Braised Pork Ribs with Rigatoni

Another meal prepared by SP for Sunday dinner with my parents. He loves cooking this time of year because he’s really into long-simmering, hearty, comfort food. We’re big fans of Lidia Bastianich, so he turned to one of her cookbooks when deciding what to make. He chose Braised Pork Ribs with Rigatoni because we had a rack of ribs in the freezer that needed to be used up, but when he read through the recipe he realized we’d need more ribs. D’oh. Oh well, we’ll just have to make these again.

Pork rib ragu

He made this while Baby Girl and I were away for the weekend, so we didn’t get to smell the delicious aroma throughout the house as it cooked. But the end result…man, oh man. The meat was so tender you could just lightly pull on the bone and it would slide right out. Delicious. Comforting. Hearty. Everything you want in a Fall/Winter meal.

SP had to make two adjustments to the recipe – we can’t easily find San Marzano tomatoes so he just used two cans of crushed tomatoes. He also couldn’t find pickled cherry peppers, so he used banana pepper rings. Both worked just fine.

Braised Pork Ribs with Rigatoni
As seen in Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen

One whole rack (about 4 pounds) pork spare ribs
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large yellow onions, sliced (about 3 cups)
8 garlic cloves, peeled
6 pickled cherry peppers, stemmed, seeded and quartered (can also use mild banana pepper rings)
Two 35-ounce cans plum tomatoes (San Marzano) with their liquid, seeded and crushed (or 2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes)
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 to 3 cups hot water, or as needed
1 pound rigatoni
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

Cut the rack of spare ribs between the bones into single ribs (or ask your butcher to do this for you.) Season the rib pieces with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy braising pan over medium heat. Add as many of the ribs as will fit without touching. Cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the ribs, drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towel. Repeat with the remaining ribs. Adjust the temperature throughout the browning, so the fat in the pan is sizzling, but the pieces of pork that stick to the pan don’t burn.

Pour off all but about 4 tablespoons of fat from the casserole. Add the onions, garlic and cherry peppers and cook, stirring, until the onions are wilted and caramelized, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil, scraping the pan to loosen the brown bits stuck to the bottom. Tuck the spare ribs into the tomato sauce, season lightly with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to simmering and cook, turning the spare ribs in the sauce occasionally, until the ribs are fork-tender, about 2 hours. Ladle some of the hot water into the casserole from time to time as necessary to keep the ribs covered with liquid.

To serve: When the ribs are almost tender, cook pasta according to package directions.

Drain the pasta, return it to the pot and spoon in enough of the spare rib sauce to generously coat the pasta. Toss in the parsley and bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, tossing to coat the pasta with sauce. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in 2/3 cup grated cheese. Transfer the pasta to a warm platter or individual plates and top with the spare ribs. Spoon a little of the remaining sauce over the pasta and serve immediately, passing additional sauce and grated cheese separately.