While there are a great many things people do not agree on, one thing that seems to unite the masses is bacon. Bacon. Just saying the word triggers those salivary glands and you almost instinctively breathe in through your nose, hoping to catch a whiff of that blessed aroma. Bacon should be listed among the virtues.
I’m getting sidetracked though.
Today I wanted to tell you about this brother bacon has. See, it also comes from pigs, and has the most incredible flavor, especially when cooked low and slow so all the fat is rendered (just like bacon!). This brother’s name is pork shoulder, also known as Boston butt roast. Another reason I love it is because it’s pretty affordable. This week, for instance, it is on sale at Publix for $1.99 a pound.
Pork shoulder is amazingly versatile, featured in Italian, Mexican, Latin and Asian dishes, and can be roasted, braised or tossed in a crock pot. I am always on the look out for new recipes using this beast of a protein. Today I want to share with you not just a pork shoulder recipe, but one for the arsenal. This recipe is a “secret weapon” recipe—one that will always satisfy and draw you back in for a
third second helping, and make dinner guests wish they were leaving with the leftovers. It is entirely credited to Nicole and her blog, Cooking for Keeps.
There is a generous portion of meat mixed in to this pasta.
I have made this recipe approximately 4 times, and while Nicole suggests two pounds of pasta, I have never added more than one. I have cooked 1.5 lbs but then as I add pasta to the sauce, and mix, I always feel that it would not end up being saucy enough if I kept adding pasta. So I suggest just 1 pound.
I meant to make a salad tonight to serve with this, but forgot. It wasn’t missed.
Beer and Balsamic Braised Pork Pasta
- 3 pieces bacon or 2 tablespoons of bacon fat
- 4 pounds bone-in pork shoulder (3 pounds without the bone), cut into 3-inch pieces
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 cup diced or shredded carrots
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- 6 oz can of tomato paste
- 1 bottle wheat beer
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 pound of pasta, such as cavatappi, penne, or rigatoni
- ½ cup parmesan cheese (plus more for sprinkling)
- In a small food processor, pulse onion, garlic and carrots until finely minced. Set aside.
- In a dutch oven, heat bacon fat over medium-high heat (or cook bacon until crisp over a medium heat. Reserve bacon for another use and use 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat).
- Season pork with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown the pork on all sides. (Brown that hunk with the bone in it too! That will add great flavor to your sauce). Transfer to a plate. Turn the heat down to medium.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Add minced veggies to the pot and season with salt and pepper, cook for 1-2 minutes in all that delicious pork fat.
- Add balsamic vinegar, reduce for 30 seconds to one minute.
- Stir in tomato paste. Add beer.
- Transfer meat back to the pot and cover with chicken stock. Cover pot and transfer to the oven. Cook for 4 hours or until meat is fork-tender.
- When pork is done cooking, remove from oven (you can let this cool for 30 minutes if you desire) and shred with two forks. Return meat to sauce.
- Bring a large stock pot of water to a boil. Season with about 1 Tablespoon of salt. It should taste like the ocean. Cook the pasta to al dente. Drain, but reserve a cup of cooking liquid.
- Pour the pasta into the sauce and toss. If needed add a little pasta water to loosen up sauce.
- Stir in parmesan at the last minute. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
- Garnish with extra parmesan cheese and serve it in giant bowls.