Pork Ragu with Semolina Gnocchi


I started my very first grease fire Sunday night while making this recipe. Let me tell you, when you see an empty pot erupt into flames on your stove (while you’re frantically waving a hot pad at your fire alarm 10 feet away), your life flashes before your eyes. Just kidding. But it’s effing scary, nonetheless.

This is what happened to me: I paused for a second and wondered if the flames would naturally go out themselves. They didn’t. Then I looked around the immediate area and wondered what could catch on fire. The paper towels? The calendar on the wall? The entire wall? So I grabbed the pot by its handles and threw it in the sink. Where it continued to burn. What? It’s off the heat. Why is it still burning?

Before I turned the faucet on full blast, I briefly wondered if water would make it worse. Isn’t there some special substance you’re supposed to use to put out a grease fire? I didn’t have time to Google the matter and I couldn’t remember if I had a fire extinguisher anywhere in my house. FYI – the substance you’re supposed to use on grease fires is baking soda (or the lid to a pan). If you want to read a really scary article about how to handle grease fires, click here.

I did everything wrong, according to that article. Starting with putting water on the fire. So yeah, do not use water to put out a grease fire. But I did! And it worked. Oh, you’re also not supposed to try to take the fire outside. Well, I didn’t do that, but I’m sure you’re not supposed to try to move the fire to your sink either?

My entire two-bedroom apartment was filled with a thick smoke by the time I put the fire out. My poor dog. He jumped from his content spot on the couch where he was snoozing as soon as the fire alarm(s) started sounding. After the fire alarm goes off, he will not come back inside of his own volition. Even if it’s pouring rain!


  • 2.5 lb boneless pork tenderloin
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • Canola oil
  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 large celery stalk, minced
  • 1 carrot, minced
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 1 c. dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 2 T. cider vinegar
  • 1 28-oz can whole tomatoes
  • 1 c. chicken stock
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 T. fresh oregano
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving


  1. Pat meat dry and season with salt and pepper. (Shit. I didn’t pat the meat dry, nor did I season.)
  2. In a large pot, heat a few tablespoons of oil over high heat. Sear the loin on all sides until golden brown. Remove pork, without starting a grease fire in the pot, and set aside.
  3. Reduce heat in the pot to medium. Hopefully you haven’t scorched your pot at this point. If you have, get a new pot. Add bacon to pot and let some of the fat render, about 5 minutes. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook until soft and translucent, another 5 to 7 minutes. Toss in garlic and continue to cook for another 30 seconds.
  4. Add tomato paste and cook over medium heat, stirring, 2 minutes. Pour in wine and cider vinegar (I didn’t measure either of these ingredients) and reduce by half, turning up the heat if necessary. The sauce should really be bubbling at this point.
  5. Meanwhile, using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut tomatoes into large chunks while still in the can. Add the tomatoes with juices and chicken stock (didn’t measure this either) to the pot. Bring mixture to a boil.
  6. Meanwhile, place the pork in a crockpot and cover with salt, pepper, chili flakes and a pinch of sugar. Pour sauce over the pork and cook on high for approximately 4 hours or low approximately 8 hours, or until the meat is easily shreddable. Remove pork to a large cutting board and shred while still fairly hot. Stir minced oregano in sauce. Place the shredded pork back into the crockpot, cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight. The sauce will naturally thicken as it cools.
  7. To serve: reheat until warm, adding additional chicken stock if you think the sauce is too thick. (Is there such thing?) Adjust seasoning, if desired. Serve with warm Semolina Gnocchi. Arrange gnocchi in the bottom of a pasta/serving dish, ladle ragu over top and serve warm.

I asked one of my friends if he’s ever heard of ragu, the sauce, not the brand. When I explained the difference, he said, “Why would you make ragu, when you can buy Ragu? Touché.

But here’s why I wanted to make homemade ragu: I never knew there was such a sauce until I saw an episode of House where House was injecting homemade ragu into an egg. Thirteen arrives at Wilson’s house while House is cooking and he makes her try it. Thirteen tells House it was the best thing she’s ever had in her mouth. (You see why this moment was inspiring?)

And then a few weeks later my grandma happened to send me two different recipes for ragu. I take a lot of cooking cues from TV shows and movies. Not sure what it is. I see a character making or eating something I’ve never tried and suddenly I want to try making the dish, too.

The original recipe has you making the dish in a Dutch oven and baking at 325 degrees for about three hours. I don’t have a Dutch oven, so I did some research on how to convert a Dutch oven recipe to a crockpot recipe. Easily doable – just takes longer. Also, the original recipe called for a 4 pound bone-in pork shoulder. I didn’t have that, but I did have a boneless pork loin in my freezer. I reasoned that a 4 pound bone-in pork shoulder could yield 2.5 pounds of meat. Also, I’ve used boneless pork loin to make pulled pork, so I figured I could substitute in this instance.

This smells so wonderful when cooking for hours and hours in your crockpot. Really. I briefly went outside to take the garbage down to the curb and the smell wafted from the windows pulling me back into my kitchen. I found that some parts of the pork were more tender than others after four hours of cooking. I didn’t have time to see if leaving it in there would produce a tender meat on the inside. Instead I shredded all the meat.

The next day I reheated the sauce in my crockpot and served it with Semolina Gnocchi. The sauce was very thin, and there was a sh*t ton of pulled pork. I seem to remember being very free-wheeling when adding both the wine and chicken stock while cooking, so I added some additional tomato paste to attempt to thicken the sauce. This sauce has such an amazing flavor, I could drink it. I just wish it had turned out a tad bit thicker.

Recipe rating: 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s