Braised Pork Ragù with Gnocchi
This braised pork ragù with gnocchi is tender, savory, and the perfect dinner for a cozy night in! It’s a simple but super impressive meal that your friends and family with absolutely love. With red wine-braised pork shoulder, fresh herbs, and lots of Parmesan, this dish is a huge crowd-pleaser for dinner parties, holidays, or Sunday meals!
This post is sponsored by Chairman’s Reserve® Meats. All opinions are my own.
If food is a love language, then my niche is pasta and braises and other cozy, low-stress (but high reward) dinners. The kind you eat while passing a bottle of wine around the table. The kind where you never even leave the kitchen table, you just hang out laughing with friends all night.
Bucatini carbonara with sausage and white lasagna with pesto and pancetta are some of the top requests from my friends. But after years in the kitchen perfecting this ragù, it has officially become a top dinner party contender! It’s rich and savory, feeds a lot of people, and truly, everyone loves it. Don’t miss out friends, you’re going to want to make this one ASAP!
Let’s talk about this recipe
This gnocchi with ragù, a.k.a. gnocchi al ragù, is like a hug in pasta form. After I originally learned how to make ragù in culinary school, I was hooked, and I’ve been working on my own special recipe ever since. It’s cozy and decadent with melt-in-your-mouth braised pork, red wine and tomato-based sauce, and pillowy potato gnocchi. Here’s why you’ll love it!
- The sauce is crazy flavorful thanks to the herbs, veggies, wine, and rich, savory pork!
- Ragù is surprisingly easy but so impressive. Low effort, high reward!
- It’s a set-it-and-forget-it meal. Make it in the oven or slow cooker.
- This recipe makes a large batch for a crowd. Perfect for holidays or a dinner party!
What is ragù?
If you’ve never had ragù, you’re missing out big time! Ragù is an Italian meat sauce made with beef, pork, veal, lamb, poultry, or a mix of different meats. It also has soffritto (carrots, celery, and onion), garlic, herbs, wine, a bit of tomatoes, and a splash of milk or cream to balance the flavors. Thanks to its low-and-slow cooking method, ragù is rich, succulent, and hearty.
- Neutral oil – I use canola. You want something with a high smoke-point to properly sear the pork.
- Chairman’s Reserve® Prime boneless pork shoulder – this cut is perfect for ragù thanks to its higher fat content. When it’s cooked low-and-slow, it will become tender and moist!
- Soffritto – a mixture of carrots, celery, and onions will add flavor and depth to the sauce.
- Garlic – this recipe has 8 whole cloves! But don’t worry, it won’t overpower the sauce – the flavor will mellow out as it braises.
- Herbs – my favorite combo is fresh rosemary, thyme, and oregano for an earthy, sweet, and savory mix. I also grab fresh parsley or basil for garnish.
- Tomato paste – to add an umami punch to the dish and intensify the tomato flavor.
- Red wine – not only does wine add richness and a hint of sweetness, but the alcohol will bind to the fat in the meat, creating a more nuanced flavor.
- Crushed tomatoes – choose higher-quality canned tomatoes for balanced sweetness and acidity. Lower-quality tomatoes can taste sour or bitter.
- Chicken broth – I recommend low-sodium so that you can control the saltiness of the sauce.
- Milk – a touch of whole milk or cream will balance the acidity in the ragù and help tenderize the meat.
- Bay leaf – a classic in braised dishes and stews, a bay leaf will add a peppery, herbal note.
- Salt and pepper – I use Morton Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
- Gnocchi – fresh, store-bought potato gnocchi is my go-to! Homemade is great but store-bought cuts out some time.
- Parmesan – every pasta needs a bit of melty cheese!
How to make this recipe
- First, cut the pork into chunks and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and sear the pork until it’s golden-brown on all sides, 2-3 minutes.
- Next, reduce the heat and add the soffritto – onions, carrots, and celery. Cook until the veggies are softened and light brown on the edges, 5-7 minutes.
