Franny’s owners co-owner Francine Stephens tells us that people love her restaurant so much that broken-up couples make schedules so that they can each eat there alone. The new Franny’s cookbook adds a home option to forlorn Prospect Heights foodies’ post-romance finagling, but it is an open question which is lonelier: eating out solo or cooking an elaborate meal all alone. Then again, make this pork sausage pasta dish once, and you might never leave the house again. Who needs lights and people when you can have mouth-watering red sauce without so much as putting on pants?
Serves 4 to 6
This is one of the most popular dishes at Franny’s. Instead of taking big cuts of meat and braising them until they fall apart, the restaurant grinds the meat and aggressively seasons it, making a kind of ad hoc sausage meat. The flavor notes are Southern Italian, pairing a touch of rich tomato paste and a dash of chili. Pancetta, with its porky richness, adds another dimension. Fusilli, offering up all those nooks and crannies for the sausage, makes the perfect companion to this ragu.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
21⁄2 pounds coarsely ground pork
2⁄3 cup 1⁄4-inch-diced pancetta (31⁄2 ounces)
1⁄2 teaspoon chili flakes
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, minced
2⁄3 cup finely diced carrots
2⁄3 cup finely diced celery
2⁄3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
31⁄2 tablespoons tomato paste
2⁄3 cup dry red wine
One 14-ounce can Italian cherry tomatoes, drained and smashed, or canned diced tomatoes
2 cups water
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 pound fusilli
Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh ricotta for finishing
In a heavy stockpot or a Dutch oven, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground pork (cook in batches if necessary) and cook just until golden; be careful not to over-brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the pot and set aside.
Add the pancetta to the pot and cook gently over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the meat begins to crisp. Stir in the chili flakes and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and parsley and cook until the onion is translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, then add the red wine and bring to a simmer.
Add the pork to the pot, along with the tomatoes, water, and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, and simmer for 40 minutes.
Remove the lid and continue to simmer until the ragu has thickened nicely, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the ragu cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Remove and discard about two-thirds of the fat that has settled on the surface of the ragu, leaving the remaining third to be incorporated back into the sauce.
In a large pot of well-salted boiling water, cook the pasta according to the package instructions until 2 minutes shy of al dente; drain.
While the pasta is cooking, in a very large skillet (or a Dutch oven), warm the ragu over medium heat.
Toss the fusilli into the skillet with the ragu and cook until al dente, 1 to 2 minutes. If the sauce seems dry, add a few tablespoons of water.
Divide the pasta among four individual serving plates or bowls. Finish each with a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a dollop of ricotta.
Excerpted from “Franny’s Simple Seasonal Italian” by Andrew Feinberg, Francine Stephens, and Melissa Clark (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013.