Pork heart pappardelle ragu

Simply offal

Simply offal

Offal Simple

This is an excellent, earthy dish. It’s not like eating liver or kidney, everyone is going to like this. This would be a great dish to start on if you’ve never eaten organ meat before. You can make this entire dish in under an hour if you really want to.

The flavor of pork heart, mushrooms, and browned butter complement each other perfectly.

Have no fear, heart is very clean and easy to work with.

Have no fear, heart is very clean and easy to work with.

Prep the Heart

A pig heart looks like, well, a heart. It is made up of extremely lean muscle cupping four empty chambers. The first thing to do is cut through each of these chambers so that you can lay the heart muscle out flat, as seen in the photo to the side.

In the photo you can see the heart muscle laid out reasonably flat. There will be a thin, translucent membrane covering it. You probably don’t need to worry because you’ll be pulverizing this in the food processor, but you may as well cut this membrane off because you’re going to have plenty of meat as it is. Don’t worry about saving the meat attached to the membrane, just slice it off with a big knife. You can cook this up later (it cooks very fast) and feed it to a pet dog or cat.

You will also find some very thin tubes sometimes in the sides of the heart chambers. Cut those out as well or just pull them off with your fingers. They come away easily. Again, it probably doesn’t matter so you can skip this step if you want.

Just a rough chop to fit into the food processor

Just a rough chop to fit into the food processor

Finely chopped in a food processor

Finely chopped in a food processor

Probably because it lacks any connective tissue found in most other cuts of meat, the heart muscle is quite easy to work with and cut through. All you need to do is chop it roughly into large pieces that you can fit into your food processor. Then pulverize it. It should be ground very fine but not into a paste.

Prep the Veg

Clean and rough chop or slice some flavorful mushrooms. You want something like shiitakes or chanterelles, preferably not the standard button mushroom creminis.

Also clean and thinly slice the white parts of two leeks. An easy way to clean leeks is to cut off the roots at the bottom and most of the green tops, and then slice the white part in half lengthwise. Holding it together by wrapping your hand around all the layers, swish each half around in a pot of clean water. This will work water into all of the layers and wash out any grit that has been caught in there. Then you can slice crossways.

Chop some fresh rosemary. The leaves of a few stalks should be enough. Don’t overdo it.

Brown in Butter

Add a half stick or so of butter to a skillet pan or stew pot, something with reasonably high sides and plenty of room on the bottom. Melt and cook the butter at reasonably high heat. Your goal is to just begin to brown the butter, but not to burn it. A heavier pot helps with this as it will even out the distribution of heat in the cooking vessel. We use enamel-coated cast iron, which is expensive but absolutely worth what you pay for it. You know your butter is beginning to brown when it is melted and starts making the whole kitchen smell really, really good, like butter.

After the butter is melted and beginning to brown, add the ground pork heart. At medium-high heat this will cook quickly. Stir often.

When the ground pork heart is cooked, which will happen quickly, add more butter and then add the mushrooms. Keep the meat and mushrooms moving around in the browned butter on medium-high heat, almost as if you were stir-frying. You don’t need to stir constantly, but stay alert. You don’t want anything sticking on the bottom of the pan and burning. If the mushrooms soak up all the butter, add another half stick or so. You can also turn the heat down slightly if you need to do so.

Yes, it smells amazing

Yes, it smells amazing

Cook the mushrooms until they begin to soften. Don’t try to saute and brown them. You want them cooked through and soft but not mushy and not sauted or fried. They should taste like fresh mushrooms that have been warmed and softened, not like fully-cooked.

Deglaze With Stock

Now add in pork or chicken stock to deglaze the pan. You need a cup or 2 at most of stock, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan to deglaze it. Lightly scrape the bottom of the pan with your spatula as you continue to keep the pork heart and mushrooms stirred.

If your butter is salted and/or your stock has salt, you probably do not need to add extra salt. Season to taste with salt and a little ground black pepper.

Add the leeks and fresh rosemary, stir again, turn down the heat to low and cover. Let sit on low heat until the leeks are tender. This is another reason why you don’t need to overcook the mushrooms before you add in the stock, since everything will continue to cook. By the time the leeks are tender, the stock will have been absorbed or cooked off. Chop a stick of butter into chunks and add it, stirring until the butter is melted.

Pop in the Pappardelle

To the final dish add fresh-cooked pappardelle pasta and mix well. The large, flat, egg noodles of pappardelle work best, but you could use farfalle or some other pasta with a large surface area. Don’t use something with a small surface area like spaghetti, or the sauce will just fall off.

This is a lightly sauced dish; you should add enough pasta to feed 8 people, more or less. You don’t want the pasta drowned in sauce, rather, each piece of pasta should just have flecks here and there of the ground pork heart, with a slice of mushroom in every few bites. A neat trick is to use a pasta server or slotted spoon to scoop pasta directly from the pasta water into the sauce pot. Don’t worry about draining off the water that is on the pieces of pasta. The small amount of starchy pasta water will help the sauce stick to the noodles.

Ask yourself why you wouldn’t add another stick or so of butter. Remember, the heart has zero fat on it. Mix again.

Serve with fresh-grated parmesan.

This is not a dish that is interesting to try. It is not a fun and inventive way to use up pig heart. Your kids are going to love this, and when it is gone you will start wondering where you can find another pig heart so you can make this again.