Can I tell you that my pressure cooker is one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten? My mom gave it to me last Christmas when she saw me coveting hers and the speediness in which she could make a stew or a pot of beans. I’ve been happily saving time ever since. I grew up with the sound of a pressure cooker chug-chug-chugging away like a steam engine on my grandmothers’ stoves, so I never thought to be afraid of them. Recently, someone posted about their Pressure Cooker Phobia on the Serious Eats message boards. I quickly chimed in with reassurance and recipes, but it got me thinking that some people don’t quite “get” why a pressure cooker is any better than a pot.
Sure, you can cook your food in record time, but I think there’s more to it than that. A pressure cooker traps heat and steam, regulated by a small valve so that it won’t explode. Because the steam recirculates, the liquid and everything inside reaches much higher temperatures than it would in a regular pot. Not only does this cook your food faster, but it also allows the flavors to meld and intensify without drying out.
So, even though it’s still hot down in my part of the country, I’ve been craving a thick, hearty ragu and decided to give it a go in the pressure cooker. Normally, my ragu takes at least 3 hours on low heat until the meat is tender and falling apart enough for me claim success. This ragu took 30 minutes, start to finish. I kid you not. Thirty minutes. And boy was it good!
Instead of the usual lamb, I used pork center loin because it’s what I had. A quick sear, then add the rest of the ingredients, seal the pot and 25 minutes later, a deliciously rich and intense ragu for my rigatoni. I may never make ragu the slow way again.
Related: Pressure Cooker Beef Stew
Pressure Cooker Ragu
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. pork center loin (or pork shoulder), cut into 1-inch cubes
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
3 carrots, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups red wine
28 oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano tomatoes)
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 â€“ 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. good-quality dried oregano
Set your pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, heat the olive oil, then sear the meat until browned on most sides, about 5 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients and affix the pressure cooker lid. Once the steam valve locks, cook for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let the steam valve come down, then release the pressure. Carefully open the lid, pulling it towards you so that the steam escapes away from your face.
Use a 2 forks or a potato masher to break apart the meat. It should very, very tender and break apart on its own. Taste and add salt if needed. Serve over pasta or polenta.
Makes 6 – 8 servings.