Pork Cutlets Pizzaiola

Lonza di Maiale alla Pizzaiola

Pasta in an Italian meal is usually served as a primo, a first course (or middle course after the antipasto) before the main course. There are some dishes, however, where pasta is used as a contorno, or side dish, to the main course, as in this recipe. If you have problems with peppers repeating on you, blanching them takes some of the edge from them.

Makes 6 servings

Salt

Six 6-ounce pork loin cutlets, each about 1-inch thick

Freshly ground black pepper

All purpose flour

7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or to taste

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

3 cups seeded and crushed canned Italian tomatoes, preferably San Marzano

5 sprigs fresh oregano, or to taste, plus more for decorating the plate, if desired

12 ounces (about 6 cups) rigatoni

1 each, red, yellow and green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch strips

2 tablespoons nonpareil capers, drained (optional)

3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

In a large pot, heat 8 quarts of salted water to a boil.

Trim all but a thin layer of fat from the sides of the cutlets. To butterfly the cutlets, lay them flat on a cutting surface. Starting at the longest side with the layer of fat, cut almost all the way through horizontally. Open the cutlet like a book and with the smooth side of a meat mallet or a small, heavy saucepan, pound the cutlet lightly to an even thickness. Repeat with the remaining cutlets. Season both sides of the cutlets with salt and pepper and coat them lightly with flour, shaking off excess.

In a heavy, large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, shaking the pan, until light golden brown, about 1 minute. Add the cutlets to the pan and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes. If the garlic cloves begin to darken, remove them from the pan.

Remove the cutlets to paper towels to drain and add the tomatoes to the pan. Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat to a lively simmer. Drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, add the oregano and return the garlic to the pan if necessary. Cook, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes. If the sauce begins to dry around the edges, ladle a little of the boiling pasta water into the skillet.

Meanwhile, stir the rigatoni into the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente– tender but firm– about 12 minutes. If you would like to blanch the peppers, do so by placing them in a sieve and placing them in the same pot of water as the pasta– as soon as the water has returned to a boil– for 3 minutes. Remove the sieve and drain the peppers thoroughly.

Add the drained peppers to the skillet, toss to coat with sauce and simmer 3 minutes. Stir in the capers and continue to simmer 2 minutes. Tuck the browned pork cutlets into the sauce in the pan and simmer until just a faint trace of pink remains in the center, about 4 minutes.

Transfer the cutlets to serving plates. Drain the rigatoni and return it to the pot over low heat. Remove the herb sprigs and, if you like, the crushed garlic cloves from the sauce. Add enough of the sauce to the pasta to coat lightly, about half. Drizzle in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, or more, to taste. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the grated cheese. Serve some of the pasta alongside each cutlet and divide the remaining sauce over the cutlets. Alternatively, arrange the pasta in the center of a large platter and place the cutlets around the pasta. Spoon the remaining sauce over the cutlets. Serve hot.