Christening the Pot

Here in Madison, it’s finally cool enough to cook. I should rephrase that. It’s finally cool enough to not feel bad about cooking. July was so hot in our second floor apartment, I swore we would only eat salads and chicken salad.  Come dinner time, I didn’t want to eat either of those, so invariably, I would turn on three burners and the oven to make something satisfying, only to eat it in front of the air conditioner, drenched in sweat.

But for now, the weather is cool. Despite some heat waves that are sure to come, fall is generally on its way, and I can enjoy that slow cooked meal at my kitchen table instead of in front of the fan. To celebrate the coming season, I heeded the call of the enameled cast-iron pot my mom gave me as an early birthday present from my closet to make something delicious. So, on this beautiful 70 degree August day, I am christening both it and this new blog with a rustic, autumnal pasta dish, inspired by Marcella Hazan.

The sauce! Just imagine that I wasn't starving when I finished making it and decided to eat it instead of take a picture of the pasta + sauce.
The sauce! Just imagine that I didn’t decided to eat it instead of take a picture of the pasta + sauce.

This is a mash up of two of Marcella’s recipes: Braised Pork Chops with Tomatoes, Cream, & Porcini Mushrooms, and Braised Pork Chops with Sage & Tomatoes, Modena Style. While they are glaringly similar, I was more up for the preparation Marcella dictates for the latter, while craving the ingredients for the former.  Also, while Marcella would not appreciate me turning this definitively second course dish into a one pot meal, I hope you will!

Braised Pork and Tomato Pasta

2 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in ½ cup warm water for 30 minutes

1 lb pork chops

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Butter and Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper, to taste

5 roma tomatoes, diced

4 dried sage leaves

A splash of cream, if desired

3/4 lb penne pasta

When the shiitake mushrooms are done soaking, reserve the soaking liquid. Remove and discard the stems and chop the tops finely.

Heat a dutch oven or large pan over medium heat, and add a tablespoon each of olive oil and butter. Coat the pork chops with the flour, and shake off any excess. Slip the pork chops into the pan and let them brown, about 1-2 minutes per side.

Turning the heat to low, add the mushrooms, reserved mushroom soaking liquid, tomatoes, sage leaves, ½ cup of water, 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. Cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and let simmer for 45 minutes.

30 minutes in, bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta, and cook according to package directions.

While the pasta’s cooking, check the consistency of the sauce. If the sauce is pretty watery, remove the pork chops to a plate and keep warm. Turn the heat to high and reduce the sauce until fairly thick. When you’ve reached your desired consistency, add a splash of cream for richness. Taste for seasoning.

When the pasta’s done, add it into the pot of sauce and toss to coat. Serve immediately with the pork chops. 

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8 thoughts on “Christening the Pot

  1. I’ll be making this soon! Thanks Becca! And as one who always takes shortcuts, could you explain the importance of using Roma’s and shiitakes (as opposed to other types).

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    1. I’m probably too late with this response to help you, but I like romas because they are less watery and cook up nicely. That said, any kind of tomato (including canned ones) should work fine. The dried shiitakes are really intense and give a really great savoriness to the dish, but if you don’t have them, just replace them with another kind of fresh (er…not dried) mushroom and omit the soaking step. Then, just use water in place of the mushroom liquid. Should still taste great! Thanks for asking!

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