Sunday Pork and Rigatoni

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

While on a recent trip to Vegas with my husband and two dear friends, we happened upon, of all things, Martotano’s at The Rio hotel and casino. Steve Martotano has taken South Philly food to a higher level and when I saw Sunday Pork and Rigatoni on the menu I HAD to try it. Sunday Pork with Rigatoni is probably one of many dishes in the arsenal of the South Philly Grandma that is falling by the wayside with our modern lives being so busy and having become more and more processed and quick in terms of the food we eat. But I remember the occasional Sunday dinner like so many other kids had so often.

Many of those few, big Sunday dinners were at my aunt’s house. This was my Mom’s sister, who married italian, gave me 3 cousins and they stayed in Southwest Philly. My parents chose to move to the ‘burbs, so we didn’t see them all that often. It made those childhood get togethers all the more special. Mom grew up down the street and her side is slavic. Her mother far outlived her father and died when I was almost 3, so while I have a couple of distinct memories of Baba, I’ve no real food association with her. Dad often throws a pork chop into his pasta gravy and Grandma (Dad’s Mom) always made her own. We may be of german and irish descent, but when you’re from South Philly, like my parents are, it doesn’t matter

Ordering that dish turned out to be just the thing to really lift my spirits after 2 whirlwind days of walking around to see as much as we could while dealing with crowds, lines, noise and lots of lights. Remember in Ratatouille when the critic asks for perspective and he Gets It? It was like that. I can count on one hand the number of times that food has had an impact anything like this and this one blew them all away. I can’t really remember what the others were. That may be because the drinks there are also VERY good.

Before the meal was over, I had decided that, since I couldn’t take the leftovers back to San Jose with me, I was going to make it when I got back there. I did a little searching online and found just about the recipe I was looking for over at That’sNotWhatTheRecipeSays! That’s a blog which is now forever bookmarked to read on my I Have No Brain, Let’s Read Blogs Days.

The following recipe, which I’ve chosen to post on my Dad’s birthday, includes a few tweaks and, since I prefer to use a slow cooker (I love the one from William-Sonoma that my roommate has), I’ve included the cook times and temperatures for it. I hope you enjoy it as much I still am. I just had some for lunch!

South Philly Sunday Pork with Rigatoni
Serves 6 adults for 2-3 days. Hey, it’s a Sunday Dinner sized recipe!

4 – 5 pound boneless pork roast, trim some of the excess fat. Don’t go crazy, though. You need some of it.
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
2 quarts whole plum tomatoes in juice
2 small cans tomato paste***!!!
8-10 pickled cherry peppers, stemmed, seeded and quartered
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon basil*
1 teaspoon oregano*
1 teaspoon thyme*
1/8 tsp of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 pounds of rigatoni

*add more later on, if you want.
***!!! See the scrapings left behind in the can? Do NOT use water to swoosh them out! I know you really want them, I did, too. Reserve some of the juice from the plum tomatoes and use THAT to swoosh it out. You’re welcome.

Slice pork roast into one inch slices, season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in large dutch oven, or cooktop safe 6 qt slow cooker insert, and add as many of the pork slices as will fit without touching each other. Sear pork slices on both sides (about 3 minutes a side on medium heat).

Remove pork and leave resting on a plate. Add chopped onion and garlic to pan drippings and cook until tender, about four minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly. Tuck pork slices into sauce and simmer on low heat covered for 2 hours. Uncover and continue to simmer for an additional hour. If desired, meatballs can be added at this point. If using a slow cooker, cook on high for one hour, then simmer on low for 4 hours.

About 30-45 minutes prior to serving, remove pork slices from the gravy and pull apart using 2 forks, or a knife and fork and place back into the gravy. Serve pork and gravy over two pounds of cooked rigatoni and garnish with a small scoop of ricotta cheese. Use low-fat ricotta, if it makes you feel better about it!

Pasta Tip! Add some extra virgin olive oil to the water long with the salt. When the rigatoni is al dente, drain and toss with a bit more olive oil. This is especially good for spaghettis and fettucini. Nobody wants a pasta knot.

And that’s it! A little time consuming, but really simple and so darned tasty!

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