To me, a pasta sauce can only be made with love, time and fresh ingredients. This is why I chose a pasta dish to share in February, the month of love.
It is near impossible for this dish to go pear shaped. It is not technically demanding, but rather timing conscious, so you can focus on getting the house dressed for romance whilst the ragout focuses on helping your A game.
1 pound pancetta, chopped
2 red onions, diced
5 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together with cooking string
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tbsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp dried sage
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 pounds ground pork
1 cup tomato juice (Pomi brand is the best). Ready-made tomato soup can be used as a substitute.
1 pound plum tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup olives, chopped
1/4 cup capers
1 cup crumbled goat cheese
Choice of pasta
In a heavy sauce pan over medium heat, cook chopped pancetta 10-15 minutes until almost crispy, stir regularly.
Add the diced onions and cook 5 minutes more.
Add the fresh thyme, crushed garlic, dried thyme, sage, paprika and cayenne pepper. Cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
Add the ground pork and cook for 5 -7 minutes, stirring regularly, coating the pork with the spices and pancetta fat.
Add the tomato juice and bring to a simmer, then place a lid on the pot and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes.
Return heat to medium and add the plum tomatoes, olives, capers and goat cheese. Cook 10 more minutes, stirring regularly.
Remove from heat. Remove the fresh thyme. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with choice of pasta. Garnish with sliced figs, Parmesan and sliced cherry tomatoes.
Mark Godbeer, a culinary-trained chef from South Africa, has been professionally cooking for more than 11 years, 9 of which have been on yachts (chefmarkgodbeer.com). Comments on this recipe are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.