This Pork Ragu is the ultimate winter comfort food. It is hearty and warming, packed with flavor, and as it cooks in the oven, it almost cooks itself. This is an easy meal that delivers big flavors.
The pork is succulent, juicy, and fall-apart tender. And the rich tomato sauce is rich and flavorful. This is the kind of food you want to eat on a cold winter's night.
Perfect served over pasta for a meal the whole family will love. With this recipe and my top tips, you'll be eating like an Italian. Serve it for a weeknight meal or use it when you have friends for dinner. This is a dish that is sure to impress!
What is a ragu?
Ragu is a meat-based Italian sauce typically served with pasta. Traditionally, pieces of meat (often beef, pork, game, or lamb) are cooked on low heat in a braising liquid over a prolonged period.
This leaves the meat fall-apart tender. The braising liquid is usually broth and tomato-based, often with the addition of wine. The ragu is traditionally finished with heavy cream and cheese to lighten the color and enrich the sauce's flavor.
One of the most common ragu's is one that most people are very familiar with - ragù alla bolognese - Bolognese sauce.
What Pork to use for Pork Ragu?
You will need to buy boneless pork shoulder for this recipe, frequently sold as pork butt (or Boston Butt). It is often sold in netting (with or without skin). It has an excellent marbling of fat and, when simmered slowly, is tender, juicy, and falls apart beautifully into the rich ragu sauce.
You will need a 3lb/1.3kg piece of pork, but don't worry about making it too exact. Anything from 2 ½ lb - 3 ½lb (1.2kg-1.6kg) will be fine.
If your pork comes with the skin on, you will want to remove that. Save it for making pork crackling bites! Cut the pork into 6 large chunks. Keeping the pork in large pieces helps to keep it succulent and juicy.
Before cooking the pork, ensure you season it well! For 3lb/1.3kg of pork, you will need 2 teaspoons of salt. Once seasoned, the pork is seared in hot oil until it gets a really golden crust. This adds flavor and again keeps the pork juicy.
- I like to leave my veg quite chunky, but you can chop them finely or even grate them. The time the veg take to cook and soften will depend on the size of your vegetables. You want them to soften and color but not burn. This is usually 10-15 minutes. (See picture below)
- There are 6 cloves of garlic in this dish, but you can add more!! The garlic will be mellow and mild after such a long cook. It gets added after the veg has been cooking; this way, it doesn't burn.
- The recipe calls for a cup of wine. You can use red or white for this recipe. I have cooked it many times with each, and it tastes great either way. (The photos for this post were made with white wine.)
- I have suggested dried herbs in the recipe card; these will soften and give you a hearty, rich flavor due to the long cooking time. You can use fresh herbs if you have them. Use about 1 tablespoon of each fresh herb in place of the teaspoon of dried.
- Ground fennel adds so much flavor to this ragu. It is definitely worth grabbing a jar from the grocery store. It works so well with the pork.
- I suggest vegetable broth in the recipe card but feel free to swap that for chicken or beef broth.
What to serve with Pork Ragu
Ragu is traditionally served with pasta, gnocchi, or creamy polenta. We are big pasta fans (that is why I have over 80 pasta recipes on Sprinkles and Sprouts!), so we nearly always choose pasta!
Traditionally you would pick a long wide noodle like pappardelle or fettuccine. Pappardelle is our favorite, it kind of folds and envelops the sauce, so you get a bit of everything with each mouthful.
How to serve your pasta
The traditional way to serve a ragu is to add almost cooked pasta, the ragu sauce, a little heavy cream, and some parmesan cheese to the pan. This is all cooked together for a couple of minutes.
This is the Italian way of doing it. The cream enriches the sauce, and as everything cooks, the pasta absorbs the sauce and flavors. Meaning every piece of pasta is fully coated in delicious pork ragu.
Rather than just serving up the pasta and spooning the sauce on top, give it a go this way. It creates one cohesive dish and is truly fabulous!
Can I make pork ragu ahead of time?
YES! This ragu tastes fantastic when first cooked, but it is even better if you leave it in the refrigerator. The flavors get deeper.
Once the ragu has cooled, transfer it to a lidded container and keep it in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Or freeze your ragu for up to 3 months.
Then when you want to eat the ragu, reheat it in a pan and add the cooked pasta, cream, and cheese as directed.
Dealing with leftovers
If you have any leftover sauce that hasn't been stirred through pasta with the cream, then you can refrigerate/freeze it as directed above.
