Spicy Pork, Fennel and Eggplant Ragu

Once you have savored this robust, complex sauce you will want to put it on all your pasta. It also makes fabulous lasagna. Mixed with cooked rigatoni, penne or ziti, it can also be topped with cheese and baked. This recipe makes enough to adequately sauce one pound of pasta when cooked. We recommend Isernio’s Hot Italian sausage for this, but try the flavorful Chicken Sausage Rolls for a lighter variation. This sauce is even better if made the day before you are going to use it – or at least a few hours.

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  1. In a large Dutch oven or flameproof casserole with a lid, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add pancetta, pork shoulder& sausage. Sauté until the meat is lightly browned all over, at least 10 minutes (this is critical to adding flavor to the ragu, so do not skimp on this step).
  3. Add the onion, fennel and fronds, eggplant, garlic, bay leaves, fennel seeds, a pinch of salt and the chilies. Sauté until the vegetables start to soften, about another 5 minutes. Reduce the heat at any time if the skillet bottom gets too brown.
  4. Add the red wine and let it bubble for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the ragu has good body and the pork meat is starting to shred. Skim the surface of the ragu once or twice during the cooking, depending on the fattiness of your meat.
  5. Add the basil and the balsamic vinegar (this will sharpen all the flavors). Taste for seasoning. Add more salt if needed. Set aside and keep warm while cooking pasta. Or, if making ahead, cool and refrigerate in a well-covered container. The sauce can also be frozen and used later.

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