It’s been pretty wintry here in San Diego these past few weeks. Jeans have taken the place of shorts, and sweatshirts, the place of polos. The chilly temps have similarly impacted our menus, with hardier dishes taking precedence over lighter fare. A case in point was last night’s entree, punti e fagioli, or spare ribs with beans: thick, center-cut country-style pork ribs simmered slowly in tomato sauce with cannellini beans. The perfect comfort food for a winter night.
The recipe for the dish comes from Michele Scicolone’s cookbook 1,000 Italian Recipes. What made this recipe even more appealing was the author’s claim that the dish improves “when made in advance.” I therefore made the full recipe, rather than halving it as I often do, so that we would have another meal ready for a busy day later in the week.
Preparation is minimal, calling for chopping a carrot, an onion, and a couple of cloves of garlic. Using canned beans and substituting a tin of San Marzano tomatoes for fresh were also time savers. Altogether, the dish took a tad over two hours to prepare, but most of that was cook time.
Scicolone has a well-earned reputation for fool-proof recipes and this one attests to it. My only variations from the recipe were adding the garlic after the carrots and onions had become tender and using a splash of wine to deglaze the pan before adding the tomatoes along with the browned ribs. After plating, I also drizzled some olive oil over the beans.
The dish was so delicious that we had to restrain ourselves from diving into the portions we put aside for later this week.
Punti e Fagioli – Spareribs and Beans (from 1,000 Italian Recipes by Michele Scicolone)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds country-style pork spareribs, cut into individual ribs
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 1 (28-ounce) can peeled tomatoes, chopped
1 cup water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups cooked or canned cannellini beans or cranberry beans, drained
1. In a large Dutch oven or other deep, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add just enough of the ribs to fit comfortably in the pan. Brown them well on all sides, about 15 minutes. Transfer the ribs to a plate. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continue with the remaining ribs. When all are done, pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.
2 Add the onion, carrot, and garlic to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. (I added the garlic after 8 minutes and cooked it for about 2 minutes, until aromatic but not browned. Afterwards, I deglazed the pan with just a splash of white wine.)
Add the ribs, then the tomatoes, rosemary, water, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook 1 hour.
3 Add the beans, cover, and cook 30 minutes or until the meat is very tender and coming away from the bone. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot. (After plating, I drizzled the beans with some olive oil.)
Wine Pairing: Barbera d’Alba, Chianti