Just like a full-flavored ‘Sunday sauce’ but in a fraction of the time, this Instant Pot Pork Ragu is a long-time favorite in our house. Meaty flavor with savory depth from the rosemary, this sauce is perfect tossed with pasta or spooned over polenta. It’s not necessarily traditional, but we also love this over risotto. It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, and freezer-friendly!
Sometimes, I have an idea for a recipe, make it, and everything works the first time like a charm. From there, it’s just refining and testing. But then there’s those recipes where I kind of tank on the first time around.
This pork ragu was just such an occasion, but perseverance pays off! And this sauce has now become a classic in our house.
It’s easy to make, and the Instant Pot does most of the work. From there, I love to freeze the extra sauce on another occasion.
And, I’ve also included my instructions in the recipe card below for how to make this in a Dutch oven. That way you can fill your whole house with incredible aromas while it lightly simmers in the oven for hours.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Pork shoulder – is the best choice here because it has the perfect amount of marbling. I have used pork butt in this recipe, and it does work. However, it does take a bit of picking through the cooked meat to remove any extra chunks of fat that don’t dissolve. Either cut will work, but pork butt takes 5-10 minutes more because you have to pick through it.
- Canned tomatoes – I like to use diced or whole canned tomatoes. Fire-roasted tomatoes are my new favorite in this sauce, but either one works here. Just avoid any canned tomatoes with herbs or chilis.
- Onion, carrots, & celery – or a ‘mirepox’ in classic French cooking- make up the base of this sauce, adding depth and flavor. You’ll find my favorite shortcut listed in the tips below!
- Broth – I use low-sodium chicken broth, but vegetable broth and homemade broth work well here too.
- White wine – or red wine both work in a pork ragu, but I prefer the light flavor of white wine. The wine can also be omitted and sub in broth with a tablespoon of lemon juice for acidity. Look for a dry white wine (not sweet) like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
- Rosemary – is our favorite herb to use in this sauce, but thyme works as well, it’s just preference.
How to make this recipe step by step
Step 2: Once the veggies are prepped, brown the pork cubes in the Instant Pot using the sauté mode.
This can take a bit, so if you feel confident doing both at once, try browning the pork while you prep the veggies.
Step 3: When the pork is browned, add the chopped veggies and sauté 1-2 minutes.
Deglaze the Instant Pot with the white wine, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom.
Step 4: Add the blended tomatoes, herbs, broth, and salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Step 5: Add the browned pork cubes and press them down to lightly submerge them in the tomato broth. Set the lid to sealing and select the cooking time.
When the cooking time is up, do a quick release.
Step 6: When the pressure drops, I use a potato masher to break up the pork cubes into tender shreds in the sauce. You can use the Sauté setting at this time to reduce the sauce further.
If you feel too much fat remains on the meat or tough bits that didn’t get trimmed, don’t mash it. Scoop the cooked pork cubes out and let them cool until you can handle them.
While the pork is cooling, reduce the sauce in the Instant Pot. When the pork is cool enough to handle, pick over the pork cubes to remove any tough bits or fat. Then, add the shredded pork back to the sauce and season it to taste.
Ways to serve this
- Over pasta, creamy polenta or my cauliflower polenta in the recipe card, or risotto. I love to serve this over my very unconventional Creme Fraiche Risotto, (omit the fresh tomato and basil topping in the recipe). For a lighter option, try this ragu over my Spaghetti Squash.
- My favorite pasta to serve this with is tagliatelle or pappardelle (which is more traditional but harder to find gluten free). You can also toss this together with shapes like penne or farfalle.
- Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and chopped fresh herbs like parsley or basil for a bright pop or color if desired
- Add a side salad, Apple Spinach Salad, or Strawberry Spinach Salad, depending on the season. Or try my Caesar Salad recipe made without the grilled chicken.
- Try a roasted veggie like my Roasted Asparagus, Garlic Roasted Carrots, or Roasted Broccoli.
- For a stovetop veggie, try my Sautéed Green Beans.
- For a dinner party, start the evening with my Antipasto Platter and end it with my Gluten Free Chocolate Cake or Healthy Chocolate Tart.
One key difference in traditional Bolognese is the addition of milk to tenderize the meat early in the cooking process. Bolognese is also made with ground meat, whereas Ragu is often made from tougher cuts of beef, venison, or pork braised to fall apart tender.
