Pasta with Sausage & Radicchio

Penne with Sausage & Radicchio

Perhaps my favorite season in New York City was fall. It always seemed that the city somehow sprung back to life from a lazy hot and humid summer slumber. The atmosphere grew more vibrant as leaves changed color and cooler temps set in. The fall harvest seemed to energize the Union Square Farmers Market.

Alas, we don’t have as dramatic a seasonal change here in San Diego, “where the climate must be perfect all the year.” So to compensate for this, I cook the fall dishes I used to make back in the city.

One of these is Mario Batali’s “Mezzi Rigatoni with Sausage and Radicchio.” Made with sausage, radicchio, fennel, red onion, red wine and tomato sauce, its colors intimate fall foliage. On the palate, it delivers a kaleidoscope of flavors: sweet from the fennel, bitter from the radicchio, savory from the sausage, all balanced with a simple tomato sauce. (I use Marcella Hazan’s sauce made with five tablespoons of butter, an onion split in half, and Italian plum tomatoes with their juices.)

Batali’s recipe calls for mezzi rigatoni, and should you choose to make this dish, I strongly suggest using this pasta shape; it has the perfect size and weight for this rich sauce. Unfortunately, I had run out of them and substituted penne rigate, which were OK, but definitely not as good as the recommended rigatoni. Lack of availability also forced me to substitute Parmigiano-Reggiano for the recipe’s Asiago.

Batali’s recipe comes from his 2011 Simple Family Meals. Since I was cooking only for two, I pretty much halved the recipe’s amounts. However, you can find the original recipe, which serves 6 as a main course, here.

One final note: take your time with Step 10 of the recipe and so that the pasta is well coated with the sauce.

Ingredients

Ingredients

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed, crumbled
½ tablespoon fennel seeds
½ tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
½ red onion, chopping into ¼-inch dice
½ fennel bulb, ribs and fronds discarded, bulb finely chopping
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 head radicchio, cored and finely chopped
½ cup dry red wine, such as Morellino di Scansano
1 cups basic tomato sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ pound mezzi rigatoni pasta
Freshly grated Parmigiano cheese, for serving

Chopped, sliced, crumbled

Directions:

1. In a heavy-bottomed 12-inch sauté pan, cook the sausage over high heat, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 10 minutes.

Browned Sausage

2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a plate.

3. Add the fennel seeds, hot pepper flakes, onions, fennel, garlic, and radicchio to the pan and cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables are well browned, about 10 minutes.

Cooking vegetables

4. Return the sausage to the pan, add the wine and the tomato sauce, and bring to a boil.

Adding wine
Adding tomatoes

5. Lower the heat and simmer until the radicchio is very tender and the sauce as thickened, about 10 minutes.

Thickened Sauce

6. Season well with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.

7. Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil in a large pasta pot, and add 2 tablespoons salt.

8. Drop the mezzi rigatoni into the water and cook for 1 minute less than the package instructions indicate. Just before the pasta is done, carefully ladle ½ of the cooking water into the sausage mixture.

Adding pasta water

9. Drain the pasta in a colander and add it to the sausage mixture.

10. Toss over medium heat for about 30 seconds, until the pasta is nicely coated.

Tossed Pasta

11. Pour into a warmed serving bowl and serve immediately, with a bowl of grated Asiago on the side.

Wine Pairing: Morellino di Scansano, Sangiovese

Spare Ribs with Caramelized Onions

Pork Ribs with Caramelized Onions

Mention “spare ribs” and probably the last type of cuisine with which you’d associate them would be Italian. However if, like me, you’re of Italian-American heritage, one of the first associations may be with a long cooked Sunday pasta sauce together with meatballs and/or sausage. In fact, I’ve posted a recipe for my Neapolitan aunt’s version of them on this blog.

