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recipe: popolo’s fregola pasta with saffron & suckling pig ragu


Perhaps thanks to the popularity of televisions shows like My Kitchen Rules and MasterChef, and the rising profile of chefs into celebrities, many Australians are now identifying themselves as foodies. The exposure to cooking shows and iconic chefs has made high-end dining no longer daunting, and words like congee, carpaccio, and chantilly have entered the normal vernacular. Foam, pearls, and jelly all have a place on your plate.  And flowers can definitely be served with meat.

Due to finances and timing, it can be difficult for everyone to fully immerse themselves in this foodie world. Luckily for those in Sydney, The Taste Of Sydney Festival was on from March 14th-17th and gave foodies their chance to sample food from iconic restaurants that included Porteno, Longrain, and Four In Hand. The festival also included the Best in Taste awards presented by the respected (and terrifying!) reviewer Terry Dudak.  One of the winners was Popolo, who have been kind enough to share with us their winning recipe – their Fregola allo Zafferano con Ragu di Mailalion (or Fregola pasta with saffron & suckling pig ragu). Please be warned, this is a dish that is filled with much love and attention, and is definitely not a 20-minute-meal, but it is definitely, absolutely worth the wait.

Popolo RECIPE:

Fregola allo Zafferano con Ragu di Maialino – Fregola pasta with saffron & suckling pig ragu

Popolo Ragu Ingredients (4 people)

800g suckling pig (from 2 different parts – e.g. belly/shoulder, rib/shoulder – either ask butcher to cut into large pieces retaining on the bone or do yourself at home)
600g tinned peeled tomato
2 brown onions
1 carrot
1 celery stick
2 garlic cloves
5 bay leaves
2 rosemary sprigs
Salt and Pepper
2 glasses white wine (Vermentino)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method – night before

Cut into large pieces retaining skin and meat on the bone where possible.

Marinate the meat in white wine, bay leaves, rosemary, pepper.

Ragu Method – next day

(Chop tinned tomato and leave to the side for now, use later)

Finely chop onion, carrot, celery, garlic.

Pre-heat casserole dish on medium heat on stove then add olive oil and diced items above.

Stir til golden then turn off heat – keep stirring occasionally so doesn’t stick.

Pre-heat a separate large pan to medium on stove, then sear the marinated suckling pig pieces skin down, turn meat to other side – until both sides lightly golden.

Once done, remove meat from pan then allow to rest and drain on rack for 5 minutes.

Place casserole dish back on high heat, combining meat now with the other items already in that dish.

Add glass of white wine and stir until the wine evaporates.

Add pre-cut peeled tomato into dish and stir, heat to remain high until boiling, then reduce heat to simmer (no lid) for 2 hours – stir every 20-30 minutes.

When the meat naturally starts to fall away from the bone, turn heat off and remove meat from the sauce.

Leave meat to cool until possible to remove meat from bone and shred by hand.

Reduce tomato sauce further, if needed – add the de-boned shredded meat back into sauce.

Add salt and pepper (NB – salt added at end to prevent sauce splattering).

(A ragu always tastes better one day after preparation i.e. leave to rest in fridge 24 hrs if possible)

Popolo Fregola Ingredients (4 people)

360g toasted Fregola (pasta)
1/2 glass white wine (Vermentino)
1/2 brown onion
1 garlic clove (peeled)
1 rosemary sprig
80g butter
100g pecorino (grated)
Pinch of saffron filaments (threads)
1/2 litre vegetable stock
4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Fregola Method

(If ragu was prepared day earlier, need to warm gently in pan while preparing below so not added fridge cold at end)

Dice onion finely.

Pre-heat pan medium and add 4 tablespoons of olive oil.

Add diced onion and whole peeled garlic clove to pan, stir until lightly golden.

Add pinch of saffron filaments, stir.

Add fregola and stir as you lightly brown everything together.

Add wine and stir until the wine evaporates.

Pour in vegetable stock.

Simmer for 7 minutes – stir every  1 minute to ensure fregola does not stick to pan.

Remove garlic clove.

Add ragu to pan.

Combine and cook together for 4 minutes – until fregola al dente.

Remove pan from heat – turn off stove.

Add butter and half of the grated pecorino, stir to coat.

Finely chop rosemary.

To plate/serve – in large shallow dish or serve individually, sprinkle the remaining pecorino and the finely chopped rosemary.

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