While we might grumble at this time of year when snow or low temps are in the forecast, it does give us an opportunity to enjoy the hearty cuisine of winter once more before moving on to the lighter fare that comes with warmer months.
It’s the perfect time to get out the slow cooker and make a rib-sticking pasta sauce like this Slow Cooker Pork Ragu. Nothing will warm you up more than a bowl of steaming pasta, coated in a deeply meaty tomato sauce and showered generously in freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Like all slow cooker dishes, this one starts earlier in the day and cooks away while you go about your business. The beauty of this recipe is that it only takes minutes to throw together with no precooking/browning necessary.
Pork butt or shoulder is cut into big cubes, seasoned and combined in the slow cooker with pancetta (the Italian version of bacon), garlic, tomatoes and herbs and cooked slowly until the pork is meltingly tender and shreds easily. Then it’s tossed with hot pasta and cooked for a moment more to allow the sauce to “marry” with the pasta.
Since the sauce is so simple, the quality of the ingredients becomes even more important. Look for canned San Marzano tomatoes from Italy. You can find them in almost any grocery store. They are meatier and more flavorful than other types of canned tomatoes.
Because Parmesan cheese is used as a garnish and isn’t added to the sauce at all, you might think it doesn’t matter what kind you use. But you would be wrong. Parmigiano-Reggiano is the authentic cheese from Italy and is also easy to find and worth the money. Its salty nuttiness gives the pasta a final hit of richness and flavor.
Any leftover sauce can be frozen for up to 2 months. Imagine yourself in June or July, sitting on the deck with a cool drink, thinking “I am not in the mood to cook” and realizing you have a container of this beautiful sauce in the freezer. You’ll be happy for the taste of winter, especially if it keeps you out of the kitchen on a hot summer day.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @meredithdeeds.