- Add the garlic, rosemary, thyme, and oregano and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Stir the tomato paste into the veggies and cook until it’s dark red.
- Then, deglaze the pan with red wine. Reduce by half, scraping up any brown bits.
- Once the wine is reduced, add the tomatoes, chicken broth, and milk. Stir well.
- Then, place the pork into the sauce. Add a bay leaf and bring the sauce to a boil.
- Cover the pot with a lid and bake at 325°F for 2 1/2-3 hours, until the pork is very tender.
- Carefully remove the pot from the oven and shred the meat with two forks. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.
- Meanwhile, cook the gnocchi according to package directions.
- Mix the gnocchi and sauce with a splash of pasta water until glossy. Serve with parmesan and parsley or basil. Enjoy!
Can I make this in the slow cooker?
Absolutely! Here’s how to make slow cooker pork ragù:
- Cook the ragù according to recipe directions up to the point where you add the tomatoes, chicken broth, and milk.
- Then, carefully pour the sauce into a slow cooker and nestle the seared pork into the sauce.
- Add a bay leaf, cover, and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or HIGH for 3-4 hours until the sauce is thickened and the pork is fork tender.
- Shred the meat with forks and enjoy with gnocchi or pasta of choice!
Storing, freezing, & make-ahead
To store leftovers, pour the sauce into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4-5 days. The flavor of the sauce will continue to develop as it sits!
Once you’re ready to reheat the sauce, you have a couple of options. Microwave small portions of the sauce until it’s warmed through, 1-2 minutes. Or, for larger portions, heat it on the stove over medium-low heat until it’s hot, 8-10 minutes. Add a splash of water to thin, if necessary.
To freeze the sauce, pour it into a freezer-safe container or zipper bag. Leave a little space at the top for the sauce to expand. Then, freeze for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy the sauce, let it defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat using the above instructions.
For make-ahead ragù, you can either freeze the sauce or refrigerate it for up to 5 days. The slow cooker is another great choice if you want a hands-off option!
When I’m serving ragù to guests, or as a cozy Sunday dinner, I like to add a few side dishes to round out the meal! Here are some of my favorites:
- Pasta – gnocchi is my go-to but I also like pappardelle, rigatoni, or penne.
- Polenta – creamy polenta with a touch of parmesan? Yes, please!
- Rice – for a gluten-free option, I love serving this ragù with white rice.
- Salad – Caesar or a simple green salad with balsamic vinaigrette.
- Veggies – roasted broccoli or lemony green beans.
- Bread – garlic bread, dinner rolls, or ciabatta.
If you’re in a pinch, or can’t find an ingredient, try these swaps instead!
- Pork – you can use pork butt in place of the shoulder. Just keep in mind, pork butt is a bit fattier.
- Herbs – use any mix of Italian herbs that you like. Basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, and parsley are all good. Fresh tastes much better but dried will work if that’s all you have.
- Wine – I like a decent Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon but you can also use white wine! Go for something dry and crisp like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.
- Tomatoes – for a chunkier sauce, use a can of good-quality whole tomatoes. Just use your hands to break them apart as you add them to the sauce. They’ll break down further as they simmer.
- Broth – use low-sodium beef or veggie broth instead of chicken.
- Milk – use cream instead of whole milk. You can also replace it with water for a dairy-free option.
Tips & tricks
- Cook the soffritto until it’s soft and browned on the edges, at least 5 minutes. This will add a deeper, richer flavor to the sauce.
- Braise the sauce in a large Dutch oven. This recipe makes a lot so you’ll want some room! You’ll also want to make sure that both the pot and lid are oven-safe since they’ll be baking for up to 3 hours.
- The secret to this recipe is a splash of whole milk! Not only will it help tenderize the meat, but it balances the acidity in the sauce.
- For tender pork, cook the sauce low and slow. You really can’t rush the ragù process or it’ll be tough and bland.
- If you’re making this recipe in a slow cooker, you’ll still want to sear the pork and sauté the veggies. Otherwise, the sauce won’t be as rich and flavorful as the oven version.
