Friday, February 10, 2012


by Sheila Connolly

I don't know how I made it to my advanced age without knowing about this, until my daughter pointed it out in a food magazine.  I am in love with it:  I can make it and stash it in the fridge or freezer and I have a protein that I can do almost anything with, at the drop of a hat.  Definitely a win-win.

There is little thinking required to make this, but it does take some planning.  You need one boneless piece of pork (preferably shoulder), anywhere from a minimum of two pounds to a maximum of six.  My market seldom has anything larger than two pounds, although I could probably beg something larger from the butcher. But the recipe seems to work with any size.

In a plastic bag, mix a couple of tablespoons of salt, the same of sugar, and maybe ten grinds of pepper (if you have a pepper mill—otherwise, a teaspoon or two of ground pepper will do it).  Shake the bag to mix.  Pat dry your chunk of pork, then put it in the bag and shake to cover evenly with the seasonings.  Stick the bag in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, preheat your oven to low (no more than 250 degrees).  Take out your pork, remove the bag, and place it on a rack in a roasting pan.  Put it in the oven for, oh, five or six hours, depending on how big your roast is.  I've seen recipes that say to baste it with the pan juices now and then, but so far none of mine has produced enough drippings to bother.  This is not time sensitive—just don't forget it's there and leave the house.

Remove the roast from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.  Then tear it apart.  You can use one fork or two, or you can just sink your hands into it when it's cool enough.  It should pull apart easily into long shreds (feel free to sample the nice crunchy bits).  And that's pulled pork!  I've found that a two-pound roast makes about 3-4 cups of shredded meat, which for our family of three goes for two dinner meals.

Yes, there are recipes for it (apart from slathering it with barbecue sauce and slipping it into a bun).  I'm fond of this one:

Pulled Pork and Orecchiette

1 pound orecchiette (they're those round dried pasta that look kind of like little space ships—the name means "little ears")

2 pounds shredded pork, chopped roughly
3 Tblsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tblsp dried oregano
1 ½ Tblsp tomato paste
3 cups chicken broth (or a combination of white wine and broth)
1 Tblsp wine or cider vinegar
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the orecchiette in a large part of boiling salted water for 8 minutes (the pasta will not be fully cooked).

Heat the olive oil in a deep sauté pan (you may add pan drippings if you have any) and sauté the onions and garlic over medium heat until soft.  Add the oregano and the tomato paste and stir, then cook for three minutes.  Stir in the broth, vinegar and pork.  Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (You may wonder where the salt and pepper are—they're on the pork, so do not add any more until you've tasted the sauce.)  Add more broth as needed, if the mix seems dry.

Add the orecchiette and cook until the pasta is done.  Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.

Note:  I decided to try a variation on the recipe because I had some fresh spinach on hand, so I threw in about two cups worth when the onions and garlic were soft.  The spinach cooks down nicely, and I get to pat myself on the back for adding a healthy vegetable.

This should serve 6 people.


  1. I really miss the barbecue joint that was down the street; they had awesome pulled pork sandwiches and some sort of vinegar coleslaw to go with it. I can't find a recipe to match what I remember of the slaw, though.

  2. Ah... Welcome to the exciting world of the pork butt! Soon you will learn the exciting world of marinades and cooking sauces. First store bought but then you start experimenting with your own. Then you will stumble into the "Smoker" section of a specialty BBQ shop and spend hundreds of dollars on a dedicated smoker. Then you can set your alarm for every two hours so you can add a mop during the 20 hours it takes to cook a full shoulder (also called a Boston Butt (more fun to say)).

    But it's all worth it.

    Oh, as an alternative, heat and then puree a bag of frozen raspberries, add 2 TBS minced Chipotles in Adobe sauce. Rub all over your shoulder (if anyone Junior High age is reading this, read that last sentence and change shoulder to butt... it's a classic).

    Pop in a crock pot set on medium for 12 hours (basting with the remaining sauce and you can avoid all the smoking.

    LOVE Pulled Pork in any form!

  3. Sounds delicious, Sheila. I'm also fond of pulled pork. I tend to cook mine in the crock pot so I can forget all about it until the aroma catches my attention. I'll have to try your pasta recipe with it.

    ~ Krista

  4. Inspired, I'm starting small, but I can see that the possibilities are endless...

    There's an 18th-century farm at Old Sturbridge Village that has the cutest little brick smokehouse just outside the kitchen. It would fit neatly in my back yard. I suppose you were thinking of something a bit more modern!

  5. Sweet post, Sheila, and two of my favorite things -- pork and pasta! Have a great weekend ~ Cleo

  6. Back in my omnivorous days, one of my favorite places to eat was Pierce's Pitt BBQ in Williamsburg VA. Pulled pork in rich bbq sauce, piled high on a bun (and topped, of course, with cole slaw). Yum! It never even occurred to me that making the pork itself could be so easy. Thanks, Sheila!