Do you love it when your kitchen smells like sautéed onions and garlic? Believe me, you'll get plenty of lovin' when you prepare this recipe! I should probably tell you is that this recipe is a time commitment. If you have a free Sunday at home and want to create an savory, tender, slow-roasted dish, this is it.
The recipe calls for red pepper flakes but I had just bought some Thai chili peppers at the Farmers' Market last weekend and decided to use one these instead.
I pulled out my large Le Creuset roaster because it is wonderful for slow roasting but any dutch oven with a lid will work. It is also big enough to hold the 3-1/2 pounds (yes, pounds) of onions for the recipe. This was merely half the amount of that the original recipe calls for.
Lidia's Pork Shoulder with Salsa Genovese
Adapted from "Pork Shoulder with Onions - Salsa Genovese" by Lidia Bastianich.
This recipe was original found on Lidia's Italy but has been removed from the website.
Note: I adapted this recipe to one-half of the original. My husband and I enjoyed it for 3 days so I would say it serves 4 to 6 people. Don't be afraid of all of the onions and garlic in this recipe. After braising for 3 hours, it will meld into a mildly delicious sauce.
For the pestata (a paste, in English) you will need:
2 ounces bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup whole peeled garlic cloves
3-1/2 pound pork shoulder (butt) roast, bone-in
1/2 tablespoon coarse sea salt or kosher crystal salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon peperoncino ( hot red pepper flakes), or a very small chili pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 small carrot, peeled and finely shredded or chopped
1 stalk celery, finely shredded or chopped
3-1/2 pounds onions, peeled and chopped coarsely
2 cups, or more or less, hot turkey broth (I used chicken stock), heated before adding
Making the pestata and starting the braise:
Using a food processor with the metal blade, mince the bacon and garlic cloves together into a paste. Remove the paste and set aside. Use the food processor to chop the carrot, celery and onion. You don't need to wash the bowl since everything will be cooked together. Process each vegetable individual, cutting the carrot and celery stalk into chunks before chopping. You will want a small to medium dice. Cut the onions into 1-inch pieces and pulse into a coarse chop, 1/4-inch or so. Put the onions into a big bowl—you will have about 2 quarts of chopped onion.
Pat the pork dry with paper toweling, then season all over with approximately ½ teaspoon salt and press it in. Set the braising pan over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil gets hot, add the pork in and brown it lightly on each side. While the meat is browning, scrape the pestata into the pan bottom; spread it out and let the bacon begin to render. Drop in peperoncino now, if you want some heat in the salsa; toast it in the pan bottom.*
After 3 minutes or so of browning the pork, drop the tomato paste into the fat; stir and caramelize a minute. Dump the shredded carrot and celery into the pan bottom; stir for a minute just to get them cooking. (Keep turning the meat so it browns evenly and slowly.)
Now scrape the chopped onions into the pan, all around the meat. Sprinkle the remaining coarse salt over the onions, raise the heat a bit, stirring the onions up from the bottom and mixing them with the oil, pestata and tomato. Cook on medium high heat, stirring, for about 5 minutes until onions are all hot and starting to sweat. Cover and turn the heat to medium-low.
*Note - I removed the pork to saute the pestata and vegetables, adding the pork back to the pan after all of the vegetables were done sauteeing.
Braising the pork:
The pork will now cook for about 3 hours. Leave it alone for the first 45 minutes, then uncover, turn the meat and stir the onions. They should be softening and releasing liquid. If there is any sign of burning, lower the heat. Cover and cook for another 45 minutes, turn the meat and stir the onions. They should be quite reduced in volume, in a thick simmering sauce. Stir in 1 cup of hot broth, bringing the liquid higher around the pork.
Cook covered for another 45 minutes, then stir. If the sauce level has dropped a lot and is beginning to stick, stir in another cup or so of broth. Taste and add more salt, if necessary.
Cover and cook another 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. Check the consistency of the onions—they should be melting into the sauce and the meat should be soft when pierced with a fork. If satisfactory, remove from the heat; otherwise cook longer, adding more broth. Or, if the sauce seems thin, uncover and cook to reduce it.
Remove the bone and any excess fat from the meat and either slice or shred it (which I did).
Lidia suggests serving the this three ways:
As a first course: Remove 2 cups of the fresh onion sauce from the pot and put it in a large skillet. Cook one pound of rigatoni or other pasta, and toss it in the skillet with the simmering sauce. Finish with extra-virgin olive oil and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano.
As a main meat course: Remove the pork from the braising pot and cut out the blade bone (just lift the cooked meat off it and remove the bone). Slice the pork against the grain in 1/3-inch-thick slices, and moisten with hot sauce from the pot.
As a meaty sauce for pasta: Traditionally the leftover meat and sauce from Sunday dinner were combined and served another day as a dressing for pasta, but you can dedicate any amount of Salsa Genovese to this marvelous mixture.