There are few dishes as comforting as pulled pork ragu over creamy polenta on a chilly winter night. Cooking the pork in an Instant Pot or pressure cooker takes all the pressure off of you. As easy and hands-off as braises can be, the time involved to make the meat tender be a deterrent to making them. That's where an Instant Pot or pressure cooker comes in. The result is pork is fall-apart tender after just 35 minutes under high pressure.
Ingredients for Pulled Pork Ragu
The ingredients for pork ragu are pretty basic and inexpensive for how many people you can feed. Pork shoulder, onion, red wine, garlic, tomato paste, whole peeled tomatoes, smoked paprika, thyme, rosemary and a few bay leaves are really all you need.
How to make pulled pork ragu in a pressure cooker
If you are anything like me and get intimidated by long recipes. This recipe has quite a few steps, but don't let that intimidate you. Here are the basic steps so you can even make it without a recipe.
1. Cut the pork shoulder into 3 pieces and season with plenty of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Brown the pork on all sides in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker.
2. Transfer the pork to a plate and remove most of the fat. Sauté the onions and garlic until soft, then add the tomato paste. Deglaze with the wine and add the pork back to the pot with the hand crushed tomatoes, herbs and paprika.
With the wine and tomatoes added.
After cooking under pressure for 35 minutes.
3. Cover and bring the pot to high pressure for 35 minutes, then naturally release the pressure.
4. Transfer the cooked pork shoulder to a cutting board and shred with two forks. Ladle off the top layer of fat from the sauce before adding the pork back to the pot with the sauce.
If there is too much liquid and you want to thicken the sauce, continue to cook on low heat without the lid until the desired consistency is reached.
How long to cook pork shoulder in instant pot
The pork shoulder should cook under high pressure for 35 minutes. That means there are a few more minutes of cooking before high pressure is reached, and a few more when the pressure is naturally released.
You can use this same cooking technique for a lot of variations. You could use barbecue sauce instead of the tomatoes for making barbecue pulled pork. You can also switch up the protein and use beef or lamb to make ragu from those. They will all taste great and it's pretty impossible to mess up.
Don't have an Instant Pot or a Pressure Cooker?
Well, obviously you should order one right now. But if you want to make braised pork before your Instant Pot arrives, then you are in luck. You can follow the same steps and use a dutch oven instead. It will take about 4 hours instead of 35 minutes to become fall apart tender.
What to serve with the Pork Ragu
Pork ragu is delicious with so many things. It's classic with creamy polenta (in this recipe) or with pappardelle pasta and it's great with crispy gnocchi. You could even serve it in tacos over risotto or rice.
Special Equipment Used
For the ragu
- 2.5 pound Boston Butt boneless pork shoulder skin and excess removed, cut into 3 pieces
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 small onion diced
- 4 garlic cloves chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup full-bodied red wine
- 14 ounces canned whole peeled tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
For the polenta
- 1 cup coarse cornmeal (not quick cooking)
- kosher salt
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme and rosemary leaves
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
To cook the pork shoulder
- Pat the pork shoulder pieces dry and Liberally season on all sides with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Heat the instant pot or pressure cooker on high heat/in sauté mode and drizzle in a little canola oil to coat the bottom. Brown the pork pieces on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes total.
- Transfer the pork shoulder to a plate and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat left in the cooker; leaving the brown bits and removing any burned pieces.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté until soft and starting to caramelize, then add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds.
- Deglaze the pot with the wine, scraping all the bits off the bottom and add in the thyme, herbs, bay leaf and paprika. Reduce the liquid by half.
- Add the pork shoulder and any accumulated juices back to the pot. Crush the tomatoes with your hands as you add them to the pot along with the smoked paprika and the bouquet of thyme, rosemary and bay leaves.
- Cover and bring to high pressure. Set timer for 35 minutes once high pressure is reached.
- Use the natural pressure release method, then remove the lid. Use a ladle to scoop off and discard the top layer of fat.
- Transfer the cooked pork shoulder to a cutting board and shred it apart with two forks, then add it back to the pot with the sauce, stirring to combine.
To make the polenta
- Bring 4 cups water to a brisk boil and heavily season the water with kosher salt. Vigorously whisk in the cornmeal, then stir until most of the water starts to absorbed.
- Continue to cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the polenta is cooked.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, parmesan cheese and fresh herbs. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
- Cover and keep warm before using.
- Bundle the herbs together to make a "bouquet garni" using kitchen twine, which will make them easier to remove after cooking.
- If the ragu is too watery after cooking under pressure, continue to cook on low heat without lid.
- The polenta can be made ahead, just don’t finish it. Heat it back up with some boiling water.