Photo Credit: Elizabeth Newman
A bowl of this pork sausage ragu (and a glass of Chianti!) will have you feeling like you’re in the heart of Tuscany.
This post is brought to you in partnership with the National Pork Board.
When it comes to meat in Italy, pork is definitely king. From sausage to salami and everything in between, it’s arguably the backbone of Italian cuisine. Even on the coast of Italy where seafood reigns supreme, you’d be hard-pressed to sit down for a meal where pork didn’t make an appearance in some way or another, and Tuscany is no exception.
While some may associate Bistecca Fiorentina (steak Florentine!) with Florence and the region of Tuscany, roasted pork, grilled chops and loins, sausage and ragus find their ways into most menus, too. Hearty meat sauces and ragus are particularly popular in Tuscany, where the flavors of local Chianti and red wines lend themselves to rich, pork sausage-based sauces like this one. With a base of soffrito (diced onion and carrot, in this case), Chianti red wine, a Parmigiano rind, and aromatic rosemary, this ragu is bursting with robust flavors of the Tuscan countryside.
The pork sausage is the star of this dish, however. It offers a richer texture and flavor than ground beef, thanks in part to the Italian herbs and spices added to the meat. You’ll often find fennel, parsley, garlic and paprika blended in, but each butcher seasons their sausage differently. Feel free to experiment with different types of sausage- head to your local butcher or Italian deli and check out what blends of sausage they have available. Try mild sausage, sweet, or even a spicy variety to add a kick to the entire sauce.
This hearty ragu is perfect for colder months, and it’s a great dish to bring family and friends together at the dinner table. Serve it with your favorite Italian red wine, and even some crusty bread to really drive home the rustic, warm Italian feel!
Pasta With Tuscan Pork Sausage Ragu
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound sweet or spicy Italian pork sausage
- 1 red onion diced
- 1 carrot peeled and diced
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup dry red wine such as Chianti
- 1 1/2 cups tomato puree such as Mutti
- 1 large sprig of rosemary
- One 2-inch rind of Parmesan cheese
- 1 pound short pasta such as rigatoni
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus more for garnish
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and sausage and cook, stirring often and breaking apart the sausage with the back of a wooden spoon, until beginning to brown, about 7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat for the pasta.
- To the skillet with the sausage, add the onion, carrot and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant and the vegetables are almost cooked through, about 4 minutes. Deglaze with the red wine, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato puree, cheese rind and rosemary sprig. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
- Once the pasta water is boiling, season generously with kosher salt. Add the pasta to the water and cook until just al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water.
- Remove and discard the Parmesan rind and rosemary sprig from the sauce. Add the pasta to the sauce and sprinkle the bare pasta with the Parmesan cheese and basil. Add 1/2 cup pasta water and toss well to coat, adding more pasta water as needed to maintain a light sauce. Serve with more Parmesan cheese on top if desired.