Pork Ragù and Creamy Polenta
I recently married into an Italian family. For a food, wine and family-loving person like myself, it couldn’t be a more perfect fit. And let me tell you, from my experience the stereotype holds true -- they love food. Everybody has a signature recipe. While each is made with love, there are definitely some I’m more inclined to enjoy (almond paste cookies) than others (tripe stew).
As an official Italian-by-law, this holiday season I decided it was about time I developed a signature dish of my own. And since I spent most of my husband’s and my courtship positioning myself as an obsessive foodie, I knew I’d need to bring the big guns. That’s where this pork ragù and creamy polenta enters the picture. It’s a true showstopper of a special occasion meal.
Pork shoulder (also known as Boston butt -- tenderloin is too lean for this dish) is browned and then braised for hours in a combination of vegetables, tomato, red wine and herbs, until finally all of the ingredients melt into a beautiful, velvety red sauce that’s home to the most fall-apart tender pork you’ve ever eaten. It’s rich with that “all-day cooked” flavor that the Italians are so famous for, and trust me, it’s worth the time and effort. (And to be truthful, much of the cook time is hands-off so you get an impressive depth of flavor for the effort required.)
It’s common for pork ragù to be served over pasta, but in order to make this dish extra special and worthy of a food-loving family’s holiday table, I chose to serve it over creamy polenta. This polenta recipe, in particular, is incredibly simple but beautifully smooth and flavorful due to the addition of extra virgin olive oil and parmesan cheese. It’s important to use high-quality ingredients here due to the simplicity of the recipe components, but there’s no better time to pull out that special bottle of olive oil or to splurge on a great block of parm than during the holidays, right?
This crowd-pleasing dish is meant to serve a party and, as we all know, the best parties are those where the food is plentiful and the wine flows generously. At this year’s holiday gathering, serve this dish alongside Kendall-Jackson’s Jackson Estate Hawkeye Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a beautiful wine for a special occasion meal and its notes of deep black cherry and rich minerality make it the perfect wine to compliment the bold flavors of this meaty ragu. Enjoy!