Thursday, April 4, 2013

Baked shells with Pork & Parmesan - One Pot Meal

You know what I hate more than anything else in the kitchen? Using more than one pot to cook a meal. Now I know that this is often times necessary...separate the components and bring them back together at the end, blah blah blah... But my way of thinking is this:

Why should I cook them all separately, dirty a bunch of dishes, when I am just going to throw it all together in the end anyway?

So, when I see a spectacular dish like Baked Mini Shells w/ Pork Sugo from Fork vs. Spoon that requires I use two pans to get dinner on the table, I wither a little inside. (And I don't even do the dishes!) Luckily, with a little creativity, 90% of the time you can take a multiple pot meal to a ONE pot meal without sacrificing taste, and in this case speed up the process.

It sure doesn't look like my modifications hurt it any...

Baked Mini Shells with Pork Sugo

2-3lb Pork Butt, cut into 1 inch cubes

S & P to taste

2 TBSP of your favorite oil

3 Garlic Cloves, minced

1 Yellow Onion, diced

2 Celery Stalks, diced

3-4 Carrots, Diced

1 TBSP of Tomato Paste

2 (14 oz) Cans of Diced Tomatoes

2 Cups of Beef Broth or Red Wine

5 Cups of Chicken Broth

1 tsp Dried Thyme

1 TBSP Dried Oregano

1.5lbs of Pasta Shells (really you could use just about anything)

2 Cups Parmesan Cheese (or an Italian mix, but I used Parm)

1) Go ahead and cut up your pork into 1 inch cubes and season with S & P. Heat your oil in a dutch oven or a very large pot. Once the oil is hot, throw in your meat and let it sizzle! Flip it around as needed to get it brown on all sides.

Make sure you leave some marble in there! That will make it even more tender.

2) Even more brown than this...let all that moisture cook out so you have brown bits on the bottom.

 3) Add your garlic, celery, carrot & onion. Let those bad boys cook until they become tender (about 10 minutes).

Colorful goodness...

4) Add in your tomato paste and stir it up. Let cook for 1 minute to caramelize the tomato.

5) Add in your wine or beef broth and scrape up all the little brown bits on the bottom. Brown is flavor people! Add your herbs & diced tomato. Cook over medium high heat until the liquid has reduced by half.


 6) Add the rest of your broth, bring that baby up to a boil, then reduce the heat so it's simmering. Let it simmer for 40 minutes, stirring two or three times. Test your pork and see if it's tender at this point. The acidity of the tomatoes and the marbling of the pork should make this a fairly quick process. Now is not the time for lean cuts of meat, people!

Burbling away...I can't even tell you how good it smelled.

 7) Once your meat is getting fairly tender, dump in your pasta and stir it in completely. There should be enough liquid in the pot to touch all the pasta. Cover your pot and let it burble away for another 15 minutes, stirring once in the middle to make sure no pasta sticks to the bottom. Your heat should be on medium low. Fire up your oven to the broil setting.

8) Test your pasta. If it's al dente (a little tiny bit hard in the middle) you're ready for the next step. Remove your pot from the heat and cover the top of your mixture with Parmesan cheese. All of it! Don't be shy. Then pop your dutch oven into the broiler. After about 2 minutes, you should see this:

OMG I want that so much! Cheesy burbly goodness!

Keep an eye on it!  Don't burn the cheese! Everyone's oven is different. Burned cheese is a punishable crime in my house. If you don't have a dutch oven, you can transfer your mixture to an oven safe dish, slather it with cheese and go to town. I can also tell you that this tasted even better the next day as lunch. It made TONS. Enjoy!

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