Wish Upon A Dish: Braised Pork Ribs in Sauce ♥ One Sauce, Five Meals

October 9, 2014

Braised Pork Ribs in Sauce ♥ One Sauce, Five Meals

When you reach the ripe ole age of 21 and get the kind of first job that includes a company car, you can sell your Nova SS and put a deposit on your first apartment. Two years later, I was broke, out of work, out of that apartment, out of transportation and living with a musician.
Cooking on a budget was born out of necessity and ribs were dirt cheap.

What was a good Italian girl to do? Make spare ribs in tomato gravy and invite the whole band to dinner. I haven't cooked spare ribs in sauce since then and last week while trying to create recipes with a meat sauce flavored with tomatoes, a long time ago memory hit me hard.

What I really did back then, was to cook the ribs in the sauce, which in turn would flavor a few cans of tomatoes that I would make into a sauce for another night when rigatoni's were on the menu.

Back then we would use various foods to throw into a pasta sauce. A basket of crabs for $5.00, a huge package of cheap thin pork chops, chicken wings and the best, a box of calamari rings (which was sold as bait in certain parts of New Jersey). We would buy a cheap gallon of Chianti, a few loaves of day old bread (reinvented into garlic bread) and two boxes of Ronzoni pasta. Yes, that was the one thing I insisted on buying although I could get a generic box for half the price (which was a quarter back then). We would open 4 large cans of tomato sauce, a whole head of garlic and a whole onion into an old aluminum stock pot that someones mother probably could not even remember how it disappeared, and simmer that pot for 4 hours. We would pass the hat around and it would cover the cost of next week's meal.

I was worried that my expectations might not hold up as well as the memory of those meals, but I figured it was worth the travel back in time. Anything cooked with ribs had to be good, right?

While I used my grill for the initial braise (a good excuse to hang outsideon a good weather day), this dish is perfect for the oven on a day when you have the time or slow cooker when you don't.

A simple rub of Italian spices (the ones that make our sausages taste so good) and in a lasagna pan (or roasting pan), tightly covered with foil, I set the heat to 325 and slowly braised one rack of spare ribs for one hour.

While the ribs were slowly cooking, I made the gravy.

The last cup of my master sauce, 1 cup of broth (chicken or beef), a 14oz can of your favorite tomatoes (I used stewed), a half a whole onion and 4 cloves of garlic into a sauce pan. I added a few bay leaves, some red pepper flakes, and simmered on a back burner while the ribs cooked. Slow cooker: omit the cup of broth.

After an hour, I drained the fat from the pan, poured the sauce over the ribs and placed the covered pan back on the heat for an additional hour. 20 minutes before setting the table, I put a large pot of salted water to boil.

Carb watchers could cook up some barley or use a Diabetic-friendly pasta, or better yet, just pick the ribs up and eat as you would BBQ. These are so rich with flavor, we were happy and full with two ribs each.

They say that most childhood dinners revisited after a few decades are never the same as remembered. These were better than remembered and a wonderful way to end an Indian Summer weekend. Next time I won't wait 35 years.

Tender and with an intense deep meaty flavor from the juice the meat added to the master sauce. Now I know why pork bones always went into our Sunday Gravy.

I am looking forward to a lunch of ribs, and a pot of memories. After all, isn't that what food is all about? This was so easy, you could also make this without the master sauce. The ribs marinade overnight and in the morning, open a jar of good quality marinara sauce, pour that plus the red pepper flakes into the insert and place the ribs over the sauce (do not cover with the sauce). Set to LOW for 6-8 hours.

Braised Spare Ribs in Tomato Sauce
makes 4 hearty servings

Marinate overnight or minimum 4 hours
2 hours oven/grill time or 6-8 hours slow cooker

* 1 package of full rack of pork spare ribs, cut in half
* 1 cup master sauce
* 1 cup broth, chicken or beef
* 14oz can stewed tomatoes
* red pepper flakes
* half a medium onion
* 4 cloves of garlic
* 2 bay leaves
* Italian Spice Rub (recipe follows)
* 1 pound pasta, your choice
* Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Loaf of bread, optional

1. Rub spice mixture on ribs, cover tightly in foil and double bag them (can cut the rack in two). Place in fridge overnight, or a minimum 4 hours.
2. Grill: Place ribs in aluminum pan, cover with foil, and grill at 325 degrees for 2 hours. Last 30 minutes, add the sauce, uncover and continue cooking until the meat falls off the bones.
Oven Braise: Place ribs in a large roasting pan (dry), cover tightly and roast at 325 degrees for 1 hour, removing every 30 minutes to baste with their natural juices. After one hour, spoon as much fat from the juices as you can and pour the tomato sauce over. Cover and return to the oven for 1 hour longer.
Slow cooker: Place the master sauce, the broth, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and the bay leaves over the ribs, set the machine to LOW for 8 hours.

Spice Rub
makes enough for a full rack of St. Louis ribs
* 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary leaves
* 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
* 1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds
* 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
* 2 teaspoons chopped sage
* 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
* 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
* 1 teaspoons crushed red pepper
* 1 teaspoons ground coriander
* 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients and rub the paste all over the ribs. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate overnight (best).

Recipes in this series:
Insanely Good Oxtail Stew - Master Sauce
Shrimp Etouffee
Braised Pork Ribs

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