When I recently picked up some baby back ribs on sale at the market, my thoughts went to a recipe for them from way back by Marcella Hazan. Having lost many of my cookbooks to Super Storm Sandy, I did an internet search and was able to find the specific recipe I had been thinking of. It came from one of her later books in 2004 Marcella Says… and was adapted for The Times by Amanda Hesser. (Note: The recipe in this link is part of a review of Marcella’s book and includes an interesting profile of the author.)

Like many of Marcella’s recipes, it uses a modicum of ingredients, yet yields deep intense flavors that celebrate what Italians call “la prima materia,” the fundamental ingredients. After browning, the ribs are simmered with an abundance of thinly sliced onions and a generous dose of crushed red-pepper flakes for around three hours. During this time, onions caramelize and the ribs reach the perfect fall-off-the-bone texture. The spice of the red pepper serves as the perfect foil for the sweetness of the onions.

I served the ribs garnished with fresh sage along with a side of smooth polenta and a Chianti Classico.

Two points about this recipe I should mention: (1) Don’t skimp on the chili pepper. Although a 3/4 tablespoon may sound like a lot, it’s really necessary to balance the sweetness of the onions. (2) Keep in mind that this recipe requires about 3 1/2 hours. I somehow overlooked this requirement, and we wound up having a very late-night supper.

Spare Ribs With Caramelized Onions

Ingredients

Ingredients
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 pounds baby-back ribs, split into pairs
½ cup dry white wine
2 very large onions, sliced very thin, about 6 cups
Fine sea salt
½ to 1 chopped chili pepper or 3/4 tablespoon dried red chili pepper

Preparation
1. Split the ribs into pairs.

Split Ribs

2. Pour the olive oil into a 12-inch sauté pan, turn the heat to high, and when the oil is hot, slip in the meat. Turn the ribs two or three times to brown them well. If the pan is crowded, do a batch at at time, then return them all to the pan.

Browning Ribs

3. Pour in the wine and turn the ribs once or twice while the wine bubbles completely away.

Reducing the Wine

4. Add the sliced onions, salt and chili pepper, cover the pan and turn the heat down to low.

Adding Onions & Chili

5. Cook for 2 to 3 hours, turning the ribs occasionally, until the meaty part of the ribs feels very tender and the onions have cooked down to a creamy consistency.

After about an hour

 

The Finished Ribs

Wine Pairing: Chianti Classico, Alsatian Pinot Gris

Roasted Sausages & Grapes

Roasted Sausages & Grapes

Although I enjoy serving on the board of my condo, it can at times throw me off my schedule for dinner. Such was the case last night. I had planned one dish and, owing to an emergency board meeting, had to substitute another that could be on the table at a reasonable hour for a weeknight.

Fortunately, we had some sausages on hand that were intended for another dish as well as some delicious seedless red grapes. This combination of ingredients brought to mind a dish I prepared a few years ago, but a quick internet search uncovered an easier alternative. Unlike the earlier recipe, which called for sautéing the ingredients, this approach called for roasting them. And I must admit that on a weeknight I prefer roasting as a cooking method because it makes for easier cleanup than sautéing.

The recipe I found comes from an Ina Garten episode on The Food Network in which she has chef, Johanne Killeen, from a favorite Italian restaurant, Al Forno in Providence RI, prepare the dish called simply: “Roasted Sausages and Grapes.”

I made a few changes to the original recipe, substituting 1 pound of Italian mild sausages for 3 pound mix of sweet and hot and halving the amount of grapes. I also added about a cup of chopped red onion and a couple of tablespoons of chopped sage to the grapes and sausage before roasting. Finally, rather than using the suggested focaccia as an accompaniment, I served a simple polenta.

Ingredients

Ingredients

1 pound Italian mild sausage

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cups (approx. 1 pound) red seedless grapes, stems removed

4 tablespoons dry red wine, preferably Chianti

3 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar

Polenta, to serve

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

2. Parboil the sausages in water to cover for 8 minutes to rid them of excess fat.

Parboiling the Sausage

3. Melt the butter in a large heatproof roasting pan, add the grapes, and toss to coat.

Coating the Grapes

4. Over moderately high heat add the wine. Stir with a wooden spoon for a few minutes until the wine has reduced by half.

