serves: makes 5 to 6 cups
If you combine pork meat and tomatoes, you'll end up with a great pasta dressing and some meat left over for a second course. In southern Italy the traditional Sunday dinner has a piece of pork seasoning and peeled tomatoes. With the addition of some dry pasta, in two hours family dinner is ready.
3 pounds country-style pork ribs, bone-in
½ cup dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1-1/2 cups warm broth or water
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ pound bacon, minced in a food processor or finely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 large onion, minced in a food processor or finely chopped
2 stalks celery , minced in a food processor or chopped
1 medium carrot, shredded
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 orange rind, cut in 3 strips
1 cup dry red wine
4 cups hot turkey broth, or water
3 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh rosemary, about 4-inches long with lots of needle clusters
freshly ground black pepper
Prepping and Cooking the Sauce Base
Trim the fat off the ribs-country ribs often have the fat cap from the loin-leaving only a thin layer on the meat.
Lift the soaked porcini out of the soaking liquid and squeeze the juices back into it. Chop the mushrooms into small pieces; strain the soaking liquid and keep it in a warm spot.
Film the pan bottom with the olive oil and set over medium-high heat. When quite hot, lay the ribs in and let them sear for a couple of minutes in place. When they're colored and slightly crusted, turn them all to another side and brown well. Turn after 2 minutes and continue to brown evenly all over, about 8 to 10 minutes in all. Thick ribs should be seared on the narrow sides as well as the cut surfaces. Keep the pan as hot as possible without burning.
Remove the crusty ribs to a bowl or a platter and sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt all over them. Immediately drop the minced bacon into the pan. Lower the heat and stir the bacon around the pan bottom, rendering the fat and scraping up some of the meat crust before it burns, for about 2 minutes.
When the bacon is rendered and sizzling, dump in the minced onions, stir well, and get them sizzling and starting to sweat. Stir in the celery, shredded carrots, and chopped porcini and cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables are wilted and golden, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Clear a hot spot, plop in the tomato paste, toast it for a minute on the pan bottom, then blend it into the vegetables. Drop in the strips of orange rind and stir them in.
Return the ribs to the pan (with the juices they've released) and toss them with the vegetables for a minute to heat them all over. Pour in the wine, raise the heat and let it boil until almost completely evaporated, turning the ribs over and over in the pan.
Pour in the mushroom soaking water and enough hot broth to just cover the ribs. Drop in the bay leaves and the rosemary sprig, submerge them, and bring the liquids to boil. Cover the pan and lower the heat slightly-check and adjust it to maintain steady perking of bubbles all over the surface of the sauce.
Cook for about 2-1/2 hours or more until the meat is so tender it's falling off the bone-almost falling apart. During that time, check the pot every 20 minutes or so, and add hot broth in small quantities (1/2 to 1 cup) just to keep the rib meat covered. If the level is falling much faster, lower the heat to slow the evaporation; if the sauce level isn't dropping at all, raise the heat and set the cover ajar to speed its concentration.
When the meat is sufficiently tender, turn off the heat. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings. If you'll be using the sauce right away, spoon off the fat from the surface. (Otherwise, wait until you've chilled the sauce and just lift off the solidified layer of fat.)
Let the ribs cool completely in the sauce or as long as possible, if you're serving them. Use a wide spatula to lift them out whole and set on a platter. Pick out the bay leaves, herb stems and strips of orange rind and discard; also retrieve any rib bones or meat pieces that may have broken off during the long cooking.
With your fingers, or a fork, tear or shred the pork into rough bite-size pieces, one rib at a time, until you have a quantity that's equal to the volume of sauce in the pot-a one to one ratio of sauce to shredded meat. This is enough for a traditional guazzetto, which should have the character of a meat-laden sauce rather than a meat stew. Fold and stir the pork pieces into the sauce; shred more meat and fold it in if you want.
The traditional way to serve this guazzetto is to dress the pasta with the sauce and shredded meat for the first course, then serve the whole ribs with vegetables for the second course.
If you have meaty ribs left, shred the meat to toss in salads, fill sandwiches, use for ravioli stuffing, or make a pork-rib hash for breakfast. Or reserve the whole ribs and meat and, when ready to eat, reheat under the broiler until crisp like spare ribs and serve with salad.
Use the guazzetto now or chill it thoroughly. Store for several days in the refrigerator or freeze it, in measured amounts for different dishes, for use within a few months.