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Instant Pot Pork Ragu with Basil Polenta

 Instant Pot Pork Ragu with Basil Polenta achieves slow-cooked goodness in a fraction of the time using a pressure-cooker! Lean pork cook in red wine, tomatoes, and herbs with plump currants over creamy basil polenta… Bellissimo!

2 brown ceramic bowls with Instant Pot Pork Ragu with Basil Polenta, a linen napkin, and red wine.

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.

~~ Thomas Carlyle

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – Recipe Inspiration

Philosophical thought from a food blog? Yes. Major life changes (such as relocating away from friends and family after 22 years) are tough. Our transition from New Mexico to Texas has not been an easy one; our 35 year marriage has struggled. It is not an over-simplification to say “food” helps us overcome the “obstacles” and the “discouragements.”

Instant Pot Pork Ragu with Basil Polenta came to me at the end of a very difficult couple of days. Fixing a special meal – typically a Friday evening “date night” – is one way I express love to my husband.

One of the ways my husband supports me (and loves me back) is in encouraging me as a blogger, in helping me “test” new recipes, in providing valuable feedback, and in getting my photography equipment in order.

He endures cold dinners occasionally, holds my reflector and light at all different angles, and is genuinely a good sport. He’d probably tell you that being the husband of a food blogger is a mixed blessing… He sometimes eats the same meal several times in a week, occasionally has to eat it cold, and goes a very long time without enjoying dishes “I used to make all the time” because I’m constantly trying out new dishes!

So, when “the rubber meets the road,” and our relationship needs a “jump start,” it often happens around the table as it did with this recipe.

🍲Instant Pot, Slow Cooker, or Stove Top

While I love the tender, succulent results of my slow-cooker, I’m not very good at planning ahead. I have found that my pressure cooker is invaluable during the colder months in achieving the results of a slow-cooker in a mere fraction of the time. As I mentioned in Pressure-Cooker Braised Lamb Shanks & Couscouspressure-cookers have evolved, and are no longer the scary, explosive devices they once were.  ๐Ÿ˜‰  You have nothing to fear – and much to gain – in learning to use one!

This pork ragu recipe can be adapted to Instant Pot (pressure cooker), slow cooker, or stove top. The main difference is in the cooking time. Under pressure, 1 hour plus time to de-pressurize is sufficient. On the stove top, you’ll need closer to 2 1/2 hours, and in the slow cooker, 6 to 8 hours is ideal.

🍝 What is Ragu?

True Ragu is, by definition, a slow-cooked sauce that contains at least one kind of meat. The ingredients vary from region to region. Ragu bolognese is one that I’ve returned to time and again. My favorite is made with elk (when I can get it from dear friends!), and I use it in my lasagna recipe.

I’ve posted my healthy and economical version of bolognese on my blog – Turkey Bolognese & Roasted Spaghetti Squash. It still requires quite some time on the stove top.

Pork Ragu with Basil Polenta made in a pressure-cooker can be on your table in about an hour, and features the rich flavors and falling-apart tenderness of one that was simmered for hours. Of course you can make it the “standard” way – on your cooktop – but you will need 2 to 2 1/2 hours to get the job done…

🍷 Pairing Suggestions

My favorite way to serve this pork ragu is with polenta. This basil and asiago polenta is a lovely complement to the savory, rich sauce. Of course the sauce would be delicious on pasta or even roasted spaghetti squash if you’re looking for a low carb alternative.

We recently received a case of Lawrence Dunham Vineyards wines from our friends and winemakers Curt Dunham and Peggy Fiandaca in Arizona, and the 2012 Syrah was an absolutely perfect pairing! This full-bodied red wine was a good match for the bold, spicy flavors of my pork ragu.

Since I am regularly cooking for only 2 now, we will enjoy thawing the leftovers a couple of times… The anticipation of those leftovers makes the time spent on this dish even more worthwhile.  ๐Ÿ™‚

Pork Ragu

  • boneless pork – I prefer boneless pork loin, but you can use any boneless cut. I would not recommend using expensive pork tenderloin as it is tender with very little cooking time.
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • onion
  • carrots – They need to be grated or minced. I use these matchstick carrots. They’re a great time saver!
  • red wine – Don’t use wine you wouldn’t drink! It doesn’t need to be (and shouldn’t be) an expensive wine, but don’t use cooking wine or wine you wouldn’t drink…
  • canned or packaged tomatoes – I love these rustic tomatoes.
  • bay leaves – I use fresh when I have them.
  • rosemary – I have rosemary in my garden, and always use fresh.
  • dried oregano leaves
  • nutmeg – I keep whole nutmeg in my pantry, and grate it fresh.
  • crushed red pepper
  • currants
  • Italian parsley and hard cheese – You’ll want these to garnish your ragu.