Reducing the Wine

5. Using tongs, transfer the parboiled sausages to the roasting pan and push them down in the grapes so the sausages will not brown too quickly.

Adding the Sausage

6. Roast in the oven, turning the sausages once, until the grapes are soft and the sausages have browned, 20 to 25 minutes.

Turning the Sausage

7. Place the roasting pan on top of the stove over a medium-high heat and add the balsamic vinegar. Scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the roasting pan, and allow the vinegar and juices to reduce until they are thick and syrupy. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausages and grapes to a serving platter.

Reducing the Balsamic

8. Pour the sauce over the sausages and grapes and serve immediately, accompanied with fresh bread.

The Finished Dish

Wine Pairing: Chianti, Sangiovese, Merlot

 

Twice-Cooked Pork Tenderloin

Twice Cooked Pork Tenderloin

I often find that the Mies van der Rohe maxim “less is more” rings as true for cooking as it does for architecture—especially when choosing a menu for a weeknight meal. This minimalist approach is the foundation for Mark Bittman’s series in the New York Times “Style” section, which is the source of today’s recipe.

But this belief is also at the heart of much Italian cooking, where the emphasis is more on the quality of prima materia (primary ingredients) than on culinary technique. I remember how my mother or aunt would always search for the freshest of vegetables, the best cut of meat, the most recently caught fish. Perhaps that’s why they would flatter or even sometimes flirt with the greengrocer, the butcher, and the fish monger.

This post is one of my go-to recipes for a weeknight supper; it can be made in less than 30 minutes and with a heritage pork loin yields a tasty dish. I did vary from the original recipe adding some fresh rosemary to the pan while browning the roast and substituting chopped sage for the parsley leaves as garnish.

For a vegetable side, I prepared some asparagus roasted with olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Ingredients

Ingredients

1 boneless pork tenderloin, about 1 pound
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons butter, extra virgin olive oil, or a combination (I used a combination.)
1/4 cup cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, lemon juice or Calvados, optional (I opted for the mustard.)
Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish, optional (I used fresh sage.)

Method

1. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Put a large skillet over medium-high heat; a minute later add 2 tablespoons butter and/or oil. When butter foam subsides or oil dimples, add meat (curve it into skillet if necessary).

Heated Oil with the Pork

Brown it well on all sides, for a total of 4 to 6 minutes. Turn off heat, remove meat from pan, and let it sit on a board.

The Browned Tenderloin

When skillet has cooled a bit, proceed.

2. Cut meat into inch-thick slices. Once again turn heat to medium-high, add remaining butter and/or oil and, when it’s hot, add pork slices to pan.

The Sliced Tenderloin

3. Brown on each side, about 2 or 3 minutes each. Turn heat to low and remove meat to a warm platter.

The Cooked Tenderloin

4. Add 1/2 cup water to pan, turn heat to high, and cook, stirring and scraping, for a minute. Lower heat slightly, add cream and cook until slightly thickened.

Adding Cream to the Sauce

5. Stir in mustard, lemon juice or Calvados, if you’re using them, then taste and adjust seasoning. Serve meat with sauce spooned on top, garnished, if you like, with parsley.

Adding the Mustard
The Finished Sauce

Take your time with sauce. I like my sauce a little thicker so I cooked it a tad longer. If you prefer a thinner sauce, reduce it a bit less.

Wine Pairing: Rhone Rose; Syrah

Herb-Roasted Pork Loin

More often than not, I let what’s available or on sale at my market determine what I will be making for dinner that night. When I found pork loins on sale for $4 off a pound at my local Whole Foods, my menu was set. Knowing that I would be cooking only for two, I chose a small two-pound center-cut roast.

Originally, I though I would prepare it braised in milk, a recipe that I have previously posted on this blog. But when I returned home, a bottle of Chianti Classico that we had received as a Christmas gift caught my eye and it brought to mind the many times I enjoyed this wine with a classic roasted pork loin whenever I was in Tuscany, where it is commonly known as arista.

