While Andrew Carmellini is renowned for his Italian cuisine, his second cookbook, American Flavor, focuses on the diversity of cuisine across the country. From the barbecue in his native Cleveland to the comfort food at his family's dinner table, American Flavor is a good reminder to always expand your repertoire.
As anybody with a TV knows, every mythical Italian-American family spends Sunday night around a big table, eating unbelievably huge servings of pasta with Grandma’s Special Sunday Night Sauce, which has been simmering in a gargantuan pot in Grandma’s kitchen all day long. And it’s full of meat — really meaty meat — to keep all those big Italian men going: sausages, meatballs, braciole. This is my version of that TV classic. I use all pork: the sauce has pork butt and ribs inside it, so it’s still super-meaty, but it’s also rich and thick and really well-flavored. On a cold winter night, this is the best Sunday-night pasta ever. Serve it up with a great big red wine.
- 1 pound St. Louis ribs (spare ribs, trimmed, with the brisket bones removed)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 large onion, diced (1 1/2 cups)
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced superfine
- 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Calabrian, dried on the branch)
- 2 (28-ounce) cans chopped plum tomatoes with their juice (I like Jersey Fresh)
Pasta and finishing
- 1 pound dried rigatoni
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
For the ragu:
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Sprinkle both sides of the pork ribs generously with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper.
- Lay the ribs on a rack in a roasting pan, put it on the middle oven rack and roast for 30 minutes.
- When the ribs have been in the oven for 15 minutes or so, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
- Add the pork shoulder to the pot and let it cook for about 7 minutes, until it’s well browned. Stir the meat every few minutes so nothing sticks.
- Stir in the onions, turn the flame down to medium and keep cooking for about 3 minutes, until the onions have started to soften and color up a little.
- Stir in the garlic and let everything cook for another minute or so, until the garlic has released its aroma. Make sure you keep stirring during this portion of the proceedings, so the garlic doesn’t burn and wreck everything. Then stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the red pepper flakes and the oregano.
- When the ribs have started to brown and caramelize, pull them out of the oven and add them to the pot, along with the canned tomatoes and 2 cups of water. (Don’t worry too much about how perfectly done the ribs may or may not be—this is just to give them a head start. They’re going to cook in the ragu for another 3 1/2 hours, so they’re definitely going to be done.)
- Bring the sauce up to a simmer; then turn the flame down to low and let the ragu keep cooking for about 3 1/2 hours, checking it every so often and giving it a stir to make sure nothing’s sticking or burning on the sides of the pot.
- When the rib meat is falling off the bone and the pork shoulder is nice and tender, pull the pot off the flame and use a slotted spoon to pull the chunks of pork and the ribs from the pot. Pile them on a big plate and let them cool down on the countertop (or in the fridge, if you’re in a hurry).
- Use a ladle to skim the fat off the top of the sauce, so it doesn’t get greasy.
- When the meat is cool enough to handle, rip the pieces of shoulder apart, turning it into chunks, by digging in your thumbs and pulling. Do the same with the ribs, but be careful not to mush up the meat. Pile the pulled meat in a bowl; throw the bones away, but pour any sauce that’s left on the plate over the pulled meat.
- Put a large pot of well-salted water on to boil for the pasta.
- When the water boils, add the rigatoni to the pot and let it cook for the time specified on the box minus 1 minute. If the sauce has cooled, heat it up on the stove over a low flame.
- Mix the meat back into the sauce.
- When the pasta is just al dente, drain it (but don’t rinse it) and add it to the pot on the stove.
- Turn the heat to medium and cook the pasta in the sauce for about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring it every few seconds. You want the pasta to soak up the flavors of the sauce. If the sauce seems dry, add a little bit of water.
- Turn the flame off; then add 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and the olive oil to the pot and mix everything together really well. The Italians call this process mantecare, which means “to make creamy.”
- Scoop the ragu into individual bowls, sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan and the chopped parsley on top, and serve this right away.
Try out these other rigatoni recipes on Food Republic: