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Pork Ragu with Lemon and Fennel

Hello and welcome to Djalali Cooks! Today’s recipe may look familiar to you, I used a version of this white ragu with fennel as the base for My Take on The San Giorgio Pizza. Today, we are making Pork Ragu with Lemon and Fennel tossed with Pappardelle pasta. I came across this recipe by accident really, as I was researching the San Giorgio Pizza. I knew at the time I wanted to make this again with smoked pork and pasta. so that’s what we have today. Let’s get to it!

Pork Ragu with Lemon and Fennel

White Ragu

A white ragu is a meat sauce with a cream base, rather than a tomato base. The original recipe by America’s Test Kitchen calls for browning pancetta for the base, but since I am using flavorful smoked pork in this recipe, I decided to omit the pancetta.

Pork Ragu with Lemon and Fennel ingredients

I have a small to medium-sized fennel bulb that I have diced, along with half a white onion. 1/2 cup of cream, 1/4 cup of lemon juice and zest and a few garlic cloves, minced. We also have some fresh thyme and grated Pecorino Romano.

Start by heating a 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet or braiser over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the fennel and sauté until the onions and fennel soften a bit, about 5 minutes. Season with two pinches of Kosher salt. Then add the garlic and the thyme leaves. Sauté just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Then, pour in the cream and 1.5 cups of water. Stir and bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium and let simmer for about 3-5 minutes. Then add the pulled pork. Stir the pork into the cream mixture. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer stirring occasionally. Taste the mixture and add more Kosher salt if needed. Meanwhile, get a pot of water boiling for the Pappardelle pasta.

Once you have water going, add the lemon juice and zest to the pork and cream mixture. Stir well to combine and leave on low heat while the pasta cooks. Taste the sauce again and adjust seasoning as needed. I have extra thin Pappardelle which only takes 2 minutes to get just shy of al dente. After boiling in salted water for two minutes, I used tongs to transfer the pasta to the pork and cream mixture. We want to save that pasta water, so if you drain the pasta in a colander, be sure to reserve two cups of the pasta water.

Add about 1 cup of grated Pecorino Romano to the pasta and ragu. Then pour about 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water over the cheese and the pasta and stir everything together. Keep adding as much pasta water as needed to keep everything creamy and smooth. Once everything is incorporated, coated in ragu and the cheese is fully melted, it’s ready to serve.

Pork Ragu with Lemon and Fennel

Use tongs to serve in a wide, shallow bowl.

Pork Ragu with Lemon and Fennel

Finishing Touches

Top with more grated Pecorino Romano and fennel fronds.

Pork Ragu with Lemon and Fennel

Pork Ragu with Lemon and Fennel

This dish is exceptional! The smoked pork really brings so much flavor to this pasta party, but a roasted or braised pork shoulder would also be wonderful. Don’t skip the lemon juice and zest, the lemon is not only flavorful on its own, but the brightness of the acid really brings out the flavor of the pork.

Pork Ragu with Lemon and Fennel

Thank you all so much for joining me today. Until Wednesday, take care and be well, xo Kelly

Pork Ragu with Lemon and Fennel

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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Dinner, Main Course Italian/American
By Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Serves: 2-4
Prep Time: 10 Minutes Cooking Time: 15 minutes Total Time: 25 Minutes

Creamy ragu is lightened up with fennel and lemon; smoked pulled pork brings a deep, rich flavor that is right at home in this Pappardelle pasta dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 small to medium-sized Fennel Bulb, diced
  • 1/2 large White Onion, diced
  • 3-5 Garlic Cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 tsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves, minced
  • Kosher Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1.5 cups Water
  • 3-4 cups Pulled Pork Shoulder (smoked, braised or roasted)
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Lemon Juice
  • Zest of 2 Lemons
  • 8 oz. Pappardelle Pasta (extra thin or regular)
  • 1 cup Grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for garnish
  • Fennel Fronds or chopped Parsley for garnish

Instructions

1

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet or braiser over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the fennel and sauté until the onions and fennel soften a bit, about 5 minutes. Season with two pinches of Kosher salt. Then add the garlic and the thyme leaves. Sauté just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2

Pour in the cream and 1.5 cups of water. Stir and bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium and let simmer for about 3-5 minutes. Then add the pulled pork. Stir the pork into the cream mixture. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer stirring occasionally. Taste the mixture and add more Kosher salt if needed.

3

Meanwhile, get a pot of water boiling for the Pappardelle pasta.

4

Add the lemon juice and zest to the pork and cream mixture. Stir well to combine and leave on low heat while the pasta cooks. Taste the sauce again and adjust seasoning as needed.

5

Cook the pasta to just shy of al dente. Use tongs to transfer the pasta to the cream and pork mixture. (if you drain the pasta in a colander, reserve 2 cups of the pasta water).

6

Add the grated Pecorino Romano to the pasta and cream sauce.

7

Then pour about 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water over the cheese and the pasta and stir everything together.

8

Keep adding as much pasta water as needed to keep everything creamy and smooth.

9

Once everything is incorporated, coated in ragu and the cheese is fully melted, remove from heat and serve.

10

Top each serving with more grated Pecorino Romano and fennel fronds or parsley.

Calling all Cooks!

I’d love to feature some of your takes on Djalali Cooks recipes, so for the month of September, if you make any Djalali Cooks recipes, take a picture and send me an email with the picture of the dish you made.

Be sure to include any comments you have about the recipe and the process and your first name. If you’d like me to mention your town, please include that information too! Send images to kelly@djalalicooks.com. Or DM your images right to my Instagram.

At the beginning of October, I will compile your images and feature your dish as part of a reader favorites round-up on the blog!

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  • Mari
    September 13, 2021 at 8:20 am

    What a great idea. Fennel is such an under used, unknown and unappreciated ingredient. For yearsI passed it by, but I’m glad I discovered it finally. I don’t use it every day or even every week, but I love the punch of flavor it delivers. This recipe reads like a wonderful story. There’s no handsome prince or a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but there is going to be a wonderful meal, and I know that’s what I’d rather have. Am I the only person that reads cookbooks like novels? I have some old and new cookbooks that have wonderful stories interspersed with the recipes, and I love to read them, because it is so easy and enjoyable to be drawn to the memories without doing the work! Happy Monday everybody, and have a good one. We have to deal with it every week, so make it amazing, and smile.

    • Kelly Djalali
      September 13, 2021 at 8:50 am

      Happy Monday, Mari! I have a few “cookbooks” that are more story-forward than recipe-forward. They are fun to read, especially if they have beautiful photography. My favorite is the book, Manresa, by chef David Kinch. The State Bird Provisions book is that way too… There are so many! I love fennel! especially raw, as in the fennel salad I made with the pork tenderloin a while back. It’s got such a mellow flavor and nice crunch. Have a great Monday! xo Kelly