Slow Cooker

Martha Stewart's Slow-Cooker Italian-Braised Pork Shoulder

September 13, 2018
43 Ratings
Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 8 hours
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Reprinted from Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker. Copyright © 2017 by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Stephen Kent Johnson. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Crushed tomatoes, red wine, and fennel seeds give this tender pork shoulder recipe its decidedly Italian accent. Polenta makes the most natural accompaniment, although pasta and couscous are also good options. Serving it with red wine, however, is (almost) non-negotiable. —Food52

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: 17 Fall Slow-Cooker Recipes to Curl Up With. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • Cooked polenta, for serving
  • Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
  1. Preheat a 5-to 6-quart slow cooker.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Season pork with salt and pepper. Cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer pork to the slow cooker.
  3. Reduce heat to medium; add onion, garlic, celery, and fennel seeds to skillet; cook until onion is softened, about 4 minutes. Add wine. Cook, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon, until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add to slow cooker along with tomatoes. Cover and cook on high until pork is very tender, 4 hours (or on low for 8 hours).
  4. Transfer pork to a cutting board. Using two forks, shred meat into bite-size pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat. Skim fat off sauce. Return shredded pork to slow cooker and stir to combine. Serve over polenta, sprinkled with cheese.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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    Shannon Jilbert
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  • Kim Byron McGowan
    Kim Byron McGowan
  • TheWimpyVegetarian
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18 Reviews

Shannon J. December 6, 2021
I will definitely make this again. It wasn’t coming together in the slow cooker, so I ended up putting it in the oven. Came out amazing
VaMom November 14, 2020
Tried this last night and, like others, found it to be a bit bland. Called an Italian friend who made some suggestions. Ended up adding a long sprig of fresh rosemary, 6 or 7 fresh sage leaves, extra salt and pepper and a couple shakes of cayenne. Turned out really well with the additional flavors!!
Eugenie A. November 11, 2023
Thanks for the suggestions. I, too, felt it was on the bland side and wondered how to kick it up .
Lori L. October 12, 2020
Loved this! I didn’t have a slow cooker but used a Dutch oven and started cooking in the stove and ended in the oven. The taste far out weighs the effort. Browning the meat and veggies well as mentioned by others is key to flavor. Served over some fusilli and an arugula salad. Would do this for a casual dinner party. Yumm
Callicarpa12 February 16, 2020
I made this last night with some wild boar stew meat I’d had in the freezer. Served over wide pasta. I thought the flavors were nicely deep and rich. Taking the time to really brown the meat and then the veggies, and deglazing all the sticky bits in the pan were important steps in combatting potential blandness, IMO. I had it in the slow cooker for 4 hours on high, then 2 hours on low (not for any thoughtful reason—my day just got away from me.) To my taste, it lacked acidity, so I added a splash of red wine vinegar before serving, which helped. The brand of tomatoes might make a difference in the acidity level. My individual preference would be for it to be saucier—the end result was definitely a very chunky, meaty sauce, which is probably exactly what a lot of people are looking for. I think I’ll increase the crushed tomatoes the next time I make this.
sf-dre February 3, 2020
Made it last night with pork shoulder "country ribs" which were on sale. Took about 4 hours, started on high and turned down to low after 2.5 hours. After taking out the pork to shred, 6-8 pulses with an immersion blender. I'd add a bit more pepper or red pepper flakes. Froze half for later and looking forward to how the flavors blend for leftovers.
Susan M. December 29, 2019
I made this as part of my Christmas Dinner with friends, and it rocked! It is delicious, but you DO HAVE TO USE PORK SHOULDER for it. That's my favorite cut of pork anyway. It's even better as leftovers after it sits for a couple of days and the flavors marry well.
Amanda F. December 1, 2019
Really delicious and flavorful. Everything came together really well and the pork was so tender. Highly recommend!
Kim B. October 30, 2019
What a let down. This was such a bland, boring recipe. Really fatty too. Won’t be making again.
Tommy C. April 12, 2019
How long would you cook this recipe in the Instant Pot?
TheWimpyVegetarian April 8, 2019
I made this last night and it totally rocked! I don't eat much meat anymore, and like to save my meat-eating for something special. This checked all my flavor boxes. I used a little more fennel (only because I mis-read the recipe in my haste to throw it together) and I added 1/4 cup Harissa to the mix because we like spice! I made some cheesy polenta, and it was the perfect dinner.
The P. January 4, 2019
Made this recipe using five large pork chops which cooked in the usual ways ended up being dried-out hockey pucks. After about four hours the meat simply fell off the bones. Didn't have whole fennel seed on hand only crushed and the fennel flavor was missing. No polenta on hand, either. Used rigatoni.

Recipe is obviously a version of Sunday Gravy aka "red lead". It's pretty good. Could use a sprinkling of chopped fresh basil just before serving to add that top note.
B F. April 7, 2019
Pork shoulder is the best cut for this recipe and the same cut used for pulled pork, because it's moister and fattier. Pork chops generally are too lean and will dry out in a slow cooker.
Louisa B. December 1, 2018
I have made this many many times following the recipe exactly and it is delicious
Ann B. November 5, 2018
I was looking forward to this dish. My husband makes a pork shoulder that is slow-roasted in the oven, so we thought this could be a nice alternative. Sadly, the pork was rather tough, and the flavors just didn't combine all that well to produce what I had expected based on the other reviews.
Julia October 14, 2018
This recipe is fantastic! I added a little more fennel than suggested and it was incredible. Great for a cold fall day!
Michele K. October 11, 2018
This was so freaking good. LOVED the fennel seeds--genius. Made awesome leftovers.
Linda D. October 8, 2018
Delicious! I sautéed the onion first, followed by the garlic, and finally the celery and fennel seeds together. I served the pork with mashed potatoes. Great to have flavorful sauce left over.