Saturday, March 31, 2012

Braised Pork Shoulder ~ Italian Style

This is another classic Italian Sunday dinner.  It’s easy to make, serves a big group of family and friends, and while it’s neatly tucked away in the oven for about four hours, you have time to set the table and get ready for your guests arrival.  I actually squeezed in a nap when I made this dish last weekend!

The technique for making a braised pork shoulder is about the same whether or not you are going to make it “Italian style”.  If you’ve never purchased a pork shoulder understand that a full boneless pork shoulder can way as much as 12-15 pounds.  They sell this size at our local Costco.  I’m not sure I have a pot large enough for pork shoulder that size, and even if I did I don’t think I could get enough friends and family in the house to eat it.  I also prefer a bone-in pork shoulder as it improves flavor.  I typically use a 6-7 pound pork shoulder with skin removed.  With the pound of Italian sausage I add, when combined with two pounds of pasta, the dinner feeds 10-12 adults.

The basic technique for any pork shoulder is to brown sausage or chopped bacon either in a large skillet or a Dutch oven or other roasting pan.  After they’ve browned them you remove and add a salt and peppered pork shoulder and brown on all sides.  This is where the recipes diverge.  For the Italian-style you cover the meat in your favorite “Sunday gravy”  (aka pasta sauce).  If you are going with a classis pork shoulder, say to make pulled pork, you remove the meat and sauté some onions, celery and carrots in the drippings before returning the meat to the pot using any additional seasonings you prefer.  Like the Italian-style version, it’s important to have liquid about half-way up the sides of the meat and I use two bottles of dark beer (lager) or an equal amount of apple cider, filling the rest of the way with chicken broth.  Whether you are using the pasta sauce or the classic liquids, it’s important to baste the meat about hourly and cook covered at 300F for four hours, until the meat is fork tender.

I won’t review pasta sauce recipes here, as I’ve done that previously.  With that said you can just as easily use a couple large jars of store-bought pasta sauce for this recipe.  If it is very thick, you may want to thin it just a little, or toss in some mushrooms or calamata olives if you are so inclined.  Braising the pork and sausage in the pasta sauce for four hours provides a most delicious sauce and succulent, tender meat that your guests will surely enjoy. 


6-7 pound, bone-in or semi-boneless pork shoulder, skin removed
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 pound mild Italian sausage
1 large pot of red pasta sauce OR 64 ounces of canned pasta sauce
¼ cup salt (for the pasta water)
¼ cup olive oil (for the pasta water)
2 pounds fettuccine
freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 bunch of fresh parsley, washed – dried – chopped


Begin this process five hours before serving time:  Brown the Italian sausage in a large skillet or Dutch Oven.  Salt and pepper the pork shoulder and brown in the sausage drippings.  Placing the pork and sausages in the Dutch Oven or roasting pan, cover with the pasta sauce.  Place in a 300F oven and roast for four hours, basting with the pasta sauce each hour.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven and place the meat on a cutting board.  It should be ‘fork tender’ so take care when lifting it out of the pan of hot sauce.  Cover with aluminum foil. Start a large pot of water heating to a boil for the pasta.  Add salt and olive oil to the water.   Let the sauce sit off heat for about 15 minutes, then using a large spoon, skim off the fat from the sauce.  Place the roasting pan on low heat and bring the sauce up to a simmer.  Cook the fettuccine about 2 minutes less than the package instructions for al dente.  Move the drained pasta into the hot sauce and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes, stirring regularly until the pasta is al dente.

Cut or pull the meat into individual portion size pieces, discarding any fat and the bone.  Slice the Italian sausage into thirds.     

Place the cooked pasta on a platter or on individual plates and mound meat in the center.  Add any additional sauce from the pan as necessary, and sprinkle with grated cheese and chopped parsley.

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