Yes, you read that right. Polenta – from the microwave. It’s one of the best cooking tricks I have ever discovered. I love polenta but haven’t always had great luck making it. The consistency was never quite right – it would get too thick too soon before the polenta was fully cooked through. This recipe changed my luck – this polenta is soft and creamy and cooks in just 15 minutes. I have a 1000 watt microwave (yes, I managed to dig out the manual) and the polenta cooked perfectly in 15 minutes. You may need to adjust the cooking time depending on the wattage of your microwave. Because the mixture will come to a pretty good simmer, make sure you use a bowl that is big enough so that the polenta does not boil over. My other trick is to add a little crème fraîche in my polenta for added creaminess. It is totally optional but it is oh so good if you do. Give it a try if you have never had it.
And let’s not forget about the other star of this dish – the tender braised pork ragu. There is some prep work upfront but then you leave it alone for a couple of hours while all the good smells of simmering tomatoes, wine, rosemary and thyme fill your kitchen. And out comes a rich, melt in your mouth ragu. Even if you’re not up to making the polenta, the sauce would work great with some crusty bread or your favorite pasta. You really can’t go wrong with this one.
For the pork ragu
- 1 pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup full-bodied red wine (I use a Cabernet Sauvignon)
- 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
- 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/2 cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth
For the polenta
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 3/4 cup coarse polenta (not the quick-cooking kind; I use Bob’s Red Mill Yellow Corn Grits)
- 1/4 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons butter
- Fresh ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons crème fraîche, optional
- Chopped fresh parsley
- Grated Parmesan cheese
For the pork ragu
- Trim and discard any large sections of fat from the pork shoulder, then cut the pork shoulder into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Season pork with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add pork and brown the pieces on all sides, 10–12 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. Set aside.
- If there is a lot of fat in the pan, drain all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 8–10 minutes. If pan is dry, add a splash of wine to help deglaze the pan. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly darkened in color, about 2 minutes. Add wine and simmer for 2 minutes, scraping up any browned bits.
- Add tomatoes, rosemary, thyme and bay leaf; stir in water or broth. Add pork along with any juices accumulated on the plate.
- Bring mixture to a boil. Then cover, reduce heat, and simmer, adding more water or broth as needed, until meat is very tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- Discard bay leaf and thyme sprig. Using 2 forks, shred meat in pot; taste and season with salt and pepper.
For the polenta
- Whisk together broth and polenta in a large, microwave-safe bowl. Cover bowl with wax paper and cook in microwave on High until thickened, about 15 minutes, whisking every 5 minutes to combine.
- Stir in butter, pepper, and crème fraîche (if using). Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
- Divide polenta among 4 plates. Top with pork ragu, chopped parsley and grated Parmesan. Serve immediately while the polenta is still soft.