Mom’s Slow-Roasted Pork

February 14, 2018

Growing up, Sunday dinner almost always included some sort of pasta with my mother’s long-simmered Southern Italian sugo.

The sauce was made with large pieces of pork which were always served on the side.  In addition, there might be meatballs, simmered in the sauce after being fried to a deep brown.  Sometimes, actually, much more often than sometimes, there would be veal cutlets.  This was back in the day when people didn’t really think about how veal was produced…or maybe it was produced more humanely back then.  I’m not sure.

Sometimes a pork roast would accompany the pasta.  Occasionally, though not often, the pork roast would be accompanied by potatoes and there wouldn’t be pasta on the table.

A Sunday without pasta, though, was quite unusual in my parents’ house.


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The pasta could have been homemade linguine or fettuccine, which my mother and her sister, my Aunt Margie, made on a regular basis and then dried and stored in large rectangular aluminum tins that once held baccala (salted cod).

Those tins had a myriad of uses, from protecting pasta and cookies to storing recipes and papers.  Even though they were made of an inert metal, they had to be thoroughly scrubbed and allowed to air out, uncovered, for weeks to rid them of the smell of baccala.

My mother learned her style of Southern Italian cooking from her mother, Angelina (far left). No doubt she learned it from her mother (center).

Sometimes the Sunday pasta was homemade ravioli, never was it gnocchi as my father didn’t like gnocchi.  Those were reserved for dinners when my father was out of town.

Usually, though, the pasta was dried pasta from a box: spaghetti, rigatoni, wagon wheels, fettuccine, and so forth.  Dried pasta is really a different sort of pasta with some different uses than fresh pasta (even if the fresh pasta is dried before use as mom and Aunt Margie often did).


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I know many of you have heard me say this, but roasts in our house were much more similar in texture to pulled pork than the typical French-American style of “just-how-little-can-we-cook-this-hunk-of-meat-and-say-it’s-done” type of roast.

A huge advantage of this style of cooking is that you can know in advance when it will be done because it’s really the clock that counts, not the thermometer.  I don’t like making an American style roast for a dinner party.  It makes me crazy.

I don’t get to enjoy cocktails and I don’t get to enjoy the first course because I’m focused on when the thermometer might say the roast is done.  While the temperature to be achieved is precise, the time is not.

On the other hand, the Italian style of roasting eliminates all of these problems because the meat is not “just barely cooked enough.”  The collagen begins to liquefy and the roast becomes unctuous.

If you haven’t experienced this style of roast, give it a try.  If you like it, look up my recipe for Italian Slow-Roasted Chicken or Turkey for the poultry equivalent.


If you have a favorite family recipe and a bit of a story to tell, please email me at santafecook@villasentieri.com and we can discuss including it in the blog. I am expanding the scope of my blog to include traditional recipes from around the country and around the world. If you haven’t seen Bertha’s Flan or Melinda’s Drunken Prunes, take a look.  They will give you an idea of what I’m looking for.


 

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Mom's Slow-Roasted Pork
I have an assortment of blue spatterware roasting pans which are perfect for this type of roast. I also have an array of heavy stainless steel, aluminum, and enameled cast-iron roasters. The more important issue is using a roasting pan of the right size to hold the roast without crowding (it shouldn’t touch the sides or top of the roaster) or without too much empty space. The initial cooking at higher temperature not only browns the roast, it helps it to reach the optimum temperature for collagen to break down to produce that pull-apart texture. You can easily increase the size of the roast. With a 4 to 5 pound roast, you would probably need to add another 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours to the roasting time.
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Course Mains, Meats
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Mains, Meats
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. Cut the garlic cloves into 3 to 4 slivers each.
  2. Plunge a paring knife into the pork at intervals to make small pockets about 1 inch deep. Space the pockets out around the roast.
  3. Put a piece of garlic and some of the fresh rosemary into each pocket.
  4. Some of the rosemary will invariably stick to the fat cap. Don’t sweat it, just try to get most of it in the slits.
  5. Put the roast into a roasting pan that is just large enough to hold it.
  6. Generously season the roast with salt and pepper.
  7. Pour the wine (or water) into the bottom of the roasting pan.
  8. Roast, uncovered, at 375°F until the roast is browned a little, 45-60 minutes.
  9. Baste with pan juices.
  10. Cover and continue to roast at 275-300°F for about another three hours, basting with the pan juices every 30-45 minutes or so.
  11. The pan juices will dry up. Be careful not to burn the bits on the bottom of the pan, but allow them to brown before adding another ¼ cup of water or so. After two or three cycles of this, the pan juices will be a luscious dark brown.
  12. Remove the roast from the pan. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  13. To serve, pull the roast into large pieces. Don’t even try to slice it. It’s not supposed to slice.
  14. Pour a little of the pan juices on top. Pass the rest.
Recipe Notes

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Tiella (Southern Italian Vegetable and Pasta Casserole)

September 18, 2017

When I was growing up, we mostly socialized within the extended family plus a very few close family friends (that’s you, Joe and Betty Slivosky!).

It was a time (the 60’s) and place (small-town Western Pennsylvania) where it was rare to call in advance of a visit. One just showed up. This usually happened in the evening after dinner, though almost never on Monday or Thursday when the stores downtown were open until 9 PM and we dressed and went shopping after dinner.