If it is leftovers with the pasta, cream, and cheese, it will still keep, but I would suggest only keeping it 2 days and 1 month in the freezer. You will find that the pasta absorbs more of the liquid, so it isn't quite as good. But it is still a great meal!
Serving size and doubling the recipe
As written, the recipe will serve 10 people generously. 12 if you serve this with garlic bread or a chewy ciabatta and a salad.
However, a single batch will easily serve 7 of us for two meals, i.e 14 serves.
I will cook the ragu as directed and then divide the recipe into two containers. One for now and one for another meal/the freezer. (When I do this I will also reduce the pasta amounts suggested in the recipe card. The pasta quantities in the recipe card are assuming you use the whole pot of Ragu. So feel free to change those according to your family - just don't skip the cream and cheese, you can reduce them as needed too)
Even though this makes a large amount of ragu, I will often double the recipe and freeze it in smaller portions. Perfect for thawing out and serving when it is just us parents or if one of the kids needs a later meal due to sports practice.
To double the recipe, in the recipe card below change the serving size to 20. (You can scale it however you wish, down to 5 people, or up to 15 people or 50 people...but that's a lot of Ragu! I think you'd need a VERY big ditch oven/pot!)
This is one of our family favorites, and I honestly can't believe how long it has taken me to get it up on the blog! I hope it becomes a winter staple for your family too. It is delicious so I am certain your family will love it!
If you cook it up don't forget to come back and comment, or tag me on social media.
Any questions about the recipe? Use the comments section below.
The BEST Pork Ragu Recipe
For the Pork Ragu
- 3 lb boneless pork shoulder, skin removed - see note 1
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 carrots peeled & diced
- 2 large onions diced
- 2 stalk celery diced
- 6 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup wine - see note 2
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme - see note 3
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried ground sage - see note 3
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried rosemary - see note 3
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano - see note 3
- 1 teaspoon dried ground fennel
- 1 28oz/800g can crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups vegetable broth or stock - see note 4
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
To serve the pasta (assuming you are using all of the ragu)
- 1.65 lb dried egg pappardelle pasta - see note 5
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ¾ cup grated parmesan (plus more to serve)
To cook the Pork Ragu
- Preheat oven to 325˚F/160ºC.
- Cut the pork shoulder/pork butt into six pieces and season all over with salt.
3lb/1.3kg pork shoulder
2 teaspoons salt
- Place a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Pour in the oil, and once hot, sear pork for 4-5 minutes on each side. Leaving the oil in the pan, remove the pork from the pan and set it aside in a bowl.
¼ cup olive oil
- Reduce the heat to low, add the chopped onion, carrot, and celery and sauté for 15 minutes until colored but not burn.
2 diced carrots
2 chopped onions
2 chopped sticks celery
- Add the garlic and saute for a minute.
6 chopped cloves garlic
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes.
2 tablespoons tomato paste
- Turn the heat back to high and add the wine scraping at the bottom to remove any browned bits.
1 cup wine
- Add in the thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, and fennel. Then stir in the canned tomatoes, broth and salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer.
1½ teaspoons dried thyme
1½ teaspoons dried ground sage
1½ teaspoons dried rosemary
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
1½ teaspoons dried ground fennel
1 can tomatoes (28oz/800g can)
2 cups vegetable broth
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
- Add the pork back into the pan, along with any juices that have collected. Cover the pan and place it on the bottom shelf of the oven.
- Cook the pork for 2-2 ½ hours.
- Remove the pan from the oven and use two forks to shred the pork chunks. Leave it as chunky or a fine as you like. Stir the pork into the sauce.
- At this point, the sauce can be cooled and refrigerated, or frozen. (see note 6)
To serve the pasta (assuming you are using all of the ragu)
- Bring a large pan of water to a boil. Once boiling, add the salt and cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the packet suggests.
1.65lb/750g dried egg pasta
1 tablespoon salt
- Reserve 2 cups of the pasta cooking water, drain the pasta and add it to the dutch oven of ragu.
- Stir in the heavy cream and parmesan cheese. Bring to a simmer and stir constantly for 2 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. If the sauce starts to look dry, use some reserved pasta cooking water to bring the consistency to your liking.
¾ cup heavy cream
¾ cup grated parmesan
reserved pasta water (if needed)
- Serve with extra parmesan.