What is the difference between Ragù and Bolognese?
While ragù and bolognese are both meat sauces, they’re not the same thing. Bolognese is actually a type of ragù that originates from Bologna. While it also has soffritto, a bit of tomatoes, and a splash of milk, it’s typically made with ground meat and white wine. Of course, everyone has their own recipe so you may notice even more differences!
What cut of pork is best?
You’ll want to use boneless pork shoulder in this ragù. Braising will tenderize the meat, and the fat from the pork shoulder will keep the meat nice and moist. If you can’t find shoulder, use pork butt which is also a part of the pork shoulder but has a bit more fat. Just trim any excess fat to prevent an oily sauce!
Can I use other kinds of pasta?
Definitely! I love gnocchi with pork ragù but you can use other types of pasta in this recipe too. I like wide noodles like pappardelle, or tube pastas like rigatoni or penne.
Can I halve this recipe?
Yes! For a small batch ragù, simply halve this recipe and keep the cooking methods the same. You can also freeze leftovers for later! See freezing tips above.
More cozy pastas you’ll love
If you make this recipe, I would love it if you left a star rating and review! I read every single comment and love hearing what you think about my recipes. Thank you for supporting Sunday Table!
Braised Pork Ragù with Gnocchi
- 2 1/2 pounds Chairman’s Reserve® Prime boneless pork shoulder, fat trimmed
- Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 Tablespoons neutral oil (canola or vegetable)
- 1 large yellow onion, small dice
- 3 carrots, peeled and small dice
- 2 celery stalks, small dice
- 8 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 Tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh oregano
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 1/2 pounds potato gnocchi
- Parmesan, for serving
- Fresh parsley or basil, minced, for garnish
- Large Dutch oven (oven safe)
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Position a rack in the middle of your oven.
- Cut the pork shoulder into large chunks (about 3-4 inches). Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, sear the pork for 2-3 minutes on each side, until it's golden-brown. Work in batches, if necessary. Place the seared pork on a plate and set aside.
- Drain off all but 2 Tablespoons of the fat from the pot. Return the Dutch oven to medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery (soffritto) along with a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the veggies are softened and starting to brown on the edges, 5-7 minutes.
- Add the garlic, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
- Next, add the tomato paste. Stir the paste into the veggies until it turns dark red, about 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and cook until reduced by half, about 2-3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, and milk and stir to combine.
- Nestle the pork into the sauce until it's coated. Add the bay leaf. Bring the sauce to a boil.
- Once the sauce reaches a boil, remove it from the heat. Cover the pot and set it on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 2 1/2-3 hours, until the sauce is thick and the pork is fork tender.
- Carefully remove the pot from the oven and uncover. Remove the bay leaf from the sauce and discard. Then, use two forks to finely shred the pork. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if necessary.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a few generous pinches of salt. Cook the gnocchi until al dente, according to package directions. Using a liquid measuring cup, reserve about 1 cup of pasta water. Drain the gnocchi.
- Add the gnocchi to the ragù along with 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water. Stir, adding more pasta water if necessary, until the gnocchi is coated and the sauce is glossy.
- Divide the gnocchi al ragù between pasta bowls. Garnish with parmesan and parsley or basil. Enjoy!
Slow Cooker Ragù
- To make this recipe in a slow cooker, make it up to the point where you add the crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, and milk (step 6). Then, carefully transfer the sauce to the bowl of a slow cooker.
- Nestle the seared pork into the sauce and add a bay leaf. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or HIGH for 3-4 hours, until the sauce is thick and the pork is very tender.
- Once the pork is done cooking, remove the bay leaf and discard. Use two large forks to finely shred the pork. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if desired.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the gnocchi until al dente, according to package directions. Using a liquid measuring cup, reserve about 1 cup of pasta water. Drain the gnocchi.
- Add the gnocchi to the slow cooker along with 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water. Stir, adding more pasta water if necessary, until the pasta is coated and the sauce is glossy. Serve the gnocchi with parmesan and basil or parsley. Enjoy!
xo Sara Lynn
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