This spicy pork ragu, Pork Arrabbiata, cooks low and slow in the oven until fork tender, with a tomato gravy and lots of red pepper flakes.
Before low and slow cooking season leaves us, I did want to share this delicious dish. This Pork all'Arrabbiata starts with an economical pork shoulder roast and cooks low and slow with fire-roasted tomatoes, red wine and a healthy dose of red pepper flakes. That's where the "Arrabbiata" (translated from Italian it means "angry") part comes in.
This versatile, spicy pork ragu can be served as I have here with mashed potatoes or over pasta or polenta. You could also swap out the mashed potatoes for a cauliflower mash.
I've dressed up the potatoes with a bit of garlic and Parmesan cheese, which complements the meat perfectly. (You could do the same with cauliflower, too!). A little quick sauteed spinach and you have a lovely bowl of comfort food.
Cook's Notes for Pork all'Arrabbiata with Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
You can start with a boneless or bone-in pork shoulder. If bone-in, just get a slightly heavier one to account for the weight of the bone. In either case, I always cut off any large fat cap on the roast, then cut out the meatiest bits and then cut into chunks as needed. You want some fat, but generally you want to leave most of the larger pieces of fat behind. If using a bone-in pork shoulder, cut around and discard the bone part before cooking.
Fire-roasted tomatoes add great flavour to this dish. I love the Muir Glen brand, which are quite easy to find in both Canada and the US. If you can't find, regular canned diced tomatoes are fine.
Adjust the amount of red pepper flakes to your taste. Adding 1/2 tsp will give you mild heat. 1 tsp is moderate or add 1 1/2 tsp for a good bite.
Top Tip! When cooking pork shoulder, you will inevitably need to deal with some of the fat that cooks off. Here's a neat trick for scooping it off easily!
Use a spoon to move the pork mixture into a pile on one half of the pot. Let stand 5 minutes or so. All the fat should have flowed to the empty side. Scoop off the top of the pile of pork. Make another pile further over. Let stand 5 minutes then remove all the pork, leaving the fat in the pot.
Pork all'Arrabbiata with Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
For the pork:
- 2 1/2 lb. boneless pork shoulder (cut into 2-inch cubes)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion (diced)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 - 1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (to taste)
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 28 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
Parmesan Mashed Potatoes:
- 1 lb yellow-fleshed potatoes (such as Yukon Gold, about 4 medium)
- 3 cloves garlic (peeled and lightly smashed)
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/2 cup Parmesan
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Preheat an oven to 325F.
- Season with pork cubes with salt and black pepper. In a large Dutch oven over high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the pork and brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced to a glaze, about 2 minutes. Stir in the diced tomatoes and season with salt and black pepper. Return the pork to the pot, cover with the lid and transfer to the oven. Cook covered in the oven until the pork is tender, about 2 hours. Remove from oven and remove lid. (Mixture should not be too liquidy. If it is, place on the stovetop and heat over medium heat, simmering until thickened.)
- Remove the fat from the pork: Using a large spoon, move about 1/3 of the mixture into a pile on one side of the pan. You can even elevate the piled end slightly by tucking a pot holder under that end. Let stand undisturbed for 4-5 minutes. The fat from the stew should run into the empty part of the pan, where you can spoon it off and discard. Once the fat is removed, you can use two forks to break up any large pieces of pork for serving.
- About a half hour before your pork is done, make the mashed potatoes: Peel the potatoes and cut in half. Add to a large pot and fill with water. Add some salt to the water. Add the smashed garlic cloves to the water. Bring to a boil and boil until potatoes are tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to pot. Place pot over medium heat on the stove-top. Add the milk and butter to the pot. Mash potatoes with the butter and milk, adding more milk as necessary to make a smooth mash. Add the Parmesan, a healthy sprinkling of salt and lots of freshly ground pepper. Stir to combine. Taste and add more salt and pepper, as needed.