Ragu is an Italian meat sauce with tomato, wine, and sometimes broth. It’s cooked slowly for a deeply flavored sauce.
- To store – place any leftovers into an airtight container and refrigerate for 3-4 days.
- Make ahead – this sauce is perfect made ahead and reheated when you’re ready to use it. Either store for 3-4 days in the fridge or follow the freezing instructions.
- Reheating – place any leftover pork ragu into a saucepan or small skillet and reheat over medium heat, stirring as needed. Or if you’ve tossed it with pasta heat it over medium heat adding a bit of water as necessary to keep it from sticking. It also helps if you can place a lid on the skillet to help the pasta reheat.
- To freeze – add the cooled sauce to freezer bags or freezer containers of your choice and freeze for up to 6 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight before reheating to use. If you use something like a Ziplock, place the frozen bag in a baking dish in your fridge to catch any leaks as it defrosts.
Tips & Tricks
- Pork shoulder works better as a cut of meat for this recipe than pork butt because it has a bit less marbling. If you use pork butt it does work, but you’ll need to remove any leftover chewy bits and fat after the cooking time.
- We love rosemary and it is so good with pork ragu, but thyme makes a great variation as well.
- Try the creamy version listed in the recipe notes. Toss the ragu together with pasta and 1 cup of heavy cream for the ultimate comfort food dinner.
Dietary Options & Substitutions
- Dairy-free – use dairy-free butter in the cauliflower polenta and use a dairy-free parmesan or omit it.
- Paleo – serve with the cauliflower polenta option listed in the recipe and omit the grated parmesan.
I hope you enjoy this Instant Pot Pork Ragu! If you do get a chance to make this recipe, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Instant Pot Pork Ragu
Instant Pot Rosemary Pork Ragu: (12 servings)
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 pounds pork shoulder - trimmed and cubed into 2″ cubes
- 2 cups diced yellow onions - 1/4″ dice
- 1 cup diced carrots - 1/4″ dice
- 1 cup diced celery - 1/4″ dice
- 2 cloves garlic - minced
- 3 tbsp minced fresh rosemary - leaves only, discard the woody stems
- 1 cup dry white wine - not sweet, it can be omitted, add 1 cup chicken broth.
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tsp sea salt - plus more to taste after the cooking time
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 28 ounces fire roasted tomatoes - whole or diced, blended briefly to create a chunky tomato sauce
Optional Cauliflower Polenta: (6-8 servings)
- 8 cups riced cauliflower - 1 1/2 pounds, see notes
- 2 tbsp ghee - or olive oil
- 1 clove garlic - minced
- 1 cup coconut milk from the can
- 1/2 tsp sea salt - or to taste
- 1 tbs[ tapioca starch - mixed with 2-3 Tablespoons water to dissolve
- Optional Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- Brown the cubed pork in 3 batches in the Instant Pot using the sauté function. Or brown the pork in a large Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-high heat.
- When the pork is browned, cook the onions, carrots, and celery until barely softened, 2 minutes.
- Add the garlic, rosemary, and deglaze with the white wine. Scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the Instant Pot or Dutch oven. Then add the chicken stock, sea salt, pepper, and blended tomatoes.
- Secure the lid, set the valve to sealing, and select pressure cook for 1 hour. When the cooking time is done, use the quick-release function.
- When the pressure is fully released and the Instant Pot is safe to open, stir the sauce to break up the meat, a potato masher works well for this.
- Season to taste with sea salt and more pepper if desired. Serve immediately with your choice of sides, the Cauliflower ‘Polenta’ directions are below.
- If you're cooking this in a Dutch oven, place the covered Dutch oven into the oven preheated to 300ºF and bake braising the pork until fall-apart tender, about 2.5 hours.
- For the Cauliflower 'Polenta', sauté the riced cauliflower in the ghee or olive oil until partially translucent. Add the minced garlic, coconut milk, and sea salt. Partly cover the pan and simmer until the cauliflower is very soft. Carefully spoon 3/4 of the cooked cauliflower mixture into a food processor and process until almost smooth.
- Place the processed cauliflower mixture back into the pan with the remaining 1/4 of the mixture. Then add the tapioca mixed together with water. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook just until it thickens. Season to taste with sea salt and serve.