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Fresh Pasta with Pork Shoulder and Cocoa Sugo

Chef Vic Casanova flavors house-made pasta with cocoa to serve with his luscious pork ragù. The inspiration: traditional Italian recipes like this one, in which a little cocoa powder deepens the savory flavor of a meaty sauce.

  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 6

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  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 pounds trimmed boneless pork shoulder, cut into 4 slices

  • Salt

  • Freshly ground pepper

  • 1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped

  • 4 medium carrots, finely chopped

  • 4 celery ribs, finely chopped

  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced rosemary

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced sage

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 cup dry white wine

  • 1 quart chicken stock

  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint

  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 pound fresh tonnarelli or linguine

  • Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Season the pork slices with salt and pepper and brown over moderately high heat, turning once, 10 minutes. Transfer the pork to a plate.
  2. Reduce the heat to moderate. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, rosemary and sage to the casserole and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the cocoa powder and cook over moderate heat until the vegetables are softened, 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, until reduced by half, 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil.
  3. Return the pork to the pot, nestling it into the liquid. Cover and braise in the oven until very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
  4. Remove the meat and pull it into large shreds, discarding any fat. Transfer the braising liquid and vegetables to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the meat and sauce to the pot and stir in the mint, parsley, crushed red pepper and butter.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and add the pasta to the sauce, tossing over low heat until nicely coated, about 2 minutes. Serve the pasta in bowls, passing grated Pecorino at the table.

Make Ahead

The pork-cocoa sugo can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Suggested Pairing

Pour a ripe, fruit-forward Nero d’Avola from Sicily to go with this cocoa-scented, Sicilian-inspired ragù.

Photo © Christina Holmes Published April 2013

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