over low heat.

6. Add a few cups of the ragu, the butter and the cheese to the pasta, and toss well to coat, adding a bit of the pasta water to loosen the sauce if needed. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley and arugula, and stir until the arugula just begins to wilt. Serve with additional sauce and parmesan cheese on the side, if desired.