In the past, I’ve always made this roast for a get together and used a larger piece of meat. But mind was now set on having arista even if it would be a diminutive aristina.

The recipe I chose was from the Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian cookbook. Although the recipe called for a five-pound roast, I didn’t adjust the amount of herbs or oil for my two pounder. I did, however, reduce the number of garlic cloves to three, and not having any fresh sage at home, I doubled the amount of rosemary. Because it was quite late when the roast was done and we were both starving, I skipped the pan sauce. The roasted onions were enough of a condiment.

I also served Italian roasted potatoes, which I cooked at the same time as the roast. Although the recipe I used called for much hotter oven (425°F), I simply let the potatoes cook at the same temperature as the roast (325°F) and they were perfectly done at the same time as the meat.

As you probably noticed, there are no photos in this post. I can only say that while I was cooking, my photographer was at work, and by the time the food was on the table, neither of us was thinking about the blog. But despite not having any photos, I thought this dish was so good, I had to write it up.

Herb-Roasted Pork Loin from Williams Sonoma Essentials of Italian

Ingredients
4 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons crushed fennel seeds
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 bone-in pork loin roast, about 5 lb
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced
1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

Directions
Preheat an oven to 325°F.

Using a chef’s knife, very finely chop together the garlic, rosemary and sage. Transfer to a small bowl, add the fennel seeds, season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Make slits 1/2 inch deep all over the pork roast and insert some of the mixture into each slit. Rub the roast with the remaining seasoning, then rub with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Place the meat in a roasting pan just large enough to hold it.

Roast the meat for 1 hour. In a bowl, toss the onion slices with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and scatter them around the meat. Continue to roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast, away from the bone, registers 155°F, or the meat is pale pink when cut into at the center, about 1 1/4 hours more. Transfer to a warmed platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm. Let rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Note: I cooked my two pound roast for two hours. Although it was very good, the next time I cook such a small roast, I might reduce the cooking time slightly.

Meanwhile, pour off most of the fat in the roasting pan and place the pan over medium-low heat. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom. Simmer until the sauce is slightly reduced.

Carve the roast and arrange on a warmed platter. Spoon the pan sauce over the pork and serve at once.

Wine Pairing: Chianti Classico, Rosso di Montalcino

Roasted Sausages with Butternut Squash and Pears

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About a year ago while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, I saw a recipe on the Rachael Ray show for sausages roasted with butternut squash and pears. Well, after finding the recipe online, I finally got around to making it the other night for a small get together with friends. The colors and aroma of the dish echoed fall.

I made a few changes to the original recipe that included adding shallots and extending the cooking time. I also substituted a package of cut and peeled squash for the recipe’s large butternut squash.

Roasted Sausages with Butternut Squash and Pears (adapted from the Rachael Ray Show)

Ingredients

3 red pears, cored, cut into quarters
1 20-ounce package cut and peeled butternut quash
2 large shallots peeled and quartered
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Salt and pepper
5 sprigs thyme
8 sweet Italian sausages (about 2.5 pounds)
Balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place pears, butternut squash and onions into a large roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with some salt and pepper. Scatter the sprigs of thyme over top of the vegetables. Place the sausages on top of the vegetables.

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Put the roasting pan into the oven and cook for about 35 minutes or until sausages are golden brown. (The original recipe called for 25 minutes of cooking, but I found that both the sausages and the vegetables needed more time to roast. I also turned the sausages after 30 minutes to makes sure they were browned evenly.)

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Drizzle the sausages and roasted pears, squash, and shallots with some balsamic vinegar.

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Wine Pairing: Zinfandel, Primitivo

Roasted Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

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Sausage and Peppers has been a family favorite for years. My aunt would often prepare this for lunch on Saturdays, after we returned from shopping in our neighborhood’s Italian section on Avenue U in Brooklyn. She would serve them with bread still warm from the baker and a selection of cheeses from her favorite salumeria. These days, I often make it for an easy weeknight supper.

