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I'm happiest when the food I make becomes a backdrop to a lively conversation. When I'm not cooking, I'm traveling or dreaming about travel. Come sit with me, and enjoy! Read more here.

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italian braised pork spare ribs: cultivating my inner nonna

If I had an Italian grandma, I imagine that wine-braised spare ribs would be her signature recipe. Her heavy arms would command a large wooden spoon, stirring the succulent ribs as the meat falls off the bone. Her apron, smudged with tomato paste and parsley juice, would fit snugly around a plus-sized cotton dress. Her back would be ox strong from years of hand rolling fettuccine pasta into paper thin sheets. She would kiss my cheeks with anchovy breath and sneak sips of homemade limoncello in the afternoons. I would sneak sips of her sips.

And then, my adorable nonna would succumb to years of my pleading, and pass down her secret recipe to me.

Instead, I discovered this dish on the web, and relied on my inner nonna to refine and create my own version, sneaking sips of sangiovese along the way. This dish can be cooked in a Dutch oven or in a pressure cooker. I've done both, and the pressure cooker by far turns out the most tender, delicious meat. This recipe is geared toward that method.

Italian Braised Pork Spare Ribs

2.5 pounds pork spare ribs, cut into two-rib pieces
1 onion, diced
2 small carrots, diced
2 small celery stalks, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large bunch of basil, minced
3 sprigs of thyme
1-1/4 cups tomato sauce
1 cup red wine
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup water
Pinch of chili flakes
1 small bunch of parsley, minced (for garnish)
Salt to taste

Heat olive oil in an 8-quart pressure cooker over medium flame until hot but not smoking. Add the chili flakes and let simmer for 30 seconds. Then add the garlic and basil and simmer for for another 30 seconds to minute. Add the diced onion, carrots, and celery, and simmer until soft, about five minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients except the parsley.

Secure the lid onto the pressure cooker and increase the flame to high, bringing it to pressure until the pressure indicator pops up. Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Use the quick release method to release the steam from the unit. Taste for seasoning. If the sauce has too much liquid, reduce for another 10 - 15 minutes without the lid. Discard any bones that have separated from the meat. Serve on a bed or polenta or with crusty bread. Garnish with minced parsley.

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