Country style ribs, Italian style

by Terry B on November 17, 2010

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.


{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Cynthia Fox-Giddens November 17, 2010 at 2:59 pm

A great recipe and seems to not be fussy which I like a lot. So right on a cool fall day. This is a leftover meal that the family won’t mind eating again. It’s Simply Yummy!

John Hobson November 17, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Much of Italian cooking is not fussy, and almost all of it is very good. (I happen to have an intense dislike of cooked green peppers, so there are some dishes that I will avoid.) My wife and I spent much of 2006 in Italy, and we only had one or two poor meals.

Dime Store Foodie November 18, 2010 at 5:06 pm

I make a similar recipe but instead of country ribs I use short ribs and make a ragu out of them. Looks very good, I love a recipe that you can easily put together, put in the oven and ignore for a couple of hours. I like to serve mine over gnocchi, I love the delicate texture of the gnocchi paired with the heaviness of the meat. I bet this gets better the second day! As always looks wonderful!

Terry B November 18, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Thanks, Cynthia! If anything, the leftovers were actually even more flavorful.

Take your pick, John. Just about every country offers non-fussy dishes people cook in their home kitchens that are delicious. Italy and France are both perfect examples of this, I think.

I’m always looking for new ways to cook short ribs, Dime Store Foodie. Serving them over gnocchi sounds like a great idea!

Toni November 18, 2010 at 7:35 pm

I was introduced to country style ribs by my husband, who used to cook them regularly – but never like this. I love the simplicity of it, which is the hallmark of good Italian food.

Laura [What I Like] November 18, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Well I loved that chickpea and pasta recipe, this one I have high hopes for as well! Looks gorgeous, and great tip about the rib cuts. I was always wondering about that…

Chef Dad November 19, 2010 at 1:38 am

We try to do something nice on Friday nights after running through the week. I haven’t made something like this for a while. Just might use it tomorrow night.

Terry B November 19, 2010 at 2:22 am

Hi, Toni! Sounds like your husband was quite a cook. Based on what I’ve seen on your blog, you certainly are.

Laura—They were actually an invention of a Chicago butcher back in the sixties, as a way to sell less well loved cuts of meat. When they took off, butchers had to find other cuts on the pig to keep up with demand!

Chef Dad—I think you’ll enjoy them. Just make sure you have plenty of cooking time. These might make a better Saturday treat if you don’t.

Cara November 22, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Oh Terry this sounds wonderful, I’m piping up for any vegetarians like me, who follow your blog and always look for a recipe
“…one of Rome’s “favorite humble meals” from it, pasta e ceci (pasta and chickpeas).
Can’t wait until you, gentle nudge, share this

Terry B November 22, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Hi, Cara! Actually, the pasta e ceci is a live link to the recipe I cooked. So is the one in this comment. And it’s become one of our go-to dishes. It’s not strictly vegetarian, as it has some pancetta in it. But if you skipped that and maybe upped the salt a little, I think you’d be just fine. Let me know what you think!

Cara November 22, 2010 at 9:09 pm

oops…thanks I should have looked for the live link
Jun will definitely try this tonight, maybe with standby Baco bits :)

Alta November 27, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Ooh, this sounds really tasty. I think next time I buy meat at the grocery, country style ribs are on the list!

Buy Online Food November 28, 2010 at 8:24 pm

This is a great italian recipe to be made on a cold winter day. Italian food. My friend will love this recipe.

Andy.S September 23, 2011 at 9:12 pm

I have made a similar recipe, also very good, just like this. It adds 3 each of spicy and regular italian sausage, browned and braised with the ribs…adds a nice kick!

Simon May 9, 2017 at 11:55 pm

This recipe produces tasteless ribs. The contents are little more than the stock base one might use if pre boiling ribs before roasting in the impact flavourings. The mixture actually smells of sick when the final product is placed on the table.

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