Converting a Recipe: “Decadent Pork Ragu” in a Slow Cooker

I couldn’t get that recipe that I re-blogged earlier this week out of my head, but I wanted to do something a little different with it, so I converted it to a slow-cooker recipe. The original recipe is from The Travelling Pantry (see my re-blog from September 30).

I’ve become so stuck on cooking pork shoulder for pulled pork sandwiches, that they are on the verge of becoming boring. Well, that’s a stretch, because pulled pork is one of those delights that are hard to beat. Maybe they have just become too easy to cook without making a mistake. Whatever the case, this recipe has led me to think of other things to do with the shredded meat, so I’m starting with it, and we’ll see what else I can come up with on my own later.

I’m using the slow cooker method that I posted on September 24, but with the ingredients from The Travelling Pantry. I noticed that the original recipe calls for crushed tomatoes, and I had been planning to make some for the freezer, so it was really serendipity that this recipe crossed my path at the same time my garden was pushing more tomatoes on me—really, October and the tomatoes are still ripening?

So, what prompts you to convert a recipe? Is it mostly based on what you have or don’t have in your pantry? Is it some ingredient that you fancy using, maybe for the first time? Or do you have a few recipes in your repertoire that you just know together would make an even better dish?

Then how do you go about converting recipes? Usually, I just boldly say yes or no to some of the ingredients, and just as boldly add what I think will work. In this conversion, I mostly followed the ingredients from the original recipe, but used the slow cooker method of cooking. My biggest concern was that I would have more liquid in the sauce, both from using the slow-cooker and from any difference between my homemade crushed tomatoes and canned ones. I’ll give ingredient comparisons and substitutions in the recipe.

Make sure you see the professionally-styled photos on the original recipe site.


'Decadent Pork Ragu' in a Slow Cooker

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy-moderate
  • Print

Adapted for the slow cooker from The Travelling

1 2.5-3 lb boneless pork butt, netting removed (Original: 1 kg boneless pork shoulder, cut in half)

3.5-4 cups homemade or canned crushed tomatoes (Original: 800g crushed or tinned cherry tomatoes)

1 medium onion, 1 leek, 1 rib celery, sliced (Original: 1 each of onion, leek and celery stalk – finely chopped)

1.5 tablespoons olive oil (Original: 1 ½ tbsp. olive oil)

12 oz thick-sliced bacon, diced (Original: 350g pancetta, finely diced)

1/2 cup beef stock (Original: 150ml Madeira)

1 cup deli black olives, not oil-cured (Original: 200g black Ligurian olives, pitted) [I couldn’t find that kind of olive anywhere and still have no idea what they are.]

2 tablespoons marjoram leaves (Original: 11/2 tbsp marjoram leaves, plus extra to serve) [I forgot about the extra and whirred them all up in the blender.]

2 tablespoons butter (Original: 30g butter, coarsely chopped)

1 lb pasta that holds up to a heavy sauce; I used Wegmans Organic Riccioli (Original: 750 dried pasta [“rigatoni works well, I used Mafadelle on this occasion”])

Parmesan cheese, grated for garnish (not in original ingredient list, but added at end of post—I missed it the first time)

  1. Sauté onion, leek, and celery in olive oil over medium heat with light salt and pepper seasoning. Remove to slow cooker.
  2. In same pan, brown diced bacon. Remove to slow cooker. I suspect the substitution of bacon for pancetta might have made the biggest difference in the final taste. My bacon was apple wood smoked. Pancetta is not smoked, but cured in salt and dried.
  3. In same pan, heat crushed tomatoes to warm if they have been refrigerated. Add to slow cooker.
  4. Add beef stock to slow cooker. This addition is why my sauce looks more brown in the photo with the meat added, above.
  5. Set aside olives, marjoram leaves, and butter until pork is cooked.
  6. Set pork butt on top of sauce and vegetables. Lightly salt and pepper.
  7. Cover slow cooker. If your slow cooker has a timer, set it for 6 hours and cook on high.
  8. Carefully remove meat to a platter. The pork will be falling apart and should be lifted with large slotted spoons or spatulas so that all the vegetables remain in the sauce. Shred the meat with two forks.
  9. Making the sauce: The original recipe calls for blending the vegetables and sauce with an immersion blender, and this would be the easiest method. I don’t have one, plus I worried about have too much liquid, so I removed the vegetables with a long-handled skimmer to a blender and processed to purée. Pour the purée and as much remaining liquid as needed to make a sauce that is thick enough to coat the pasta into a medium saucepan. I ended up using all the remaining liquid, to my surprise. I was afraid I would have to thicken the sauce, but it was not necessary.
  10. Add butter and marjoram to sauce and heat through. As I noted above, I added all the marjoram to the vegetables in the blender without reserving any for appearance. It didn’t hurt, except aesthetically.
  11. Return sauce and shredded meat to cooker to keep warm while cooking pasta according to package directions.
  12. Add pasta to meat sauce and toss. Conversely, you could plate pasta and add sauce to each plate.

This is a very flavorful dish and a nice alternative use of shredded pork suitable for the fancy dinners described in the original recipe. I have no idea how the taste compares to the original and probably won’t be flying to Australia any time soon to find out, but we liked it very much.

I also missed that the original recipe serves grated Parmesan at the table, but we are eating it again tonight and I will definitely be adding that.



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