Spring sunshine and cool temperatures called for sweaters and a brisk pace on today's late morning walk. We set out to investigate the sound of chainsaws, near enough to be easily audible indoors. Several lots uphill we found a tree-felling crew taking down four tall evergreens, twelve to sixteen inches or more in diameter. Rumor has it another neighbor purchased the "view rights" on two adjacent properties and cleared the trees to improve their lake view. You can buy view rights? forever? We shook our heads and walked on, lamenting the continuing loss of tall timber in the neighborhood.
Hunger pangs struck as soon as we returned and I quickly gathered miscellaneous ingredients from fridge and pantry. Pork, tomatoes, onions, parsley, Parmesan and pasta soon surrounded the cooktop. Smoked pork bones pack a hefty flavor punch; too smoke-heavy and salty to use "as is". Their smokey saltiness can be overwhelming so I tame them with a preboil and soak ahead of use. Luckily I had cooked them earlier today. Pork, pasta and those few vegetables came together with a simple sauce for a quick and tasty lunch. Fresh fruit for dessert provided a sweet finish... and then I was finished. Surely a little Spring stroll justifies a little afternoon nap.
Skillet Pasta with Smokey Pork and Tomatoes
1 package smoked pork neck bones (1+ lbs)
4 fat handfuls cavatappi pasta (enough for 2 servings)
1 cup white or yellow onion, rough chopped
1 TBS anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic, minced (or use garlic powder)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halves
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, shreds
1/4 cup Italian parsley, rough chopped
Place smoked pork neck bones in a deep pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil over high heat; lower the heat, cover and cook at a low simmer for an hour. Leave the pork and liquid in the pot and cool to room temperature. Discard the cooking water, pull the meat from the bones and shred, removing pockets of fat, and set aside.
Cook the pasta until just tender, it will soften a bit more as it finishes in the skillet. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce.
Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet and saute the diced onion over medium high heat until softened. Add the anchovy paste and stir to incorporate. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, black pepper, tomato halves and cooked pork; cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, to heat through (and the tomatoes soften).
Stir in 1/4-cup of the hot pasta water and add the drained, cooked pasta, half of the Parmesan cheese and all of the parsley; toss to mix (adding more olive oil and pasta water as needed).
Top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and serve.