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Stuffed Pork Loin, Filetto di Maiale Farcito

This is one of those dishes that will be quite tasty grilled, in summer, but will also be a pleasant roast in winter. And, it’s easy to do.

To serve 6:

  1. 2 boned pork loins trimmed of fat, 1 3/4 pounds (700 g) in all
  2. 1/4 pound (100 g) dried tomatoes
  3. A rib of celery
  4. 1/2 cup chopped pitted green olives
  5. 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  6. 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  7. 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary needles
  8. Olive oil
  9. Salt and pepper to taste
  10. Butcher’s twine

Pull the strings from the celery if need be, and mince it. Mince the tomatoes too. Combine the celery with the tomatoes, olives, and herbs, and combine the mixture with the breadcrumbs, adding enough olive oil to make the stuffing moist and crumbly. Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper.

Slice the pork loins almost completely through lengthwise so you can open them like a couple of books Spread the stuffing over them, shut them, and tie them up like a couple of salamis using the butcher’s twine. Rub them lightly with olive oil, and season them with salt and pepper.

At this point you have a choice: Grill or Oven?

To grill them, set them over fairly hot coals (you can hold your hand over for 5 seconds) and cook them for 20-25 minutes, turning them often.

To roast them, put them in a roasting pan and cook them in a preheated 400 F (200 C) oven for 25-30 minutes, turning them once or twice and basting them with pan drippings.

In either case, let them sit for a few minutes after they’re cooked, then remove the string and slice them fairly thickly. Serve them with a tossed salad. A wine? Because of the dried tomatoes and the olives, I would be tempted to go with a substantial white, for example a Greco di Tufo.


La Bombetta Pugliese: Street Food at its Finest

Bombette Pugliesi: Enjoy!

Bombette Pugliesi: Enjoy!

La Bombetta Pugliese is a specialty of the Valle D’Itria, south of Bari, and the folks at the Bombetta Pugliese stand in the street foods section of Torino’s Salone del Gusto didn’t mince words: “It’s not healthy!” they cried, and indeed there isn’t much healthy in a well-seasoned pork braciola swapped around a piece of cheese and grilled.

“But it’s good!” they howled.

And come people did, drawn also by the chest-thumping music they were playing and the wonderful aromas rising from their grill: they couldn’t keep up with demand.

In short, Bombette are an ultimate street food, though this hasn’t always been the case: Historically bombette were a meaty dish enjoyed (rarely) by the poorest of the poor, sharecroppers who took the trimmings nobody else was interested in – if it was fatty, so much the better because fat = calories = energy – wrapped it around a little cheese, and cooked them in the communal ovens butchers kept lit for their poorer clients. Even their size is rooted in poverty: they are small because small cooks faster, requiring less fuel.

Now bombette are a fixture at country fairs in Puglia, and people cook them over the coals when they have friends over.

Bombette Pugliesi: Ready to Grill!

Bombette Pugliesi: Ready to Grill!

To make Bombette Pugliesi you will need nicely marbled pork shoulder butt; the butchers of the Valle D’Itria say the animal should weigh between 160 and 180 k (350-400 pounds) and not be the result of intensive farming, because the meat will be better marbled.

The cheese is up to personal taste; some prefer Parmigiano or Grana, others pecorino (Sardo, not Romano, which is sharper and saltier), and others still Fontina, which melts. The important thing is to use a cheese of good quality.

Bombette Pugliesi: Over the Coals

Bombette Pugliesi: Over the Coals

The preparation of bombette is straight forward. Assuming you have a pound of meat, you will want about 3/4 pound of cheese, as well as salt, pepper, finely chopped rosemary needles, minced parsley, and – it you want – a hint of red pepper.

Crumble or finely dice the cheese and put it in a bowl with salt, pepper, parsley and  rosemary (go easy on the rosemary because it is powerful; I would figure a scant teaspoon of freshly chopped needles for this volume) to taste. Mix well.

Finely slice the shoulder butt to make pork braciole. Put them between slices of oven parchment and pound them with a meat pounder or the flat of a knife to thin them, and season them to taste with salt and pepper.

Bombette Pugliesi: Almost Done...

Bombette Pugliesi: Almost Done…

Put an equal amount of filling on each slice and roll the bombette up, folding in the sides as well to obtain packets of meat that will contain the cheese when it has been  melted by the heat of the fire. As you seal up each packet, slip it onto a skewer or kebab.

Continue until all is used up.

While you are preparing the meat, heat coals in your grill. The custom in Puglia is to use hardwood, and if you can it will give best results. Set the meat over the coals, which shouldn’t be too searing, and cook, turning the spits, until all sides of the bombette are nicely browned — 10 minutes in all, or perhaps a little more.

