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slow cooking

Big Tomato — It’s What’s for Dinner


The original plan was to make a honkin’ big batch of Pasta alla Vecchia Bettolana using the jumbo can of plum tomatoes. But then stuffed green peppers sounded good, too, what with the green peppers being garden fresh. That should leave just the right amount tomatoes for standard-issue spaghetti sauce. Fortunately, this last stroke of brilliance hit when standing at the meat counter so a pound of the good Italian sausage made it home without the need for a second trip. And the four cans of tomato sauce in the pantry could be called into action.

The results: Eight meals of Pasta alla Vecchia Bettolana, ditto spaghetti sauce, now in the freezer, plus stuffing for four meals of stuffed green peppers on hand. One or two less meals to plan each week for a goodly while. Zero cans of tomato anything in the pantry.



Smoked and Slow — and Just Slow

pork shoulder

Back in the day, some time in early spring, I would buy a package of two humongous pork shoulders and make porchetta from a recipe that ran in The Washington Post. Fennel seed, rosemary, crushed black peppercorns, and a few more seasonings — oh the flavor. Divvied up and frozen, we ate well until late fall on a one-time cooking event. The recipe includes a good BBQ-style sauce so pulled pork sandwiches were a summer staple.

If memory serves, the last time I made it, the meat was a bit tough. And slow-cooking, to state the obvious, eats up the whole day. Finally decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

Recently the hubs was watching Steven Raichlen smoke pork shoulder and, well, before you can say ‘add the wood chips,’ there’s a familiar package of meat on the counter. He went for the smoking method (on our tiny Smokey Joe Weber grill) and I used the oven method.

smoked shoulder

Mine cooked faster by more than an hour, but speed doesn’t win much here. The smoked shoulder (above) was noticeably more tender. We’ve been adding the BBQ sauce and enjoying pulled pork sandwiches. The hubs even tops it with Asian slaw – a little odd, perhaps, but it works.The flavor is stronger, more in-your-face, than the porchetta.

That flavor, flavor, flavor of the porchetta. I am definitely not a supertaster; generally the stronger the flavor, the better I like a food. This porchetta is an exception. It is quieter tasting (as opposed to mild), best served on its own. How to keep that flavor and get the meat tender. We rewatched Mr. Raichlen’s cooking technique, searched the interwebs, and decided (without debate) to lower the cooking temp (how low is still under debate), increase the cooking time and try again.

Now all we have to do is finish these two cuts first. . . It could be awhile.



Tomato Sauce II

Tomato sauce

Winter remains, as expected, here in the Midwest. Mid-day temps mostly in the teens all week. Turning the oven on for a couple of hours to make the Pasta alla Vecchia Bettolana seemed an absolutely splendid idea.

Also absolutely splendid is this sauce! I anticipated a flavorful outcome, and using Italian plum tomatoes (rather than plain ol’ supermarket variety) no doubt added to the flavor. Still super rich even after cutting the cream by a quarter.

Now I’m trying to figure out why/if the oven cooking vs. simmering on the stove makes a difference. A good friend with oodles of cooking experience (former food editor for a major magazine) wasn’t convinced method significantly affected outcome in this case. My guess was the sauce perhaps steams rather than simmers. She shrugged – not a big diff.

Need to do a little investigating – and with at least an hour and a half of cooking time, maybe that’s time smartly spent researching.

Tomato (Non)Express

Yes, the slow food, slow cooking thing isn’t new. And I was raised to cook mostly from scratch. Tomato sauce for pasta or pizza or whatever does taste better after simmering on the stove for a goodly while. At the same time, however, taking hours to make a meal just to zen out on the process doesn’t cut it for me. Keeping it real here!

So Ina Garten’s Pasta alla Vecchia Bettolana featured on Food52 has me intrigued. Again, nothing new to the world but new to my experience. So I’m all in for trying this. Only I’ll double the recipe because, well, that’s what I do. . .

Image from Food52

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