serves: 6 servings
This ragù, in the tradition of Potenza, is a versatile sauce, equally delicious with cooked grains such as farro, wheat berries, or barley, or as a dressing for almost any pasta you choose. This recipe gives a combination I particularly love, with cooked farro stirred into a pot of ragù just before serving. The nuttiness of the grain and the earthiness of the pork sauce are flavors that remind me of the bountiful Sunday and holiday dinners that are traditional in the lower part of the peninsula. And though it is a dish steeped in old traditions, it is healthful and economical, and will certainly shine on today's table, for any occasion.
For the Ragu
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon peperoncino
½ cup white wine
3 cups Italian plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
For the Farro
1 pound farro
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup Pecorino Romano, freshly grated
Trim the fat from the exterior of the pork. Cut it into bite-sized morsels, about 3/4-inch cubes, trimming more fat and bits of cartilage as you divide the meat. Pat the pieces dry with paper towels.
Pour the olive oil into a big pan, set it over medium heat, and toss in the pork. Spread the pieces in the pan, and season with the salt. Cook the pork slowly for 15 minutes or so, turning and moving the pieces occasionally as the meat releases its juices and they cook away.
When the pan is dry and the pork starts to sizzle and crackle, clear a hot spot on the bottom, and drop in the chopped garlic and peperoncino. Stir and toast them for a minute or so in the hot spot, until the garlic is fragrant and sizzling, then stir and toss with the meat cubes.
Raise the heat a bit, pour in the white wine, stir, and bring to a boil. Let the wine bubble until it is nearly evaporated and the pork is sizzling again. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and a cup of water that has been sloshed around to rinse out the tomato can, grate on the fresh nutmeg, and stir.
Cover the pan, and heat the tomatoes to a boil, then adjust the heat to maintain a steady, gentle perking. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours, until the pork is tender all the way through and falls apart under gentle pressure, and the sauce has thickened. If the liquid is still thin toward the end of the cooking time, set the cover ajar, and raise the heat a bit to reduce it rapidly.
First, rinse the farro well and drain it in a sieve. Put it in a smaller saucepan with 6 cups cold water, the bay leaf, salt, and olive oil. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then set the cover ajar, and adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the grains are cooked through but still al dente.
Turn off the heat, pour off excess liquid, and keep the farro warm until the ragù is done.
To finish the dish, have the ragù simmering and stir in the farro thoroughly. Cook together for a minute, so the grain is very hot. Turn off the heat, sprinkle the grated cheese on top, and stir in. Spoon the dressed farro into warm bowls, and serve immediately, with more grated cheese at the table.