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 Spareribs from France and Italy Two European takes on these tasty nuggets of pig meat.
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Spareribs from France and Italy

When I think of spareribs, I think of American Southern barbecue, and I get a fierce hankering for a slab of baby backs, hickory-smoked to tender perfection and slathered with tangy, not-too-sweet sauce to round out their flavor.

But it's worth remembering that food lovers around the world, from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean to the Yellow Sea, have invented dozens of other local variations on these tasty nuggets of pig meat.

Last week I mentioned a simple Burgundian sparerib dish that we enjoyed recently, an approach so easy that it hardly requires a recipe ... but a number of you wrote to ask me to provide one anyway. Fair enough, I can do that. To offer full value, I'll also toss in a tasty Northern Italian sparerib recipe. I have modified both of these to use boneless "country style" spareribs, a cut that provides much of the flavor of the traditional bone-on version without the messy pickin'.

The French recipe, like last week's Burgundian salad, is based on "Travers de Porc aux Herbes" ("pork spareribs with herbs") from Mirielle Johnston's "Cuisine of the Rose" cookbook. The Italian dish is a distant descendant of a Marcella Hazan recipe from Treviso in the Veneto.

Travers du Porc aux Herbes

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless country-style pork spareribs
Black pepper
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Chopped fresh herbs


1. Preheat oven to 400F (200C). Cut the spareribs into bite-size pieces, trimming away excess fat if you wish. Put them in a shallow oven pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.

2. While the rib pieces are roasting, chop the herbs fine. You can use your choice of herbs to taste - I like two parts fresh thyme to one part each sage, rosemary and mint.

3. Remove the foil from the meat, pour off the accumulated fat, and season the ribs with salt, pepper, the lemon zest and about half of the herb mixture.

4. Reduce the oven to 375F (190C) and roast uncovered for another 30 to 45 minutes, turning the meat occasionally, until it's crisp and browned. Sprinkle with the rest of the herbs and serve.

Costicine di Maiale alla Trevigiana

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless country-style pork spareribs
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large cloves garlic
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried
Black pepper
1 cup white wine
1 tablespoon flour (optional)


1. Chop the sage and slice the garlic cloves paper-thin. Cut the ribs into bite-size pieces and brown them in the olive oil over medium-high heat in a black-iron skillet.

2. When the meat is browned, drain off excess fat; then add the sliced garlic, sage and discreet amounts of salt and pepper, bearing in mind that you can adjust seasoning at the end but can't take excess salt out. Cook until the garlic turns aromatic and golden. Add the cup of wine and bring it to the boil, scraping the bottom of the skillet to get up the browned bits.

3. Reduce heat to very low, cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid, and simmer gently for 60 minutes or until the pork is falling-apart tender. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed. If you prefer a thicker sauce, stir in the optional flour, mixed into a smooth paste with water, and cook until the sauce thickens.

This warming dish is excellent with either mashed potatoes or polenta.

WINE MATCH: I like spareribs with fruity, not-too-tannic reds. The first time we made the French dish, I paired it with very good Burgundies, but in a more recent rendition I went in a different direction with an amiable California red, the Buttonwood Farm 2000 Santa Ynez Valley Merlot from California Wine Club. I almost always match the Treviso-style ribs with a crisp Italian red such as a simple Chianti or Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.

Want to a copy that's easy to use in the kitchen? You'll find a simple, plain-text version of these recipes, suitable for printing, online at

If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about this recipe or food and cookery in general, you're welcome to drop by our Food Lovers' Discussion Group, where I've posted this article as a new topic, "FoodLetter: Spareribs from France and Italy

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Thursday, April 15, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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