Basil Polenta

  • broth/stock – I use homemade, or Kitchen Basics chicken stock.
  • cornmeal – Use medium or coarse ground cornmeal. You do not need to use “Polenta.” It’s just cornmeal that is well-suited to making polenta (either medium or coarse cornmeal). Do NOT use fine cornmeal! It will resemble paste.
  • hard cheese – You can use parmesan, parmagiano reggiano, asiago, pecorino, etc.
  • fresh basil
  • extra virgin olive oil

Pork Ragu

  1. Brown the pork and sauté the aromatics – Over medium-high heat or on the brown/saute setting, add a drizzle of olive oil to the pot. Add the cubed pork, and sprinkle with salt. Cook until the edges begin to brown. Add garlic, onions, and grated carrots. Continue to cook until onion is translucent.
  2. De-glaze – De-glaze the pot with the red wine. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, rosemary, oregano, nutmeg, and crushed red pepper.
  3. Cook the ragu – Lock the lid in place, and set 40 minutes (or set a timer). Do a 10 minute “natural release,” and then release all the pressure. While the ragu cooks, make the polenta. For stove top or slow cooker see Tips and FAQ below.
  4. Finish the ragu – When the button has dropped, it is safe to remove the lid. Add the currants, check for salt and pepper, stir well. Return lid to the pot with heat on low until ready to plate.

Basil Polenta

  1. Cook the cornmeal – To a medium saucepan, add broth/stock and salt. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat, and whisk in the cornmeal by slowly sprinkling it in. This helps to avoid lumps. Once the cornmeal is incorporated into the broth/stock, cover the saucepan Cook 30 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. Mixture should be at a simmer, not a boil. Stir occasionally.
  2. Finish the polenta – Add the grated cheese, basil, olive oil, and fresh ground pepper. Stir to combine. Check seasoning.

To Serve

  1. Plate a scoop of polenta (I like a shallow bowl). Top with a scoop of ragu. Garnish with parsley and additional cheese as desired.
Pork Ragu with Basil Polenta
My stove top pressure cooker with completed pork ragu.
Pork Ragu with Basil Polenta
The completed creamy basil polenta ready to be plated!

This is a creamy, soft polenta rather than a firmer one that might be used for grilling. If you have leftover polenta, press into a container, and refrigerate. It becomes quite firm, and can be pan fried. Delicious!

Since I’m cooking for 2, I freeze leftovers in 2 person packages. I find this recipe makes 6 servings (for our portions), so I get 3 meals. I sometimes switch it up and serve with roasted spaghetti squash or pasta.

I really like to use a good quality Italian brand of tomatoes when I’m making an amazing dish like this one! I like Dei Fratilli Prima Qualita “Rustic Cut” Tomatoes. This cart is 25.46 ounces. Substitute your favorite tomatoes if you prefer.

I use a potato masher (see Useful Stuff) to break up the tender pork.

What type of cornmeal should I use?

Do not use fine ground cornmeal to make polenta. You do not need to use cornmeal labeled “polenta.” “Polenta” is the finished dish, but some companies market cornmeal that is appropriate for making polenta (and it comes at a higher price). Either medium or coarse grind cornmeal is fine.

How do I adapt this pork ragu recipe for a slow cooker or stove top?

The process is the same whichever method you choose. Browning the pork and aromatics is critical, so if you’re using a slow cooker, you’ll need to complete the dish through de-glazing with the wine before adding to the slow cooker. You’ll need 4to 5 hours on high, or 6 to 8 hours on low for super tender pork. For cooking on stove top, the process is the same as with the Instant Pot/pressure cooker, but you’ll cover and simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

How to I achieve the creamiest polenta?

Don’t rush the process. Polenta requires 30 minutes (or more) for creamy perfection.

Potato Masher
Rustic Tomatoes
Organic Polenta

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. This helps to offset the costs of maintaining my blog and creating awesome content! 😊

Have you tried cooking with an Instant Pot/pressure-cooker? If so, how would you describe your results and experience using it? I would love feedback on this one!

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.
Yield: 6 servings

Instant Pot Pork Ragu with Basil Polenta

Pork Ragu with Basil Polenta Thumbnail

Pork Ragu with Basil Polenta achieves slow-cooked goodness in a fraction of the time using a pressure-cooker! Lean pork cook in red wine tomatoes, and herbs with plump currants over creamy basil polenta... Bellissimo!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes

Ingredients

Ragu

  • 1 1/2 pounds pork loin, cubed*
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 26 ounce carton Italian "rustic" tomatoes (or similar)
  • 2 bay leaves, fresh are lovely!
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (1 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, fresh grated*
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • sea salt/fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup currants
  • Italian parsley, chopped
  • additional hard cheese for grating, optional

Polenta

  • 4 cups broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup grated asiago*
  • handful fresh basil, chopped*
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh ground pepper
  • * See Notes

Garnishes

  • Italian parsley, chopped
  • asiago, parmesan, or romano for grating

Instructions

Pork Ragu

  1. Over medium-high heat or on the brown/saute setting, add a drizzle of olive oil to the pot. Add the cubed pork, and sprinkle with salt. Cook until the edges begin to brown. Add garlic, onions, and grated carrots. Continue to cook until onion is translucent.
  2. De-glaze the pot with the red wine. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, rosemary, oregano, nutmeg, and crushed red pepper.
  3. Lock the lid in place, and set 40 minutes (or set a timer). Do a 10 minute "natural release," and then release all the pressure.
  4. While the ragu cooks, make the polenta.
  5. When the button has dropped, it is safe to remove the lid. Add the currants, check for salt and pepper, stir well. Return lid to the pot with heat on low until ready to plate.

