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Pork Rib Ragù with Polenta (Ragù di Maiale con Polenta)

This dish is just the thing for cool autumn evenings. Meaty pork ribs braise to tender perfection in a savory sauce, then the ragù is served over steaming polenta.

Ingredients:

For the pork rib ragù:

  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 3 lb. meaty pork spareribs, cut into individual ribs
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed flat but left whole
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf


For the polenta:

  • 6 to 7 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade, or water
  • 1 tsp. fine sea salt (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups polenta
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving

Directions:

To make the ragù, in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Add as many ribs as will fit without crowding the pot and season with salt and pepper. Brown the ribs on the first side, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn the ribs over and brown on the other side, about 4 minutes more. Transfer to a platter. Repeat to brown the remaining ribs.

Discard all but 2 Tbs. of the fat in the pot. Add the carrot, onion, celery and garlic and stir to coat with the fat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté the vegetables until softened, about 7 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, pour in the wine and stir to scrape up the browned bits. Simmer for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and bay leaf. Return the ribs to the pot along with any accumulated juices and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer. Cover and cook very gently, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 2 hours. Uncover and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 1 hour more. Remove the garlic and bay leaf and discard. Transfer the ribs to a clean platter and let cool briefly. Cut the meat off the bones, shred it with your fingers and return the meat to the pot. Discard the bones.

To make the polenta, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the broth to a boil. If you are using water, stir in the salt. Sprinkle in the polenta in a very slow, steady stream, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the polenta is very thick and comes away cleanly from the sides and bottom of the pan, about 30 minutes. Stir in the butter.

Divide the polenta among wide, shallow bowls and spoon the ragù over the top. Sprinkle each serving with cheese and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian, by Domenica Marchetti (Weldon Owen, 2011).