Everyone would sit around (usually in the kitchen) drinking coffee (with caffeine), chatting…and smoking. Oh, the smoking! Occasionally the men would drink beer but unless it was a holiday or celebration of some sort, hard liquor was a rarity.

On Sundays, visiting frequently occurred (or at least started) in the afternoon and there might be two or three stops before heading home.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard the same stories. It’s one of the ways I developed a connection with family members, like my maternal grandparents, who died when I was very young.

To be sure, sometimes my cousin Donna and I would abandon the adults and pursue some childhood activity but we still hung out in the kitchen much of the time.

Often times the conversation would veer towards food; things my grandmother would make, the huge platters of cannoli one of my great aunts would make, what was eaten on holidays, and on and on.

There was the oft-repeated reminder of how my grandfather could come home late at night with a group of friends and how my grandmother would cook for them near midnight. There were stories of my grandmother cleaning and cooking chicken feet. My mother would talk about the time she killed a chicken in the basement and it got away from her and ran, headless, around the room. My father would remind everyone that the only food he didn’t like was gnocchi.

Food was a central feature of our lives.

So was conversation.

There were also times I would just sit in the kitchen and chat with my mother for hours. Relatives and food were common topics of conversation. There were dishes my grandmother made that I heard about over and over but never tasted because my mother never made them for some inexplicable reason. One of them was a quickly sautéed veal chop with a pan sauce made of the drippings in the pan, crushed canned tomatoes, peas, and seasonings. Back in the days when I cooked veal, I actually made it. Now I do it with pork chops.

The other dish that stands out in my memory from these conversations is Tiella. My mother talked of it frequently but never made it. The instructions were basic, a layer of pasta, a layer of potatoes, a layer of zucchini, and a can of tomatoes crushed by hand and poured on top. The whole thing was then baked. There wasn’t much of a discussion of which seasonings to use or proportions of ingredients. It was just assumed it would have garlic (of course it would have garlic) and the herbs that were commonly used in our family. Proportions…well…it just needed to look “right.”

For the number of times my mother rhapsodized about this dish, I can’t figure out why she never made it.

The first time I tried to make it was in the early 1990’s at our little house on Griffin Street in Santa Fe. That first time around, it didn’t live up to the hype, for sure, but it christened the house in an odd way.

In November 1992 my mother, my husband’s mother, and my husband’s grandmother traveled to Santa Fe with us for Thanksgiving week. We looked at property and fell for a little (1151 square foot) house on Griffin Street. My mother was terminally ill at the time. When we got back home, my mother insisted that we use her money for the down payment, which we did. She kept saying that she wanted to live long enough to return to that house in the spring. It didn’t happen. She died in early January.

All of the kitchen gear, china, and glassware for the house on Griffin came from my mother’s house. So, it was fitting that I should make this dish for the first time using my mother’s kitchenware in a house that we owned thanks to her.

It took me many years of working (off and on) on the seasonings and proportions to get it to taste great. (Well, I think it does.) The only real liberty I took with the dish is to use fresh tomatoes rather than canned when I make this in the summer.


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Print Recipe
Tiella (Southern Italian Vegetable and Pasta Casserole)
This is a wonderful late summer dish when tomatoes are at their peak. If you make it at other times, use a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes in place of the tomato puree and fresh tomatoes. Pour the liquid in the can over the potatoes instead of the puree. Crush the tomatoes by hand, add the seasonings described for fresh tomatoes, and arrange the crushed tomatoes on top.
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Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 2 hours
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 2 hours
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine the olive oil and crushed garlic in a small sauté pan. Sauté garlic until lightly browned. Remove the garlic and reserve the oil.
  3. Put the raw ditalini in the bottom of a deep, circular casserole, approximately 10 inches in diameter. The pasta should form a single layer with a fair amount of extra room for it to expand.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, ¼ of the minced garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil and mix well.
  5. In a bowl, toss the sliced potatoes with half the rosemary, ⅓ of the oregano, ¼ of the basil, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, ¼ of the minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  6. Arrange the potatoes neatly in overlapping layers on top of the ditalini. Do not wash the bowl.
  7. Season the tomato puree with salt and pour over the potatoes.
  8. In the same bowl used for the potatoes, toss the zucchini with the remaining oregano, ¼ of the basil, the remaining rosemary, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, ¼ of the minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  9. Arrange the zucchini on top of the potatoes. Do not wash the bowl.
  10. Neatly arrange half the tomatoes on top of the zucchini. Season with half the remaining minced garlic, half the remaining basil, and salt and pepper.
  11. Arrange the remaining tomatoes on top and season with salt and pepper as well as the remaining garlic, basil, and all the parsley.
  12. Put the tiella in the preheated oven.
  13. Remove the crusts from several slices of day-old Italian or French bread. Whiz the bread in a food processor to make coarse crumbs.
  14. While the tiella bakes, toss the breadcrumbs with the remaining garlic oil in the bowl used for the potatoes and zucchini.
  15. After the tiella has baked for 90 minutes, sprinkle the oiled crumbs on top and bake till golden, approximately 30 minutes more.
  16. Allow to rest at least 30 minutes before serving. The tiella can be served warm or at room temperature. It can also be reheated in the oven briefly before serving, if desired.
Recipe Notes

Here’s the link for my recipe for homemade tomato puree (passata di pomodoro).

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