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!
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
Jump to the Recipe Please! 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 this weekend with Instant Pot Pork Ragu with Basil Polenta.
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 & Couscous, pressure-cookers have evolved, and are no longer the scary, explosive devices they once were. 😉 You have nothing to fear – and much to gain – in learning to use one!
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’ve posted my healthy and economical version 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 less than 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…
My favorite way to serve this 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. 🙂
Making Instant Pot Pork Ragu with Basil Polenta
My work flow for the Pork Ragu goes like this: Gather all of the ingredients (including picking fresh herbs if doing so). Brown the pork, onion, and garlic in it first, then add the rest of the ingredients (except the currants). Cook under pressure for 40 minutes, and then do a 10 minute natural pressure release…
While the ragu cooks, I start my polenta. I like to cook the polenta for about 30 minutes to achieve a very creamy consistency. Under-cooked polenta will be grainy! 😕 Just prior to serving, add the fresh basil and the grated cheese. Stir well to combine. Plate the ragu over top of the polenta, and garnish with fresh parsley and more cheese if desired.
Have you tried cooking with a pressure-cooker? If so, how would you describe your results and experience using it? I would love feedback on this one!
- 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*
- 2 bay leaves, fresh are lovely!
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 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
- 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
- Italian parsley, chopped
- asiago, parmesan, or romano for grating
- 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.
- De-glaze the pot with the red wine. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, rosemary, oregano, nutmeg, and crushed red pepper.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add the basil, olive oil, and fresh ground pepper. Stir to combine.
- Plate a scoop of polenta. Top with a scoop of ragu. Garnish with parsley and additional cheese if desired.
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.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 416 Total Fat: 9g Carbohydrates: 35g Protein: 33g