Like most cooks, my aunt would fry up the sausages and then use their fat to fry the onions and peppers. This is the way I too have prepared this dish—that is, until last night.

Although I enjoy this Italian staple, I hate cleaning up the greasy mess it makes all over the stove. I thought there must be an easier alternative using my oven. I did a Google search and found several recipes that looked promising.  I combined a few of them and came up with the one below.

Once again, I hadn’t planned on writing about this dish, but it turned out so well that I had to share it with you. I don’t think I’ll ever use the stove top again to make it.

Roasted Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

Ingredients
4 Italian sweet sausages
4 bell peppers (2 red, 1 yellow, 1 orange) cored, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 large onion, thinly sliced or chopped
3 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, quartered for serving with the sausage (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Spray a large roasting pan with olive-oil spray.
  3. Place the sausages, peppers, onion, garlic, in the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and toss, making sure the sausages are in a single layer.
  4. Roast the sausages and vegetables for about an hour. About mid-way through, turn the sausages to ensure even browning.

When the sausages and vegetables are browned to your liking, remove from the oven and serve. Squeeze some lemon on the sausage for added flavor.

Wine Pairing: Zinfandel

Italian Sausage with Grapes, Onion, and Balsamic Vinegar

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Early on Sunday evening, we usually sit down with a cocktail and some appetizers to watch the string of cooking shows on PBS. They’re a welcome calm alternative to the increasingly competition-driven line-up on the Food Network.

One of our favorite shows is America’s Test Kitchen, which is both entertaining and instructive. A recent episode of the series included a relatively simple weeknight recipe for sweet Italian sausages with seedless red grapes and balsamic vinegar that we both thought had to be on our table before the end of the week. We found the combination of ingredients intriguing and came away with a better all-purpose method for browning and cooking sausage. I’m including a link to the show’s website, which, if you’re not a registered user, requires you to sign up. Registration is free. It’s worth the time and this page has an informative article on cooking sausages.

https://www.americastestkitchen.com/print/recipes/8420-italian-sausage-with-grapes-and-balsamic-vinegar

I served the sausages with my aunt’s Italian potato pie, but they would also go well with polenta.

Italian Sausage with Grapes and Balsamic Vinegar (Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

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INGREDIENTS
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage
1 pound seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise (3 cups)
1 large onion, halved and sliced 1/8” thin
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
2-3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet or sauté pan over medium heat until shimmering. Arrange sausages in pan and cook, turning once, until browned on 2 sides, about 5 minutes.

Browned sausages
Browned sausages

2. Take off the heat, tilt skillet and carefully remove excess fat with paper towel.

3. Return the pan to the stove and distribute grapes and onion over and around sausages.

Adding grapes and onions
Adding grapes and onions

4. Add water and immediately cover. Cook over medium heat, turning sausages once, until they register between 160 and 165 degrees and onions and the grapes have softened, about 10 minutes.

Softened grapes and onions
Softened grapes and onions

5. Transfer sausages to paper towel–lined plate and tent with aluminum foil.

6. Return skillet to medium-high heat and stir pepper and salt into grape-onion mixture. Spread grape-onion mixture in even layer in skillet and cook without stirring until browned, 3 to 5 minutes.

Cooking grapes and onions
Cooking grapes and onions

7. When browned, stir and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is well browned and grapes are soft but still retain their shape, 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Browning onions
Browning onions

8. Reduce heat to medium, stir in wine and oregano, and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until wine is reduced by half, 30 to 60 seconds.

Browned onions
Browned onions
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After deglazing pan with wine.

