Three Meats Braised in Tomatoes with Rigatoni
Ragù Misto alla Molisana

serves: enough for 2 pounds pasta

This is one of those bountiful braises that you make when you want to delight a big table of family or friends, offering them an assortment of tender meats and pasta dressed with the braising sauce. Like other slowly cooked braises, this gives you two courses from one saucepan. Serve pasta dressed with the meaty-tasting tomato sauce as a first course-there's enough to dress 2 pounds of rigatoni. And then serve the pork, veal, and sausage as a second course. Of course, you don't have to serve it all for the same meal. Use half the sauce to dress a pound of pasta, freeze the rest, and you have a future meal all ready to go. And after serving the ragù, take any leftover bits and pieces of meat, shred and chop them up, clean the meat from the veal-chop bone, and blend all of it in with any leftover sauce. I bet you'll have enough sauce with meaty morsels for a lasagna or other baked pasta-yet another meal from that one big braising pan.

ingredients

For cooking the meats and sauce
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
6 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
2 large onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 fresh bay leaf
2½ teaspoons kosher salt
2 pound chunk boneless pork butt
1½ pound veal shoulder chop
½ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
1 cup red wine
10 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand
1 pound sweet Italian sausages, (without fennel seeds)

For Cooking and Serving the Pasta Course
2 pounds rigatoni
1 cup pecorino, freshly grated

directions


Pour the olive oil into the big saucepan, and set it over medium heat. Scatter in the sliced garlic, let it sizzle and start to color for a couple of minutes, stir in the chopped onions, rosemary, and bay leaf, and season with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cook for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and translucent.

Season the pork and veal chop all over with 11/2 teaspoons salt. Push the onions to one side of the pot, and lay the meat pieces in the pan bottom. Brown the meats slowly, turning frequently so all sides are evenly colored, about 10 minutes in all. When the meats are nicely browned, sprinkle the peperoncino in the pan bottom to toast for a minute, then stir the onions back into the center of the pot, scraping up the meat juices.

Turn up the heat, pour in the red wine, bring to a boil, and cook until almost completely evaporated. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, slosh out the cans with 4 cups of cold water, and add that as well. Stir in the remaining teaspoon salt. Cover the pan, and bring the sauce to a boil over high heat, then adjust the flame to keep a gentle, steady bubbling. Cook covered for an hour, stirring and turning the meat pieces over occasionally, then set the cover ajar to allow the sauce to reduce gradually as it bubbles away. Cook another hour, until the pork and veal are just tender, then drop in the sausages and continue simmering for another 45 minutes to an hour.

After nearly 3 hours of total braising, the meats should be extremely tender and readily broken apart; the sauce should be thick and flavorful. Check the concentration of the sauce during the long cooking: If it seems too thin, remove the cover altogether. If it's reducing too fast, cover the pan tightly and lower heat.

If you'll be serving the meats and dressing pasta right away, remove the meat to a warm platter, take out a couple of cups of sauce for the meat, and leave the rest in the big saucepan to dress pasta (about 8 cups sauce for 2 pounds rigatoni, or 4 cups sauce for 1 pound). If you'll be serving the meat and sauce later, leave them both in the saucepan to cool; refrigerate, or freeze for longer keeping.

To cook and dress rigatoni with sauce: fill the pasta pot with plenty of well-salted water (at least 6 quarts water with a tablespoon salt for 1 pound of rigatoni; 8 quarts and 11/2 tablespoons salt for 2 pounds), and heat to a rolling boil. Stir in the rigatoni, return the water to a boil, and cook until the pasta is just al dente.

Meanwhile, if you're using the sauce right away, bring it back to a simmer in the big saucepan or a big skillet, preferably 14 inches in diameter. If the sauce has cooled and thickened, loosen it with some of the pasta cooking water.

Lift the rigatoni out of the pot, drain briefly, and drop them into the sauce. Toss well for a minute or so, over low heat, until the rigatoni are nicely coated and perfectly al dente. Turn off the heat, sprinkle on the grated cheese, and toss again; if you like, drizzle on more olive oil, and toss that in as well. Serve the pasta right away, transferring it to a large warm bowl to serve family-style, or heaping it in individual warm pasta bowls. Serve immediately, passing more cheese at the table.

To serve the meat as a secondo or main course: Slice the pork and veal. Pour the reserved sauce in a skillet, lay in the slices and sausages, and place over low heat until the meat is heated through. Serve on a warmed platter with some of the sauce, passing the rest.