I’m actually not sure where the word “sugo” comes from, or if there’s an official definition, but in my book a sugo is a pasta sauce that contains braised meat, and relatively little tomato. Also in my book, is that it’s one of my all time favorite pasta sauces. Here I’m making a Pork Sugo.
I cook mine for hours and hours over low heat, and what develops is an absolutely delicious and complex sauce that goes insanely well with thick cut pastas, like fettucini and pappardelle, filled pastas, like ravioli and tortellini, and gnocchi. In this recipe I use pork shoulder as my meat, but I think beef (especially short ribs) works equally as well. And this is a great way to use leftover roasts – like I’m doing here.
Recipe Overview and Keys to Success
Despite being a sauce that literally takes all day to make, the dish is technically really simple, and has a very wide tolerance for ingredient substitution – you can use just about anything. You just want to make sure you do a few key things:
- Make sure you sear the meat well, and get a good golden brown layer on the outside. That contributes tremendous flavor
- Make sure you cook the sauce long enough so that the meat becomes super tender and all the flavors mix together
- Make sure you keep enough liquid in the pot to allow the meat to braise, and to prevent the bottom from burning. If needed, you can add some additional water at any time, it will just evaporate off.
Ingredients for Pork Sugo
- About one pound of pork shoulder cut into cubes about 3 inches in diameter
- Onion – diced
- Carrot – diced
- Celery – 1 stalk diced
- Garlic – 3 – 4 cloves chopped or minced
- Milk – a cup
- Red wine – 2 cups
- Beef stock – 2 – 3 cups
- One medium size can of whole tomatoes – Crushed with your hands
- Parmesan cheese – quarter cup grated
- Rosemary – a sprig
- Nutmeg – ½ teaspoon
- One Bay leaf
Searing the Meat
- In the same pan you’re making the sauce in, sear your seasoned (salt and paper) pieces of pork in very hot olive oil until all the meat is golden brown. It will work better, if your pan is large enough to keep the meat in only one layer.
- Remove the meat while you sauté the vegetables
Making the pasta sauce
- Add more olive oil to the pan if needed, and add in the carrots, onion, celery and garlic
- Sauté the vegetables over medium heat until they are soft and just slightly turning brown on the edges
- Add the meat back to the pan along with the red wine to deglaze the pan, bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down to medium low
- With a wooden spoon, scrap the bits off the bottom of the pan and let the wine reduce by two thirds; will probably take 20 – 30 minutes
- Add in the milk and stir to combine; again reduce by about half over the next 20 -30 minutes
- Add in the tomatoes, which you’ve removed from the can and crushed in your hands to break them up a bit, and also add the beef stock
- Grate a quarter to half a teaspoon of nutmeg into the sauce
- Add in a bay leaf and a sprig of rosemary
- At this point the consistency should be like a slightly thick soup; over time most of that liquid will evaporate out
- After two – three hours the sauce should be significantly reduced; add in the parmesan cheese and stir to combine
- Cover and cook for another 2 – 3 hours (total cooking time 5+ hours)
- Check every hour or so, and if needed add some more water to keep the sauce from becoming too thick and burning on the bottom of the pan; if it’s too thin let it simmer with the cover off as that will evaporate the water more quickly.
- At this point the meat should be very tender, and with a fork, you can break it apart into bit size pieces that are distributed evenly throughout the sauce
- Taste, and do a final seasoning with salt and pepper, and toss with your favorite cooked pasta