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~ Mel's Rosemary-Kissed Pork Sugo w/Strozzapreti ~

IMG_4710This dish tastes every bit as good as it sounds and just saying it makes me salivate.  If you haven't noticed, my past few posts have all included pasta in some form:  bucatini (thick, hollow spaghetti), cellentani (hollow corkscrews), pappardelle (wide flat egg pasta), orecchiette (little ears), and now, strozzapreti (priest stranglers).  At the end of May, a friend gave me a beautiful box of very special Italian meats, cheeses, all sorts of marinated vegetables, and, a variety of imported organic pasta.  It was a thank-you gift, and, for me, it's as appreciated as jewelry.  I immediately opened this treasure trove and began posting my favorite way to appropriately showcase each one of these unique pasta shapes  I posted them in no particular order, except there was a big piece of Asiago cheese in the box, so I started with ~ My Basic Asiago Cheese Sauce for Pasta/Veggies ~.  Just click on the Related Article links below to get all the recipes!

IMG_4694What a nice, quiet, purposeful way to spend today! 

IMG_4186Today is the anniversay of D-Day and HBO is running their 10-part, 11-hour mini-series Band of Brothers.  Based on the true story of an elite rifle company ("Easy" Company) that parachuted into Normany on the morning of D-Day, and, produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, it is superb.  I'll be watching it all day on my kitchen television, and, because of that, I decided to make something that will take all day to cook low and slow!

The saucy scoop on sugo, ragu and bolognese!

These are all "sauces", often times called "gravy" or "Sunday gravy" by Italian-Americans.  All three are long-simmering Italian meat and vegetable sauces legendary for their full flavor and luxurious texture that only comes from braising (cooking them low and slow) over several hours.

"Sugo" derives its name from the word "succo" meaning "juicy or juices".  In the case of this sauce, the juices refer to the pan drippings leftover from the cooking of a large piece of meat that gets shredded or minced after cooking it. The vegetables for sugo, sometimes just onion and/or garlic, are usually sauteed separately, either afterward in the pan drippings or separately in advance, before combining them with the meat and preparing the sauce.  Typically, sugo, while thick, is not quite as thick or complex as a ragu.  It's "juicy thick" rather than "creamy thick".

"Ragu", refers generically to "meat sauce" made with (depending on the region), minced, chopped, ground, or a variety of larger meat pieces at the outset, which are sauted with a "soffrito" (different proportions of carrots and celery to onions), giving the flavors of the vegetables and meat the opportunity to marry. "Neapolitan ragu", is a specialty of Naples and consists of soffrito, meat, tomatoes red wine and seasonings.  "Bolognese ragu" is prepared in the style of Bologna and the surrounding Emilia-Romagna regions of Italy, and consists of soffrito, meat, fewer tomatoes and tomato products, white wine, seasonings and cream.

A bit of strozzapreti gossip too -- it's a mouthful! 

IMG_4471In Italian, "strozzapreti" means "priest strangler".  They are an elongated, twisted and ropelike shape of pasta, typical of the Emilia-Romagna and surrounding regions of Italy.  As one legend goes, gluttonous priests gobbled this pasta so fast they choked themselves.  The more believable story is:  In Romagna, the Catholic Church owned vast amounts of property, which they rented to farmers.  When the farmers could not pay their rent, houswives would make pasta for the churchmen as partial payment -- and hope that the priests would choke on it!

I serve strozzapreti with my pork sugo because after the pork has been cooked for 5-6 hours, it gets shredded/pulled into ropey strands.  When the sugo is tossed with the strozzapreti, the meat strands tangle themselves around the pasta -- with every forkful being a perilous delight!

IMG_4602A few important words from me to you before getting started:

This recipe is very simple, but, it requires time (almost an entire day) and your full attention, meaning: read what I write, don't take shorcuts and don't make assumptions.  It depends entirely on "how it looks" rather than how long it took to get it there.  Error on the side of "lower, slower and longer".  Depending upon the size of your pan and how you regulate the heat on your stove, what takes me 7-8 hours to achieve could take you 9 or longer.  Like many foods, this sauce is best made a day ahead of time to give all of the flavors time to marry.  Enjoy your cooking day! 

