I would like to think my timing for this Pork Cheek Ragu is pretty much perfect. We are slap bang in the middle of winter and delicious slow cooking has to be the order of the day.

Pork Cheek Ragu

I am cooking in the nose-to-tail territory with the main ingredient being pork cheeks but I do hope that you will try it. I feel it is becoming more and more important that we use all parts of the animal at home (not just at restaurants cooking this way) and more often than not, these parts of the animal that are the most flavoursome.

Pork Cheek Ragu

It can be a bit of a mission to obtain pork cheeks but ask your butcher or farmer’s market vendor a few days in advance to get and prepare the cheeks for you. I’ve been purchasing cheeks from Joostenberg Butchery in Stellenbosch when I am in the area and usually stock up in bulk and freeze them. Cheeks are a cheaper cut of meat packed with flavour and become meltingly tender morsels of delicious once cooked.

Pork Cheek Ragu

I wanted to add a smoky background heat to the ragu so added some chipotle paste and a chopped Ancho chilli. Ancho chilli has mild heat but a sweet flavour so I suggest you don’t discard the seeds and add them to the dish as well. Feel free to cut the chipotle and ancho from the dish but make sure you use a good beef stock then for added flavour. I used red wine but a cup of beer will be as good.

Pork Cheek Ragu

Pork cheeks have to be cooked slow and the result is utterly delicious. The ragu is rich and melts in the mouth. It has loads of flavour that will improve after standing for a day or two. Serve with piping hot polenta and relax into some of the best comfort food winter has to offer.

Pork Cheek Ragu

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Pork Cheek Ragu


  • 1 kg pork cheeks, trimmed of excess fat and cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 6 rashers streaky bacon, roughly chopped
  • Oil for frying
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 tbsp chipotle paste
  • 1 dried ancho chilli, coarsely torn or chopped
  • 1 410g tin whole tomatoes
  • Heaped tbsp fresh origanum leaves (or tsp dried)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt, pepper and sugar to season
  • 1 cup boiling water


  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C
  2. Heat a splash of oil in a heavy based oven proof dish with lid
  3. Fry the pork cheeks in batches over a medium high heat until brown and the edges starting to caramelise
  4. Set aside once fried
  5. Add more oil if needed and fry the onion and garlic until soft and transluscent and set aside
  6. Fry the bacon in the same pan until just starting to crisp and set aside
  7. Deglaze the pot with a qtr cup of the red wine and loosen all the bits on the bottom of the pot
  8. Add the chipotle paste and ancho chilli and simmer for a minute or so
  9. Add all the fried ingredients as well as the tomatoes, origanum, bay leaves, seasoning and boiling water
  10. Place the lid on top and place in the oven for 3 hours until the meat is soft and cooked
  11. Remove from the oven, use a wooden spoon to break up the meat and tomatoes and simmer uncovered on top of the stove for another 30 minutes or so to reduce and thicken the sauce
  12. Check the seasoning and serve with polenta or another starch of your choice
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