Serendipity triggered this post. A few weeks ago, a loyal reader in a comment recommended Mario Batali’s 2005 cookbook, Molto Italiano, averring it to be his best ever. I ordered a used copy of it online, and on the day it arrived in the mail, my supermarket had a half-price sale on pork that made a 4.3 perfectly butchered shoulder roast irresistible. This confluence of events ultimately led me to a recipe in Batali’s book for “Braised Pork Black Rooster.” The barnyard moniker derives from the Gallo Nero, Italian for “black rooster,” the emblem of the consortium for Chianti Classico, the wine called for in the recipe. Given my predilection for Chianti, I simply had to make this dish.
Although the recipe suggests using Chianti Classico, I believe it would make more sense to prepare the dish with a simple, less expensive Chianti and save the Classico for the table. Even if you choose your favorite go-to domestic dry red, however, this dish will bring Tuscany to your table. The deep color of the sauce, the herbaceous aroma, the succulent texture and flavor of the meat perfectly reflect the character of Tuscan cooking.
Despite its taking over 3 hours to prepare, the recipe is relatively simple. Only a small portion of that time is devoted to preparation; the rest is taken up by the braising of the roast. Of course, if you decide, as I did, to make Batali’s “Basic Tomato Sauce” recipe, you may want to add an additional hour to the total time. Although a number of online versions of this recipe suggest using a 28-ounce can of peeled whole tomatoes as an alternative, I chose to make the sauce because I thought it would add more flavor owing to its use of copious amounts of thyme and garlic.
Given the end result, I’m glad that I prepared the sauce, which added a lot to the dish’s aromatic and flavor profiles. For the wine, I opted for a simple, young Chianti, which was more than adequate. I should note, however, that to reach the recipe’’s “fork tender” stage, my bone-in roast took a full 3 hours of braising time, after 15 minutes of browning.
As for the browning, you may be alarmed, as I was, by how dark the garlic, parsley, and pancetta paste becomes during this process. In the end, however, there was no hint of anything burnt.
I served our roast with a side of plain polenta and a 2015 Chianti Classico, which were perfect complements to the dish.
Braised Pork “Black Rooster” (from Molto Italiano by Mario Batali)
1 4-pound boneless pork shoulder roast, rolled and tied
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 fresh sage leaves
2 1/2 ounces pancetta
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup flat parsley leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups dry red wine, such as Chianti Classico
3 cups basic tomato sauce (See recipe below.)
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Season the pork with the salt, rubbing it into the meat. Arrange the sage leaves around the meat, tucking them under the twine. Let stand for 30 minutes.
2. Mince together the pancetta, garlic and parsley to form a smooth paste. (I used a mini food processor for this step.)
3. In a large, Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the garlic paste and cook until it has melted into the oil.
4. Add the pork in the pan and brown on all sides, turning occasionally. (To achieve good browning, be sure to dry the meat, patting it with paper towels and being careful not to remove too much salt. Also don’t be alarmed if the garlic paste blackens. Mine looked quite burnt but added loads of flavor to the sauce.)
5 Add 1 cup of the wine, bring to a boil, and reduce by three quarters.
6. Add the remaining cup of wine and the tomato sauce and bring to a boil.
7. Cover the pot, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook until the meat is fork tender, about 2 hours. (My 4.3 pound bone-in roast took 3 hours to reach fork tender.)
8. Season with pepper, then transfer the meat to a carving board and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
9. Remove string and sage leaves and cut the pork into 1/3-inch thick slices.
10. Arrange the pork on serving plates, spoon the sauce over, and serve.
Wine Pairing: Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Here’s the sauce recipe.
Basic Tomato Sauce (from Molto Italiano by Mario Batali)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped in ¼ inch dice
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (Depending on the size of the garlic, you may want to adjust the quantity.)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
½ medium carrot, finely shredded
2 28-ounce cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
1. In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft.
2. Add the tomatoes, with their juice, and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal, about 30 minutes. Season with salt. This sauce holds one week in the refrigerator or up to six months in the freezer.
Makes 4 cups.