9. Return sausages to the pan to heat briefly.

Sausages returned to the pan
Sausages returned to the pan

10. Remove pan from heat and stir in vinegar. Sprinkle with mint and serve.

Finished dish
Finished dish

Wine Pairing: Dry Riesling, Morellino di Scansano

Pork Roast Braised in Milk Bolognese Style

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One of my fondest memories of my years as a young academic in Boston was spending Friday evenings with a couple of colleagues, cooking dinner, and watching “Dallas” and “Falcon Crest.” As we dined and intermittently glanced at the television, we’d offer a running, often cynical, commentary on the show’s lack of any redeeming social value and eventually wind up discussing politics and thus missing the end of the show.

Since I was often the guest, my friends typically prepared the meal, which more often than not was a roast beef. One evening, however, I offered to cook at their apartment. During these years, the late 70s, Marcella Hazan was my go-to authority on authentic Italian cooking; her two volumes of The Classic Italian Cookbook provided me with many recipes that would stun my friends with their simplicity and flavor. So the night I cooked for our Friday get-together I chose Hazan’s Bolognese-style pork roast braised in milk. I could start at 6PM and it would be ready just in time for “Dallas.”

This recipe may be one of her most popular; versions and tales of it abound on the Internet. I believe it first appeared in her the first volume of her classic series. It was so simple: brown a small pork roast in olive oil and butter; season with salt and pepper; add milk, cover the pot with the lid slightly ajar and braise for about 3 hours. When finished, remove the roast, skim the fat from sauce, and serve. The roast was moist and succulent and the milk turned into a sauce of creamy brown nutlike clusters.

I noticed that in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, which is a compendium of the earlier two volumes, the procedure for cooking the roast is more complicated, calling for adding the milk at three intervals, in varying quantities. I chose, however, to follow the original method, adding all of the milk at the beginning, but followed her advice of having the butcher remove the bones from the roast to enable a more thorough browning of the meat and of cooking the bones along with the roast to maximize flavor.

Note that the size of the cooking vessel is essential to the success of this dish. The pot should be no bigger than is necessary to, in Hazan’s words, “snugly accommodate the pork,” which allows about 2/3 to 1/2 of the roast to be submerged in the milk while braising. I used a small 2.5 quart Le Creuset dutch oven.

My only real variation from her recipe is the addition of some fresh nutmeg after adding the milk. I guess this comes from following Hazan’s recipe for béchamel sauce.

Pork Loin Braised in Milk Bolognese Style Adapted from The Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan

The ingredients (missing the olive oil)
The ingredients (missing the olive oil)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
21/2 pound pork loin roast. (Have the ribs detached from the loin and split into two or three parts. Do not removed any fat from the meat. The roast should be tied. See picture below.)
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups whole milk (You may need a little more in the unlikely event that the milk evaporates too much.)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

The roast with bones separated and cut
The roast with bones separated and cut by great butcher at Dickson’s Farmstand Meats in NYC

1. Heat butter and oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pot that that can later snugly accommodate the pork.

The browned roast
The browned roast

2. When the butter foam subsides, put in the roast fat-side down. Brown the meat evenly on all sides. If the fat is becoming very dark, lower the heat. Season the roast with salt and pepper. Add the milk slowly to avoid it boiling over. Add the nutmeg.

The roast in the milk
The roast in the milk

3. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, and set the lid slightly ajar. Cook slowly for about 21/2 to 3 hours, occasionally turning and basting the meat. If before the meat is fully cooked, you find that the liquid in the pot has evaporated, add another 1/2 cup of milk.

Roast simmering in the milk
Roast simmering in the milk

4. When the pork has become tender and all the milk has coagulated into small, brownish clusters, transfer the roast to a cutting board and tent with foil.

The finished roast
The finished roast

5. Tip the pot and spoon off most of the fat, being careful to leave behind all the coagulated milk clusters. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of water and boil away the water over high heat using a wooden spoon to scrape loose cooking residues from the bottom and the sides of the pot.

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The skimmed sauce

6. Carve the roast into 3/8-inch slices and arrange on warm platter. Spoon all the pot juices over the pork and serve immediately.