Basil Polenta

  1. To a medium saucepan, add broth/stock and salt. Bring to a gentle boil.
  2. Reduce heat, and whisk in the cornmeal by slowly sprinkling it in. This helps to avoid lumps.
  3. Once the cornmeal is incorporated into the broth/stock, cover the saucepan.
  4. Cook 30 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. Mixture should be at a simmer, not a boil. Stir occasionally.
  5. Add the grated cheese, basil, olive oil, and fresh ground pepper. Stir to combine.

To Serve

  1. Plate a scoop of polenta. Top with a scoop of ragu. Garnish with parsley and additional cheese if desired.

Notes

I use both a stove top pressure-cooker and an Instant Pot. Even with an electric stove, I feel I have a great deal of control over how pressurized the pot is. Brown the pork on the brown/saute setting if using electric, and medium-high heat if using a stove top model.

Pork loin is pretty lean, and it's easy to remove excess fat. You can substitute your preferred cut.

Use parmesan or romano in place of the asiago if you wish.

I like to use a potato masher on the pork to loosen it up a bit (after cooking and before adding currants).

I really like to use a good quality Italian brand of tomatoes when I'm making an amazing dish like this one! I like Dei Fratilli Prima Qualita "Rustic Cut" Tomatoes. This cart is 25.46 ounces. Substitute your favorite tomatoes if you prefer.

This is a creamy, soft polenta rather than a firmer one that might be used for grilling. If you have leftover polenta, press into a container, and refrigerate. It becomes quite firm, and can be pan fried. Delicious!

This dish is plated on a small plate rather than the larger dinner plate. This is such a help with portion control.

We enjoy this with a Greek salad of tomatoes, cucumber, kalamata olives, romaine, and lemon vinaigrette.

Macronutrients (approximation from MyFitnessPal.com): 416 calories; 33 g protein; 35 g carbohydrates; 9 g fat.

Nutrition Information:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 416Total Fat: 9gCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 33g

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29 Comments

  1. This was delicious! I didn’t see in the recipe when to add the cheese, so I added it to the polenta in the last few minutes of cooking. I also wanted a creamier polenta, so as the moisture evaporated I would pour in a few splashes of stock whenever I would go to stir it.

    This was juicy and delicious! A stew worthy of a bowl, rather than a plate, for sure!

  2. Made this tonight minus the currants (didnโ€™t have them). Absolutely delish!! The entire family loved it!

  3. We made this today and I have to say it was amazing. I used fresh tomatoes and cooked them down since I didnโ€™t have any canned. I also used Romano, because I didnโ€™t have Asiago. Delicious all the way. Thank you for such a perfect recipe. We will make this again.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to write in Geri! I don’t hear back often on a recipe, and it always means a lot. I’m so glad you loved it!

  4. I am in the process of purchasing an instant pot pressure cooker and I’ve been looking at recipes and came across this ragu one ๐Ÿ™‚ this is going to be the first thing I try when it arrives – looks super.

    1. Yay! I hope you like yours as much as I do mine! I created a Pinterest board for pressure-cooker recipes, and I’m looking for collaborators. I have found 2 thus far. Recipes are kind of hard to find… Thanks for stopping by, and Merry Christmas!

  5. I just salivated when I read Basil Asiago Polenta!! I love Polenta, and used to eat it when I lived by myself. I just realized I’ve never cooked it for my husband (who has NEVER had Polenta!!). This is the perfect way to get him hooked onto it too! ๐Ÿ˜€
    That ragu looks divine too… I am definitely craving for Ragu and Polenta now!

    1. I’d say hubby deserves to give it a try for sure! Polenta is an amazing comfort food, you can switch it up so many ways (I also make it with Hatch green chile in a southwestern U.S. preparation), and it’s soooo economical. It’s always good to hear from you Dini! Thanks!

    1. I knew what you meant ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’ll bet it was autocorrect because my phone did that to me with “ragu” too. I’m so glad you like the recipe, and do hope you give it a try! Thanks Germaine!

    1. Thanks Dawn! I think our guys need a shout out once in a while too ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for taking a look for me! I’m hoping to get this resolved before we leave for the Thanksgiving weekend tomorrow…