Smoked Shoulder Bolognese

Paula: Do you know the difference between ragu and Bolognese? There isn’t one! Technically they’re both defined as a full-bodied meat sauce, often enhanced with wine or cream. Bolognese sauce is named after the northern Italian region Bologna, where it’s a staple. I went with Bolognese for this recipe because, you know, alliteration. My point is: full-bodied meat sauce.

Scott: I love the idea of using a smoked shoulder (or butt) as the meat component of this robust sauce. The smoke acts like an extra ingredient to kick the flavor up a notch.

Paula: Totally. After the initial feast, we typically have a nice hunk of leftover pork. Which is not a problem of course, the meat finds its way into buttermilk biscuits, quesadillas, or and so forth. But, before you finish off yours in front of the fridge, consider this method. Served over a pile of noodles with plenty of grated Parmesan, the meaty sauce creates the kind of deeply satisfying comfort food that we all need right now. Most of the cooking time is unattended: I place the leftover shoulder (bone and all) in a wine-infused tomato sauce, then finish it in a low oven for a couple hours. Easy peasy, and as a bonus the house smells wildly delicious while it cooks. During the slow simmer, the pork melds into the sauce and the bone infuses the mixture with an incredible smoky depth. 

Scott: Delizioso! (Is that correct? I Googled it.)

Paula: Pienso que si, grazie!

Smoked Shoulder Bolognese

Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon The Usual
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 fresh herb sprigs (such as rosemary, oregano, thyme, and/or bay leaves)
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • Two 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes in juice
  • About 2 cups leftover smoked pork shoulder
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound pasta, for serving
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. 

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the onion, celery, carrots, and The Usual and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and herb sprigs and saute for an additional minute or two. Add the wine, bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to a lively simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the tomatoes and their juice, breaking them up with your fingers or a wooden spoon. Bring the tomato mixture to a boil, add the pork and hot sauce, spoon some sauce over the top of the meat, cover the pot, and roast in the oven for about 2 ½ hours (flipping the meat every 45 minutes or so), until the tomato sauce is bubbly and fragrant and the pork is very tender. 

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil, cook pasta until it’s al dente.

Allow the bolognese to cool slightly, remove the herb sprigs and pork bone, taste and add additional salt, pepper, or hot sauce as desired. Use two forks to shred the meat as desired. Serve immediately over pasta, topped with shredded Parmesan cheese.


Grill-side banter provided by food writer, cookbook author and grilling enthusiast, Paula Disbrowe, and infamous grill nerd and co-owner of PK Grills, Scott Moody.

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