Penne with Pork, Tomato and Eggplant Ragu

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Ingredients:

  • 450g Dried Penne Pasta
  • 100g Parmesan (grated)
  • 3 Zucchini (cut into chunks)

Pork, Tomato and Eggplant Ragu

  • 2 Medium Eggplants (washed, trimmed, and diced)
  • 4 Onions (trimmed, peeled, and sliced)
  • 2litres Tinned San Marzano Tomatoes
  • 500ml Chicken Stock
  • 150ml Tomato Paste
  • 1000g Ground Pork
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 1 Head of Garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 Bunch Thyme
  • 1 Bunch Oregano
  • 3tbsp Dried Chili Pepper Flakes
  • Olive Oil

Instructions:

Pork, Tomato and Eggplant Ragu

  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF oven.
  2. Place the eggplant onto a large sheet pan and coat with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place your eggplant in the oven and roast for 45mins-1hrs, until the eggplant is golden brown all over and the flesh is soft and tender.
  3. In a large wide surface pot with a lid, cook under high heat until piping hot. Add 3tbsp olive oil and add your ground pork in batches and cook until the water content has released, evaporated and the mince is well coloured.
  4. When all your ground pork is cooked through, reduce your heat to medium high and add your tomato paste, onions, chili pepper and garlic.  Cook for 4-5mins while constantly stirring until your onions are sweated down and softened.
  5. Turn your heat back on to high.  Add your cooked eggplant, tinned tomatoes, chicken stock, and herbs.  When your mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat down to low and allow to gently simmer for 1.5-2hrs.  While cooking, occasionally stir the mixture to prevent it from burning at the bottom.
  6. Remove your ragu mixture and set aside for later.

Pasta

  1. Fill a large pot with water, add a generous amount of sea salt and heat under high heat until rapidly boiling.
  2. Add your dried Penne noodles into your pot with boiling water and cook until al dente.  Remove and set aside.
  3. Add your zucchini into your pot with boiling water and cook for 2-3mins until al dente.  Remove and set aside.
  4. Pour your cooked Penne, zucchini and approximately 500g of your Pork Tomato and Eggplant Ragu mixture into a large bowl and toss through until well combined.  Place your pasta into a  large serving dish or bowl.  Add another 500g of your Pork Tomato and Eggplant Ragu mixture on top along with your grated Parmesan.

Notes

  • The recipe for the Pork Tomato and Eggplant Ragu mixture makes a very large batch and you’re only going to need about a third or a quarter of this recipe to make this dish.  However, the Ragu mixture freezes well and is very versatile and can be used in other pasta dishes such as spaghetti, lasagna or even polenta.
  • You can always scale it down to make enough for one portion, in which case you’ll need approximately (1 Medium Eggplant, 1 Onion, 500ml Tinned San Marzano Tomatoes, 150ml Chicken Stock, 40ml Tomato Paste, 250g Ground Pork, 1 Bay Leaf, 3-4 cloves of garlic, 1 Bunch Thyme, 1 Bunch Oregano, 1tbsp Dried Chili Pepper Flakes, and Olive Oil), as well as reduce the cooking time to 30-45mins.
  • It’s better if you can make the Ragu mixture a day or two ahead before in order to give it time for the mixture to mature.
  • You can substitute the ground pork for another protein such as beef, veal, chicken, turkey, etc to suit your taste.  You can also swap the ground pork with sausage meat, which is essentially the same thing but with additional flavours and seasoning to give the Ragu mixture a bit more character.
  • Alternately you can replace the Penne with another type of pasta you have on hand such as Linguine, Farfalle, Fusili, etc.  But I find Penne works best, as the ridges and tubular shape help to catch more of the Ragu mixture. 

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