IMG_4191For the pork roast:

1  5-6 pound bone-in, pork shoulder (Boston butt)

2  cups water

2  large yellow or sweet onions, cut into sixths

12  whole allspice

IMG_42126  whole bay leaves

12  whole cloves

6+4  6" sprigs fresh rosemary, 10 total sprigs of rosemary

garlic powder

sea salt and peppercorn blend

1/2+1/2=1 cup port wine, for deglazing pan & adding to sauce

A bit about the pan:  I use a 6-quart Farberware, Dutch oven with a IMG_4201domed lid to make sugo.  It has a very wide 12" base and straight, 4" deep sides, which fits the size of a pork shoulder very well.  It was a wedding shower gift to me 40 years ago.  By definition, a Dutch oven is a large stew pot with a tight fitting lid, so steam cannot readily escape. Because braising can be done on the stovetop or in the oven, they are made out of materials safe for both.

IMG_4237 IMG_4216~ Step 1. Add the water to the pan and place the roast, fat side down, in the water. Add the allspice, bay leaves and cloves, dividing them equally on both sides of the roast, followed by the onions and rosemary sprigs. Sprinkle garlic powder over all followed by a generous grinding of sea salt and peppercorn blend.

IMG_4256~ Step 2.  Cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to a steady but gentle simmer and continue to cook for 2-2 1/2-3 hours. The bottom of the roast should be browning nicely, meaning:  what it looks like is more important than the time it takes.  

~ Step 3.  Flip the roast over.  I use IMG_4278a large, wide spatula to do this. Add 1 cup of water, recover pan and adjust the roast to a steady simmer that is gentler than the first 2-2 1/2 hours of cooking time.  Continue to cook another 2-2 1/2-3 hours, until roast is nicely browned on the second side.  Once again, how it looks is more important than the time it takes.  My roast cooked on the second side for 3 hours today.

IMG_4350 IMG_4329~ Step 4. You will know the roast is done when the meat is fall-off-the-bone-tender, meaning:  without effort you can pull the bone free from the meat and any attempts to lift the roast up with a fork fail because it wants to fall apart.  This is the definition of fall-off-the-bone tender!

IMG_4367~ Step 5.  Turn the heat off. Carefully remove the roast from the pan and transfer it to a large plate or platter, along with any large chunks that fall back into the pan.  I use a large, wide spatula to do this too.  Use whatever works for you. Cover the roast with foil and set aside.  Remove the bay leaves from the pan drippings.

IMG_4404 IMG_4396~ Step 6. Return pan to stovetop. Over medium heat, bring the pan drippings to a bubbly state and add the wine. Using a spatula, deglaze the pan by stirring all of the browned bits from the bottom.  Turn the heat off.  Go ahead, take a taste.  These are some very special pan drippings!

IMG_4247~ Step 7.  Prep the following vegetables, placing them in the pan drippings as you work:

1  pound peeled and diced carrot

1  pound diced celery

1  pound diced yellow or sweet onion

IMG_4490 IMG_4488~ Step 8. Over medium-high heat, saute the vegetables until soft and tender, stirring frequently, about 25-30 minutes.  There is no reason to season the soffrito, the pan drippings are doing that for you. The veggies will feel heavy and the liquid will be gravylike.

IMG_4530Note:  When you scrape the bottom of the pan, if it takes a couple of seconds for the liquid to fill in the empty spot, you've done your job.  If it seems a bit watery, cook it a little longer, watching it carefully, lowering the heat if necessary, to avoid scorching.  As with everything in this recipe, it is all about how it looks, not how long it takes.

It's time to turn this concoction into sugo!

