Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ragu a la Napoletana

     I love to cook, I love to write about cooking, I love to take pictures about food (that's why I started this whole thing). But I'm a bad blogger. Half the time I start cooking, get absorbed in it, then when I'm elbow deep in crushed tomatoes or hands covered in dough,  hey, I should blog this! So pardon the incomplete photography on this one...

     A16 Food+Wine is my favorite kind of cookbook. I could never afford to eat at Nate Appleman's restaurant, but his book doesn't skip on serious techniques and brings the humble, gutsy cuisine of Campagnia (the province including Naples) within reach of a talented amateur cook like myself. During this Lent experiment, I've found myself delving through the book and finding some very satisfying and surprisingly inexpensive dishes like Cavatelli a short, eggless pasta that's great with cauliflower, anchovy, and chiles; and onion and tomato paste soffrito that brings extra depth to earthy greens like kale. This week we're trying a rich Ragu a la Napoletana with another Campagnian noodle, maccarronara. Recipe follows after the jump!

What's Guerrilla: This ragu uses a long braise to get richness and body out of some humble pork shoulder, a prosciutto end, and a pigs trotter. Also, according to Appleman, Neapolitans traditionally remove the shoulder meat and serve it as a separate course or use it in another preparation. (We'll be using it for lunch and in risotto.)
What's Gourmet: The sauce acquires rich body from the trotter and flavor from the prosciutto along with a deep flavor from the onion.

One pound of pork shoulder cut in chunks, a pig's trotter, and 8 ounces of prosciutto butt. A serious deli will usually be willing to part with the sinewy butt end of the ham (the part they can't slice thin) for a fraction of the usual price. The trotter I got from my favorite carniceeria, where the butcher quartered it with the band saw.
Two 28-ounce cans of whole tomatoes. San Marzano tomatoes from Naples are the traditional and best choice, Trader Giotto's whole canned tomatoes are very good.
One red onion
A half cup of olive oil


1) Peel the onion and cut it in half. Get the oil warm and gently brown both onion halves for 20 minutes, then remove it and use somewhere else.
2) Empty the tomatoes in a bowl, season them with several pinches of salt, and crush them with your hands. (Watch for spurting, this last batch got me right in the eye.)
3) Pour in the tomatoes and meat, bring to a boil and take back to a very low simmer. Let everything cook with the lid off for about four hours.
4) Remove and save the shoulder, but discard the prosciutto (it will be tough and salty). You should have enough for several batches of pasta.

Break it Down Now!
Pork Shoulder: $3
Trotter: $1
Prosciutto butt: $2.50
Canned Tomatoes: $3
An onion: $0.25
Olive oil: $0.64
Total: $10.39
Servings: 8
Price per Serving: $1.30


Anonymous said...

I just use the trotters. Cheaper, more flavor, the bone adds body to the sauce, and it's fall off the bone tender after a few hours. I don't know why people get weirded out by trotters, but will eat chicken drumsticks. I don't get it, but it keeps them cheep, so it's fine with me.