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Ragù di Porchetta with Pappardelle

By Cathi Iannone - Last year it made news back in my hometown of Utica, NY, that a wild boar was roaming the streets. Actually, TWO wild boars! They were a nomadic couple, I suppose. Well, the first thing that came to mind was, "why isn't anybody hunting this thing?" And the second was the most delicious Wild Boar Bolognese with Pappardelle we had at ZaZa, a Florentine ristorante, in Tuscany. It was one of THE most delicious Bolognese sauces I'd ever had, with an incredibly rich depth unlike any ragu. Ever!

Well, I couldn't get my hands on any wild boar, like my fellow hometowners, and since I couldn't get my mind off that wild boar bolognese, I decided to get in the kitchen and conduct a little experiment to see if I could recreate that unforgettable dish I had at ZaZa. This recipe comes pretty darn close, and I think it's the smoked shank that really laces just a hint of smokiness throughout, and gives that multi-layered quality that sets it apart. It's really rich, and it's definitely a hearty dish.

One tip: if you want to leave the meat in larger chunks and add potatoes instead of pasta, that would work really well, too. Serve in a bread bowl or with crusty bread on the side. Otherwise, you may cut smaller chunks and simply shred the meat with two forks at the end of cooking. No doubt, it will be so fork tender, it will fall right apart.

Hope you love it! It transported me right back to Tuscany, for sure. Tuscans love their wild game, and so do I!

Marinade:  (OPTIONAL)

* 1 large onion, quartered

* 2 carrots, peeled and halved

* 2 ribs celery, halved

* 5 cloves garlic, smashed

* 1 (750 ml) bottle red wine

* 3 fresh bay leaves

STEW:

 * 5 pound pork shoulder roast, cut into 2 inch–sized chunks (one larger piece will have bone)

* 1 smoked pork shank

* Extra-virgin olive oil, to coat pan

* 8 ounces slab bacon, cut into lardons

* 2 cups of pearl onions

 * 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice

* 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice

* 1 pound cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped

* 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

* 1 cup tomato paste

* 2 cups red wine (reserved marinade)

* 3 to 4 cups beef stock, plus more as needed

* 3 bay leaves

* 1 teaspoon of fresh rosemary (minced finely)

*For the marinade: Combine the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaves, and wine in a large bowl or container. Add the beef, cover, and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Cook's Note: This is an important step, it makes a huge flavor difference, I think, but it is not necessary….

PREPARATION:

1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  For the stew: Remove the beef from the marinade. Strain the veggies and bay leaves from the wine and discard, but reserving the wine.

2.) Coat a large, wide pan or Dutch oven with about a tablespoon of olive oil and bring to medium-high heat.

3.) Trim most of the meat of the pork shank, including some of the fat and dice into small pieces. (reserve the shank bone) Add the diced pork shank to the Dutch oven and cook until it gets brown and crispy. This will lace a gentle smokiness throughout the dish. Toss in the pearl onions, carrots, celery, rosemary, and season with salt.

4.) Cook the mixture for 8 to10 minutes or until the mixture starts to soften and become very aromatic. Add in the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes.

5.) Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.

6.) Add 3 cups reserved wine and the pork pieces. Stir to combine and cook until the wine has reduced by 1/2.

7.) Add the beef stock to just cover the surface of the pork.