Wine Pairing: Dolcetto d’Alba, Dry Lambrusco

Farro with Pork Ragù

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In New York City, fall has definitely arrived and so has my appetite for heartier as well as comforting dishes like braises and stews. Perhaps this is why a recipe for farro with pork ragu looked so appealing. The fact that I had almost everything on hand except for the pork shoulder and a fresh bay leaf also increased the recipe’s appeal and thus it found its way to our table last night.

The recipe from Lidia Bastianich’s Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italyis yet another example of the simplicity of Italian cooking: a minimum of ingredients prepared with a modicum of technique.

The finished dish was exquisite: succulent pork cooked slowly in a subtly spicy tomato sauce, which is then combined with earthy farro. Paired with a rich, plummy Aglianico, it met all my requirements for comforting fall fare.

Since I was cooking only for two, I prepared only 8 ounces of the farro and combined it with only half of the ragu. I also found that the pork required a longer cooking time than the one and half hours specified in the recipe. I cooked it for a full two hours, after which the meat was perfectly tender. Finally, for maximum flavor, be sure to scrape up any brown bits at the bottom of the pan after adding the wine and again after adding the tomatoes.

Farro with Pork Ragù Potenza Style from Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy
Makes about 4 cups, serving 6 with farro

The Ingredients
The Ingredients

For the ragù
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. chopped garlic (about 5 cloves)
1/2 tsp. peperoncino flakes, or to taste
1/2 cup white wine
3 cups (one 28-ounce can) canned Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

For the farro and serving
1 pound farro
1 fresh bay leaf
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly grated pecorino (or half pecorino and half Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano), plus more for passing (I used pecorino.)

Recommended equipment: A heavy saucepan, such as an enameled cast-iron French oven, 5-quart capacity, with a cover; a heavy 3- or 4-quart saucepan.

For the ragù: Trim the fat from the exterior of the pork. Cut it into bite-sized morsels, about 3/4-inch cubes, trimming more fat and bits of cartilage as you divide the meat. Pat the pieces dry with paper towels.

Pour the olive oil into the big pan, set it over medium heat and toss in the pork. Spread the pieces in the pan and season with the salt. Cook the pork slowly for 15 minutes or so, turning and moving the pieces occasionally as the meat releases its juices and they cook away.

Browning the pork
Browning the pork

When the pan is dry and the pork starts to sizzle and crackle, clear a hot spot on the bottom and drop in the chopped garlic and peperoncino. Stir and toast them for a minute or so in the hot spot until the garlic is fragrant and sizzling, then stir and toss with the meat cubes. Raise the heat a bit, pour in the white wine, stir and bring to a boil. Let the wine bubble until it is nearly evaporated and the pork is sizzling again.

Reducing the wine
Reducing the wine

Pour in the crushed tomatoes and a cup of water that has been sloshed around to rinse out the tomato can, grate on the fresh nutmeg and stir.

With the tomatoes
With the tomatoes

Cover the pan and heat the tomatoes to a boil, then adjust the heat to maintain a steady, gentle perking. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours until the pork is tender all the way through and falls apart under gentle pressure, and the sauce has thickened. If the liquid is still thin toward the end of the cooking time, set the cover ajar and raise the heat a bit to reduce it rapidly.

The finished ragu
The finished ragu

Meanwhile, prepare the farro, first rinsing it well and draining it in a sieve. Put it in the smaller saucepan with 6 cups cold water, the bay leaf, salt and olive oil.

The cooking liquid for the farro
The cooking liquid for the farro

Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then set the cover ajar and adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the grains are cooked through but still al dente. Turn off the heat, pour off excess liquid and keep the farro warm until the ragù is done.

The cooked farro
The cooked farro

To finish the dish: Have the ragù simmering and stir in the farro thoroughly. Cook together for a minute, so the grain is very hot. Turn off the heat, sprinkle the grated cheese on top and stir in.

The sauced farro
The sauced farro

Spoon the dressed farro into warm bowls, and serve immediately with more grated cheese at the table.

Wine Pairing: Aglianico