IMG_4515To the pan of sauted vegetables add, stir, and thoroughly combine:

4  14 1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes, undrained

1  6-ounce can tomato paste

3  cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (Note:  My homemade stock is seasoned with rosemary, so it complements this dish perfectly.  If you are using canned stock, I recommend you simmer it briefly with two sprigs of fresh rosemary prior to adding it to the sauce.)

IMG_4546~ Step 9. Bring the mixture to a steady simmer...

IMG_4429 IMG_4573... and continue to cook, uncovered, until nicely but not overly thickened and emulsified, about 1 hour.  While sauce is simmering:

~ Step 10.  Uncover the pork, cut it into 3 or 4 large pieces, and, using your hands shred it into ropelike IMG_4443strips, not bite-sized chunks.  Why? Because I said so.  Remove and discard any and all pieces of fat and grizzle as you work.

IMG_4579Stir the shredded meat into the simmering sauce.

Note:  If your pork shoulder was larger than 5 pounds, you will have more meat than you need. Stop adding meat when the sauce "looks comfortable", not overstuffed.  Mine weighed 6 1/4 pounds, so I have about 2-3 cups of meat leftover which will make great sandwiches tomorrow!

IMG_4594~ Step 11.  Add the second 1/2 cup of wine, adjust heat to a very gentle simmer, partially cover pot and simmer, until pork has lost some of it's volume (gets stringier) and sauce is a bit thicker, about 1 hour.

IMG_4747Uncover the pot, top with 4 additional sprigs of rosemary, cover and simmer for IMG_4754another 15-20 minutes, until rosemary has lost its bright green color and "kissed" it with flavor. Remove and discard the rosemary.

Remove pan from heat, cover the pot and allow the sauce to steep, to allow the flavors time to marry, at least 1 hour.

Note:  At this point, I recommend putting the pan of sauce in the refrigerator overnight.  Reheat on the stovetop and proceed.

IMG_4603It's time to cook and sauce some strozzapreti!

IMG_4616 IMG_4609~ Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot, bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat and add 1 tablespoon of sea salt. Sprinkle the pasta into the boiling water and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until pasta is al dente, about 7-8 minutes, checking for doneness often after 7 minutes.

IMG_4631 IMG_4625~ Step 2. Drain the cooked pasta into a colander, give it a few good shakes to remove excess water and return the pasta to hot stockpot.  Return stockpot to still warm stovetop.  Toss pasta with 4 tablespoons of butter (because I said so).  When butter is melted:

IMG_4643 IMG_4642~ Step 3. Ladle 4 cups of sauce over the pasta. Using a pair of long-handled salad servers, toss the pasta like you would a salad.  Put the lid on the pot.  Wait about 2-3 minutes (because I said so), uncover the pot and toss again.  Portion into 4-6 warmed pasta bowls and serve:

Topped with freshly-grated, tangy 'n sharp aged Asiago cheese.

IMG_4710Go ahead, take a bite, you've waited long enough for this:

IMG_4741Mel's Rosemary-Kissed Pork Sugo w/Strozzapreti:  Recipe yields 4-4 1/2 quarts of sauce, depending upon the size of the pork shoulder.  One quart of sauce is enough to sauce 1 pound of strozzapreti (or other fork-friendly pasta), so, this is enough sauce for 4 meals.  Portion it into 1-quart size food storage containers and freeze for future meals!

Special Equipment List:  6-quart Dutch oven w/domed lid; 1-cup measuring container; cutting board; chef's knife; large, wide spatula; aluminum foil; large spoon; 8-quart stockpot; colander; soup ladle; long-handled salad servers; microplane grater

6a0120a8551282970b0133f33a94bc970b-800wiCook's Note:  It is officially Summer and before we know it, tomatoes are going to be in abundance in our vegetable gardens and local farmers markets.  For one of my "quick" Italian pasta sauce recipes, click into Categories 8, 12 or 22 for ~ My Fresh & Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce (Marinara) ~

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 


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