Pasta Bake April 14, 2009Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Eating Down the Fridge, Food.
One of the things we found while cleaning out the chest freezer a while back was a boneless pork shoulder roast that we’d picked up on sale. And that was right about the time I, erm, discovered that so-bad-but-so-good website Food & Wine.
One of the dishes featured was Baked Orecchiette with Pork Sugo. Now, midwestern Swede that I am, I had no idea what “sugo” meant, so I had to read the description, right?
In Italian cuisine, a sugo is a gravy or sauce. . . braising pork shoulder until it almost falls apart . . . red-wine-and-tomato sauce. . . topping of Parmigiano cheese until crispy. . . delicious and satisfying.
So, since the full recipe is available right here, I’m just going to hit the highlights for you.
Of course, we often have, uh, help in our tiny kitchen, especially when we take on one of our weekend cooking projects. And he tries so hard to stay out of the way, too.
Anyway, we started with a boneless pork shoulder (or a Boston butt, but, well, that just conjures up images of my New England born-and-bred mother‘s anatomy, so we just don’t go there. . . ) and our basic mire poix (4 carrots, 4 ribs of celery, and one large onion. Plus a bunch of finely chopped garlic. Of course.).
Brown the pieces of pork – in batches, of course. You know, it really does make a difference when you don’t overcrowd the pan. We didn’t know that when I was learning to cook, I guess. But we know it now, by golly.
Once all the pork is browned, we add the veggies and brown lightly, then add a pint of undrained diced tomatoes. All those tomatoes we canned last fall sure have come in handy, haven’t they?
Bring the tomatoes to a simmer (most of the tomato liquid will cook off), then add the red wine (1½ cups!) and some thyme. Cook on high until the wine is reduced by half; the original recipe says about 5 minutes, but it always takes me longer than that. Even on the speed burner. What can I say?
So anyway, then we’re going to add chicken stock – 5 cups – bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat until pork is tender – not just tender, actually, but very tender – at least 2 hours (remember, we whacked the meat up into 1-inch pieces to start with).
Boy, that sure took a long time to cook . . . almost long enough to, say, take a nap.
Once the pork is super-tender, we transferred to the work bowl of the Cuisinart and pulsed until the pork is just shredded. Again, it was done in batches – it’s a lot of “stuff” for the food processor to do at one time. Besides, where were we going?
At this point, we also added some parsley, oregano and crushed red pepper, and tested for salt & pepper while we were at it.
For us, the shredded meat, along with the cooking juices, got dumped into a storage bowl and refrigerated for later in the week.
You will note that we also happened to have baked fresh bread to go with the final product.
While the sauce (gravy?) was reheating, we cooked a pound and a half of pasta. The original recipe was for oricchette, but, well, I didn’t have any of that. Besides, “oricchette” means “little ears,” and, well, that’s just creepy.
So we used Barilla Piccolini Mini Penne. It’s exactly like Barilla Penne, only, well, wee little and mini. Cuter, if you will.
So by the time the baby penne is cooked, the sugo sauce stuff is relieved of most of its fat and fairly hot, and once the pasta’s drained, we just add them together and gently stir.
Oh, but wait! We’re not done yet!
While the pasta is cooking and the meat sauce is heating, shred some lovely, wonderful Parmigiano. About 2 cups, or 7 ounces.
Once the cooked pasta and meat sauce have been combined, spread them into a large baking dish.
Or, if you’d like, two 9×13-inch baking dishes. Or one 9×13 and a couple of foil pans for the freezer.
Remember, this is a pound and a half of pasta, plus about 3 pounds of meat. And a bunch of cheese.
It makes, and I think the technical term is, a BOATLOAD.
Half the pasta got scooped into 9×13 pan, and the other half was divided between two 9-inch round foil baking pans.
Then divide that lovely, lovely cheese among the pans.
Did somebody say CHEESE? 😯
Why, yes, dear. Two cups of shredded Parm (with almost no skin) on the pasta – and none for you. Silly puppy. Cheese is for people.
Half the pasta mixture was wrapped and labeled for the freezer – there’s no reason it shouldn’t freeze and reheat just fine. I’ll just thaw it first, then bake for a few minutes covered with foil, then uncovered as directed. No problem.
We baked the pasta on the upper-middle rack of a 375° oven for about half an hour, more or less, until the cheesy goodness on top was, well, it was GBD.
Once it comes out of the oven, it needs to stand and rest for 10-15 minutes.
Then . . . dinner!
This dish was absolutely wonderful – warm and filling and comforting, yet not so heavy as a typical baked pasta dish loaded with cheese might be. It’s definitely a “cold weather” sort of meal and was more than worth an afternoon in the kitchen, especially since we had plenty of leftovers plus a couple more full meals put away in the freezer.
I would so do this again – if not this spring, then definitely next fall. And maybe again during the winter. And early next spring, too.
OK, I’ll be honest. I could happily eat this every week.