The Italian Slow Cooker

The Italian Slow Cooker

A few years ago in Rome, I noticed a restaurant with a small window in its facade.  In the window was a small brick alcove holding a large, round, greenish glass bottle filled with dried beans, water and herbs.  The alcove backed up to the restaurant’s woodburning oven, and every time I passed, I would stop to look in at the bottle and observe the beans simmering slowly, absorbing the liquid and becoming plump and rounded and filled with flavor.  It seemed like the ideal way to cook beans, but it made me unhappy to think that I could not duplicate it in my small apartment kitchen with a standard stove.  Or could I?  I had never owned a slow cooker, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like the piece of the equipment I needed to to turn out perfectly tender, flavorful beans like those I ate in Rome.  I could hardly wait to get home (well, almost!) to buy one.

Back in New York, I soon realized that slow cookers have as many devotees as they have people who own them and abandon them to a dusty back shelf.  The difference seemed to be that those who love them have discovered delicious recipes and used fresh ingredients to prepare easy and satisfying food, while others relied on packaged and canned products and did not take a few moments to prepare the ingredients before cooking.

I bought a cooker and began by making my first batch of Roman-style beans in it.  They came out just perfect — tender and creamy and infused with the flavor of the herbs and garlic I had added.   Then I tried meats — tough cuts like short ribs, veal and lamb shanks, pot roasts, and stew meat.  The results were fall-off-the-bone tender and savory. Even chicken turned out moist and juicy every time.  To say I was hooked on slow cooking was an understatement.  I made soups, pasta sauces, stews and vegetables. Then I tried grains like farro, barley and polenta and was delighted with the results and ease of preparation.  I also made seafood in the slow cooker and discovered that sturdy varieties like salmon and squid turn out beautifully.  My biggest surprise was how well the cooker handled delicate egg dishes like frittatas, and even desserts, especially creamycheesecakes and flourless chocolate cake.  The gentle, low heat cooked them perfectly.

Making cheesecake in the slow cooker

I compiled 125 of my recipes into a book which is now available.  The name is The Italian Slow Cooker and it was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  The book has a soft cover and lots of gorgeous color photos by Alan Richardson, one of the best food photographers.

Here is a recipe from the Italian Slow Cooker that I know you will enjoy.

COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS WITH TOMATOES AND PEPPERS

Meaty country style pork ribs are a great choice for the slow cooker.  They turn out moist and tender and never lack for flavor.  Here they are cooked in spicy sauce made with red bell peppers and tomato.  Serve it over polenta or mashed potatoes with zesty broccoli rabe cooked with garlic.

Serves 6

4 pounds country style pork ribs

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup tomato puree

1 teaspoon dried oregano

4 medium red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch slices

Pat the ribs dry and sprinkle them with salt and pepper to taste.  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add as many of the ribs as will fit in the pan without touching.  Cook the meat, turning it occasionally, until nicely browned on all sides.  Place the browned ribs in the slow cooker.  Brown the remaining meat in the same way.

Add the onions and garlic to the skillet and cook 5 minutes, or until softened.  Stir in the wine and tomato paste and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the liquid begins to simmer.  Stir in the tomato puree, oregano and salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from the heat.

Scatter the peppers over the pork in the slow cooker.  Pour on the sauce.  Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or until the meat is tender and coming away from the bones.  Discard any loose bones and skim off the fat.  Serve hot.

© Copyright 2010 The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone

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10 comments

1 Lilia Collins { 02.05.10 at 4:03 AM }

Hi! Michelle–I just had dinner at Linda Leahy’s and she served your slow cooker chocolate cake!! YUM! It was fabulous! I can’t wait to buy a slow cooker and your book! Lilia

2 Michele Scicolone { 02.05.10 at 5:43 AM }

Thanks, Lillia! Glad you enjoyed it. The cheesecakes are pretty wonderful, too!

3 Lynne Clarkin @ Our Happy Home { 02.06.10 at 11:41 AM }

Hi Michele!
I’m trying your Pork Ribs tonight (2/6/10) I used red wine instead of white. I hope it’s going to be ok!! I love your new book…I love my slow cooker!

4 Michele Scicolone { 02.06.10 at 11:46 AM }

Hi, Lynne, That should be fine. Funny, I’m making pork ribs tomorrow. Enjoy! Michele

5 Lauren { 01.25.11 at 9:07 AM }

Hi, I’ve been making your Tuscan-Style Beans since 1991, when I read about them in the NY Times. The other day a friend said, “Remember when you brought those white beans to work? They were soooo good!” Two days later, I found the newspaper clipping with the article and the recipe–which is good, because I couldn’t find it at all at the NY Times site! They’re fantastic and they’ve been making my friends and family happy for almost 20 years. Thank you for this wonderful recipe. I’m off to buy your book at Amazon!

6 Michele Scicolone { 01.25.11 at 12:19 PM }

Hi, Lauren, I’m delighted to hear that the recipe has stood the test of time. That was the first article I wrote for the New York Times, 20 years ago!
Nowadays I am more inclined to cook beans in the slow cooker. They turn out tender and are less likely to overcook or break apart.
Thanks for writing. Hope you enjoy the book!

7 Edvige Giunta { 04.04.11 at 1:46 PM }

I must say that even though I had a slow cokoker (a gift from my friend Louise), I had not done much with it. But The Italian Slow Cooker has made me a convert! Now I get to work at my desk without having to go up and down to check on my bean or chickpea soups, or worse burn them. But most of all, we get to eat amazingly testy dishes. I love the recipes. After Louise recommended the book, I have been making my way through it.
Superb, just superb.!Thanks, Michele: You made my writing life easier and tastier!

8 Michele Scicolone { 04.05.11 at 6:10 AM }

Slow cooking is so convenient, I am very happy and proud that you are enjoying my book!

9 antonella { 11.13.11 at 9:03 AM }

vorrei acquistare la slow cooker in italia con ricette e istruzioni nella mia lingua dove la trovo

10 Michele Scicolone { 11.15.11 at 12:30 PM }

Cara Antonella, Ho scritto il libro in Inglese. Non c’e un traduzione. Mi dispiace! Michele

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