i’m in a rut. i feel like i have writers block, but for cooking. i always, always get like this at this time of year cause i fucking hate winter. seasonal affective disorder is a real thing, and i feel like mine gets worse and worse with each year that passes. i get into a weird funk and i’m always cold, tired, and negative. i only want to eat gross food, i make excuses to skip the gym, and i literally do anything to not leave my house. i don’t hang out with friends, i just lay on my couch like a zombie re-watching netflix shows i’ve already watched *facepalm*.
my whole body & soul just aches for spring – for those first balmy days where the sun is shining and you feel energized and hopeful. for the excitement of knowing that soon there will be little signs of life poking up from the soil, and in a few weeks time i’ll be picking up armfuls of bright green produce at the farmers market instead of the depressing, tasteless food from the grocery store.
in the meantime, while i’m dreaming of peas and garlic scapes and all things green, i’ve decided (as i do every year), that eating lots and looots of pasta is the only thing that will make me feel better – if only temporarily. the best cure for a chilly day (or slew of chilly days) is a big pot of fatty cuts of meat, veggies and tomatoes simmering away on the stove, destined for a bowl of noodles. braising meat for sauce in the winter is my favourite thing to do – i love it more than even netflix and chips (yes, chips not chill). you can use cheap cuts from your butcher, make a big batch and eat it all week.
i used pork shanks in this recipe, and in addition to the usual soffritto base i added a bulb of sliced fennel – i love the slight undertone of the fennel taste that shines through paired with the pork. the meat braises for hours until it falls apart and the sauce turns thick and flavourful. i used rigatoni because i love how hearty the noodles feel, and the fact that the sauce gets caught in the tube for a burst of tomatoey goodness with each bite. topped with plenty of parm and a quick mix of garlic and parsley oil drizzle to brighten it up, i present to you: a warm hug in pasta form.
pork & fennel ragu
2 pounds pork shanks
2 carrots, diced
1 celery rib, diced
2 small white onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 large bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 piece cured sausage, diced
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 jar pureed tomato
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper
heat olive oil over medium high heat in an enamelled cast iron pot. season pork shanks with salt and pepper on both sides, and brown in hot oil for 3-4 minutes per side until dark brown and crispy. remove from pan and set aside.
add a little more olive oil to the pan and turn heat to medium. add sausage and cook until browned, about 3-4 minutes, then add celery, carrot, onion, garlic and fennel and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes until fragrant. pour in the white wine and let cook until it evaporates by half. add the pork back to the pot, and pour in the pureed tomato, and add the thyme and bay leaves. bring to a boil then reduce to low. shake pot slightly to mix ingredients, then cover and cook on low for 1.5 to 2 hours.
remove pork from the sauce, and separate the meat from the bones and scoop out all the marrow and gelatinous fat. remove the thyme stems and bay leaves and discard. shred the meat and return back to sauce. stir, then cover and cook for another 1-2 hours.
boil your pasta of choice, and toss with sauce. top with plenty of cheese, hot chilli oil and parsley.