Slow cooked with aromatics, herbs and canned Italian plum tomatoes, country style ribs take on a delicious Italian accent. Recipe below.
We moved our cookbooks last weekend. More precisely, we moved our cookbook bookcase, which involved removing the cookbooks and then reshelving them in their new spot. Have you ever moved cookbooks without opening any of them? Neither have we. That’s how we came across the recipe that inspired this one.
More than a year ago, Marion gave me the wonderful (and sadly out-of-print) Roma: Authentic Recipes from In and Around the Eternal City. I immediately cooked one of Rome’s “favorite humble meals” from it, pasta e ceci (pasta and chickpeas). And I promised more to come. Of course, then it got filed away with all the other cookbooks and forgotten.
Now it’s back, with a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs rib dish that’s perfect for chilly nights. The original recipe calls for baby back ribs, with country style ribs as the, um, back-up choice. But I’m a big fan of this meaty, fatty (and therefore juicy and flavorful) cut. For the record, country style “ribs” aren’t really ribs at all. They usually come from the pork shoulder or butt and are cut into strips, some boneless, some bone in. They’re also less expensive than baby back ribs, another plus in my book.
The original recipe also calls for Italian sausages—lots of them. I streamlined things, doing away with this meat overload and slightly reducing the cooking time. The ribs are still falling apart tender, but don’t absolutely dissolve into the sauce. And I added a bay leaf and some paprika along with the rosemary the original called for to add a little more complexity to the dish. You can serve it with polenta, as the original advises, or with pasta or rice.
Italian Country Style Ribs with Tomatoes
Serves 4 generously
1/4 cup olive oil
3 pounds country style ribs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with purée or juices
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, diced
1 rib of celery (with leaves), diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry red wine
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Pat ribs dry with paper towel and season on both sides with salt and pepper (use a light hand with the salt—the canned tomatoes will probably add a fair amount). Heat olive oil over medium-high flame in a heavy Dutch oven or pot (I used our trusty Staub Cocotte, pictured above). Brown the ribs well on both sides, turning them a couple/few times, about 10 minutes total. Brown them in batches if necessary, to avoid crowding them in the pot. Meanwhile, pour tomatoes into a bowl and use kitchen shears to roughly chop tomatoes.
Transfer ribs to a plate and reduce heat to medium. Add onion, carrot and celery to pot and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Stir in garlic, rosemary and paprika and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add wine, scraping up any brown bits, and cook until it’s almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Return ribs to pot, along with any accumulated juices, getting them in a single layer, as much as possible. Pour chopped tomatoes and their juices over the ribs, working them in around the meat with a wooden spoon. Tuck the bay leaf into the tomatoes. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven.
Braise ribs until very tender, 2 to 2-1/2 hours, carefully turning them about halfway through the cooking process. Transfer ribs to serving platter (they will quite likely fall apart, but they will taste so good, you won’t care). Serve with the sauce. Alternatively, toss the sauce with short cooked pasta, such as penne or farfalle, and serve as a side dish.