My Kind of Italian Dinner

I know it may sound weird, but Italian is NOT my favorite cuisine. Pasta could cease to exist tomorrow and I would barely notice, except for the fact that it’s one of the few things The Young One will eat with any enthusiasm at all.

However I do like rice and I love risottos, so on evenings when I’ve got time to spare (not often, but it’s usually on a weekend night) I’ll make an Italian influenced dinner. I’d picked up some very nice, pretty lean pork roasts at the grocery store at a ridiculously low price not too long ago, so I thawed one of those bad boys out and wondered how I could cook so it would go well with a basic risotto and some pan-roasted asparagus. I always have some sort of fresh herbs on hand and a quick excavation in the fridge revealed sage, rosemary and thyme (I was some kind of disappointed I had no parsley, let me tell ya). I also had an entire head of garlic sitting on the counter, and a plan began to take shape.

What we had for dinner tonight was easy, if a little on the time consuming side, and if you can find the ingredients on sale, it’s fairly inexpensive. I also cooked it entirely in cast iron, which I love (I personally feel you can’t pan-roast in anything else). The roast went in my 5 quart Dutch oven, the risotto was made beautifully in the 12″ skillet and the asparagus in the 10″ skillet. If you don’t have cast iron, you can use stainless steel, although you might want to consider either steaming or sauteeing the asparagus.

Italian Seasoned Pork Roast

1 1/2 pound lean pork roast

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon onion powder

6 whole cloves garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the herbs and spices together in a small bowl and set aside. Pat the roast dry and place it fat side down on a cutting board. With a small, sharp knife, cut six slits about 1 to 1 1/2″ deep in the top of the roast and insert a whole clove of garlic in each slit. Rub the roast with the olive oil, then the seasoning mixture. Place it in a Dutch oven or other deep dish, fat side down, garlic side up, and pour the water around – not over – the roast. Roast in the oven for 1 hour, covered; uncover and roast for another 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees; allow the roast to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Serve, ladled with pan juices.


1 1/2 cups arborio or other short grained rice

6 cups chicken broth or stock (reduced sodium if using canned)

3 tablespoons butter, divided

1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped

3/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring the broth to a simmer in a large sauce pan. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 12″ skillet over medium high heat, and add the onion and rice, stirring until the rice is well coated with butter and glistening. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the hot broth, 1 ladle at a time, stirring constantly. As soon as the broth is absorbed, add another ladle. the rice should be covered with broth, but not submerged. Cook for 15 minutes, then add the cup of Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Continue adding broth until the rice is cooked through, but still firm to the bite.

The average cooking time for risotto is 25 minutes, but it varies slightly according to the quality of the rice. When the rice is done, add the remaining tablespoon of butter, mix well, and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese, and serve immediately.

Pan Roasted Asparagus

1 pound of fresh asparagus, washed and well-dried

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Heat a small, cast iron skillet over high heat until it is almost smoking. Add the asparagus to the dry skillet, stirring it occasionally, until it begins to brown in places. Remove the skillet from the heat, drizzle the olive oil over the asparagus, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle it with the cheese if you desire. Serve immediately.

7 thoughts on “My Kind of Italian Dinner”

  1. Are you goin’ to Scarborough Fair?

    I love the cast iron too, but it does little to alleviate the fact that two hours after the roast comes out of the oven, we are still burning gas. Wasn’t James Garner in the movie “Support your Local Emir Sharif”?

  2. I guess it’s OK to slam poor lil’ third world countries as long as you support elitist oil oligarchies? 😛 yourself darlin’

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