A Very Grown Up Recipe that Children Love

August 8, 2016

We were a big group last night – 5 adults and 4 children – and I wracked my mind trying to come up with a recipe everyone would like.

Then I thought of the Venetian pork ribs I learned to make when I was shooting Adventures with Ruth.  Because you have the butcher cut baby backs in half – lengthwise down the middle – they make wonderfully child-sized ribs. (You can do this with a cleaver, but it’s much easier to ask the butcher to run them through the saw.)

I worried that the children wouldn’t like the rosemary and garlic, or that the faint lingering flavor of wine would put them off – but they ate like wolves.

I doubled this recipe, using 3 large pans.  Because I was cooking potatoes in the oven (this gratin – also a HUGE hit with the kids), I put one of the covered pans into  the oven (at 325 degrees) just to see how they’d come out.  Worked beautifully.

Venetian Pork

Ask your butcher to cut a couple of racks of spare ribs in half so that you have four racks measuring about 2 inches in width, or do it yourself with a cleaver. Then cut between each rib so you have a great many small, individual pieces.

Dry them as well as you can and sprinkle them all over with salt and pepper.

Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil and saute the ribs over high heat until each one has become crisp, brown and fragrant. You don’t want to crowd the pan so you will probably need to do this in two or three batches. Add a lot of thinly sliced garlic (4 or 5 cloves), and a bit of chopped rosemary and worry it around until it becomes really fragrant.  Put the ribs back in (a single layer is best, so you might need a couple of pans), add about a cup of white wine and a bit of water. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover the pot tightly and simmer over low heat for an hour and a quarter, or until the pork is entirely tender.

Just before serving, remove the lid and if there’s still a lot of liquid reduce the sauce to a lovely shiny glaze.

Ingredients for Four

2 pounds baby back spare ribs, preferably from a humanely raised pig, cut into 2 inch lengths, and individual ribs.

1 teaspoon sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil, separated

5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced


1 cup dry white wine

½ cup water

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  • Laurie says:

    If you were not going to cook with wine, would you substitute with something or choose another recipe?

  • Christopher says:

    Thanks for the recipe.

  • Deb says:

    I want to live in a city where you can “ask your butcher” anything. I love your books and have created many of your wonderful recipes, but I must say, you have lived a life many of us can only dream of.

    • admin says:

      Deb, Every supermarket meat department with which I’m familiar would gladly cut a rack of spareribs for you. They just try to remain scarce so you don’t make too many requests!

  • Edward says:

    Dear Ruth,
    I am a chef/caterer, and I saw this episode of “adventures with Ruth”
    When I lived in Los Angeles (and was often cooking for some prominent people) I put this in my repertoire, and people LOVED it! It’s a perfect make-ahead entree as I would cook it till the meat was tender then vacuum pack-it, and finish it off on site. the flavors would meld and intensify after sitting in the fridge overnight.