If you are at a street fair you will be given a paper cone filled with bombette and a slice or two of bread, and also a skewer with which to spear and eat the bombette. And be very happy. If you are with friends in the back yard or the den, divvy them up onto plates.

A wine? I’d go with a zesty Negroamaro.

Bell Peppers Stuffed with Sausages, Peperoni Ripieni alla Salsiccia

A Bell Pepper Stuffed with Sausage

A Bell Pepper Stuffed with Sausage

Sausages and bell peppers are a delightful combination, and this recipe will be perfect in spring or autumn, when you want neither the really light dishes of the summer months or the hearty dishes of winter. While you are of course free to use any sort of sausage, I suggest mild sausages.

  • 4 bell peppers of the color you prefer; select not-too-large peppers with flat bottoms because they will stand upright more easily
  • A scant pound (400 g) sausage meat; remove and discard the casings and crumble the meat
  • An egg
  • 2 scallions, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 cup (25-30 g) freshly grated Parmigiano
  • A small bunch of parsley
  • The leaves from 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 360 F (180 C).

Finely chop the parsley and the thyme leaves from two of the sprigs. Combine them in a bowl with the egg, sausage meat, and grated cheese, and season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper.

Finely slice the scallions and gently sauté them in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 of water in a non-stick pan, stirring gently. When the water has evaporated add the pine nuts and cook another minute, then let the mixture cool some and add it to the sausage mixture. Mix well.

Wash and dry the peppers, and cut off their tops. Seed them and rib them without puncturing them, and fill them with the sausage mixture, covering them with their tops.

Put the stuffed peppers in a baking dish, drizzle them with the wine and 3 tablespoons of olive oil, cover them with a sheet of aluminum foil, and bake them for 20 minutes. Remove the sheet of aluminum foil and bake them until done, another 20-25 minutes or so.

Let the peppers cool somewhat, garnish them with the remaining thyme leaves, and serve.

The wine? I’d be tempted by a white, perhaps a lusty Sauvignon from Friuli Venezia Giulia.

Yield: 4 servings bell peppers stuffed with sausage meat.

Adriana’s Beef and Pork Stew, Lo Stufato Dell’Adriana

Adriana's Pork and Beef Stew

Adriana’s Pork and Beef Stew

A number of years ago I finished Vinitaly, the major Italian wine trade show, with a delightful potluck dinner at the home of Lorenzo Begali, who makes wonderful Valpolicella and Amarone. And wrote down the recipes. This time it was a much quieter dinner, with family and kids.

Adriana, Lorenzo’s wife, served pasta followed by stew and polenta.

The recipe will serve 6-8

  • 3 pounds (1.5 k, total) stew beef and boned pork, cubed – proportions to taste but she used more beef than pork
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • A few leaves of sage, and the needles from a 6-inch sprig of rosemary, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A glass of white wine (optional)

Heat the oil in a pot and sauté the onion, garlic, and herbs until the onion becomes translucent. Add the meat and cook, stirring, until it browns.

If you’re including the wine, sprinkle it into the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until it evaporates.

Add a glass of warm water, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, and cook covered until the meat is tender and the juices are much reduced, removing the cover towards the end to hasten evaporation if need be.

Serve with a tossed salad, polenta, and a good red wine. For example, Lorenzo Begali’s Valpolicella.

Adriana’s pasta sauce is quite similar: She starts out with the same ingredients, though the meat is ground rather than cubed, and also adds enough tomato sauce to turn it pale red. Over tagliatelle, which are called lasagnette in the Valpolicella, it was very good.

Ivana’s Costicine di Maiale, Spare Ribs

There are lots of ways to cook spare ribs. Many end up being rather fatty, and though tasty aren’t particularly healthy. Ivana, who brought these ribs to a potluck dinner in the hinterland of Verona, steams them before roasting them, and in doing so removes quite a bit of fat. There really aren’t any quantities involved in the recipe, so the amounts you use will be up to you.

You’ll want individual pork spare ribs (figure 4-6 per person, or perhaps more)

  • 50-50 mixture of water and white wine
  • The needles of a sprig of rosemary
  • A little more white wine
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • A pressure cooker with a steamer basket attachment

Put the ribs in the steamer basket, put them in the pressure cooker, and add enough water and wine to fill the pressure cooker within an inch of the bottom of the basket (you don’t want to boil the ribs). Pressure cook the ribs for 10 minutes to render out most of the fat.

Let the pressure drop, open the pressure cooker, and arrange the ribs in an oven pan. Sprinkle them with the rosemary needles, season them to taste with salt and pepper, dribble a little more white wine over them, and roast them for 20 minutes in a preheated oven. Or broil them until they’re pleasingly browned.

The rest of the meal this was served in.