Umbrian hill town

~ Umbria has earned the nickname “The Green Heart of Italy” ~

Umbria’s green rolling hills, bucolic vistas and medieval hill towns easily rival those of its neighbor Tuscany.   Lying due East of Tuscany, Umbria boasts many ancient towns filled with storied history.  Full of crevices, corners, dead ends and trails to explore, it is often overlooked in favor of its next door neighbor.

The two provinces have much in common.  Winegrowing is paramount, but livestock, grains, olive oil and other agricultural products are critical to both regions.  During the Autumn, many festivals (Sagra in Italian) spring up in Piazzas across Umbria.  During this time of year there are many ubiquitous products to enjoy:  Truffles, Olive Oil and all manner of Umbrians most treasured meat, pork.

~ Open air markets in Umbria sell countless seasonal products ~

Today, thanks to inspiration from Italian Food Forever, I’m sharing a wonderful pasta ragu made in the Umbrian style.  This condimento relies on four different pork products to create a flavorful sauce for your favorite pasta.  At first, I thought this was going to turn out to be very similar to my Bolognese Recipe.  However, the end result here is more reliant on tomato than Bolognese and perhaps not surprisingly, is similar to the famous Tuscan ragus made for their Pici.

~ The Starting Point: diced onion, carrot and celery and the balance of the ingredients at the ready ~

Umbrian Pork Ragu

1 to 1/4 pound fresh ground pork
1/2 pound sausage meat
3 oz. Prosciutto or other cured meat (I decided to use Coppa)
3-4 oz. Pancetta
28 oz. Can San Marzano Tomatoes
500ml of tomato passata
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium onion
2 stalks celery
1 carrot
4 garlic cloves
1/2 cup dry red wine
Crushed Red Pepper to taste
Salt & Pepper to taste

Dice the vegetables as shown above.  Peel and mince the garlic.  In a heavy bottomed pot, drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil.  You don’t need a lot because the meat will ultimately render its fat.  Use just enough to saute the vegetables. Do so until softened – about 10 minutes.   Slice the Coppa and then along with the Pancetta, add both to the pot.

~ This is about 10 minutes in – just after the Coppa and Pancetta were added to the pot. Cook for a few minutes until the Pancetta begins to render and the vegetables soften further ~

~ This was taken just after adding the sausage and pork to the pot ~

Once the pancetta becomes fragrant, add the sausage and pork to the pot and stir through.  Cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until the meat is almost cooked through.   Add the 1/2 cup of red wine and cook along with the meat until the wine almost totally evaporates.  I have to admit, I don’t think this added anything to the finished ragu, but I did it anyway.  I may try it without next time.

Next, add the diced garlic, a pinch of crushed red pepper to taste, the canned tomatoes and the tomato passata.  Bring to a boil and stir through.  The whole tomatoes will break down as they cook.  Reduce the flame to a simmer and cook as long as you like.  The original recipe called for 90 minutes but I cooked mine about 6 hours.  Just check now and then and if it’s too dry, add a bit of water.

Tomato sauce cooking

~ This is the sauce up to this point. I added a generous handful of chopped parsley and basil before reducing the pot to a simmer ~

Before starting your pasta, check the ragu for seasoning and adjust to taste with salt and pepper.  What to drink with this?  We actually tried a few things including a Sangiovese from the Umbrian village of Castiglione del Lago and a Chianti Colli Senesi from Campochiarenti.  Having Sangiovese alongside this dish is a no brainer.  A Montefalco Rosso would be equally wonderful as would a Chianti Classico.

~ The finished ragu, plated with Orechiette. Rigatoni or Bucatini would work equally as well. Pass Pecorino at the table ~

Tutti a tavola a mangiare!

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