Wednesday April 24, 2013 | 01:00 AM

If you come across The Southern Italian Table by Arthur Schwartz, consider picking up a copy because it’s filled with terrific recipes and food lore that depict the cooking of that region.  The recipe featured here is from the book and looks at an unusual Sicilian sauce preparation.

You might ask how a nice Jewish boy born did and raised in Brooklyn, New York., became such an authority on Italian cooking?

Arthur explains that right off in the introduction to his book.

“My affinity for Southern Italy comes naturally, even though my name is Schwartz.  I grew up among Italian Americans in Brooklyn…where mostly Jewish, Irish and Southern Italian immigrants moved to…. I was weaned on ziti with ragu by our Neapolitan downstairs neighbor.”

I knew Arthur years ago in New York when we were both young food editors.  While I moved on to other endeavors he has maintained a distinguised career as a food editor, writer, cookbook author, teacher and food maven.

The other day while browsing through his book I came across this  intriguing sauce recipe called, Enna’s Ground Pork Ragu with Chocolate. 

The chocolate is not an overwhelming addition by any means.  Instead it acts to enrich the sauce with a subtle touch of chocolate and adds a nice Mahogany sheen. 

When you add the water to the sauce you think it will never thicken--but it does, becoming rich and concentrated as though it's cooked for hours instead of the 30 minutes required

The sauce has a wonderful consistency and texture and is well suited to serve over any pasta dish but goes particularly well over wide noodles such as papardelle or tagliatelle. 

Enna’s Ground Pork Ragu with Chocolate
(Adapted from the Southern Italian Table by Arthur Schwartz)

Servings: enough to sauce 2 to 2  ½ half pounds pasta

1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground pork (not too lean)
½ cup dry red wine
1 12-ounce can tomato paste
2 ½ teaspoons sea salt
A few grinds black pepper
A pinch or two of cinnamon
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, broken up into small pieces
1 teaspoon sugar
 Grates Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat the olive oil in a 3 to 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until wilted.

Add the ground pork , breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon and cooking for about 5 minutes or until it loses most of its red color.  Add the wine, increase the heat slightly and simmer, stirring a few times, for about 2 minutes. 

Add the tomato paste and stir.  Add 1 quart water by filling the empty tomato paste can with water and pouring it into a quart measuring pitcher until you have one quart.  This helps wash out the remaining paste in the can. 

Add this to the pot, stirring well until mixed.  Add the salt, pepper, cinnamon, chocolate and sugar.  Stir until the chocolate melts.  Reduce the heat, partially cover and simmer gently , stirring occasionally,  for 30 minutes.

Spoon over the pasta and sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese

 It's a perfect, easy meal served with a salad and good crusty bread

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John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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