What to CookGrillingItalian Cooking

Rosemary Works a Double Shift in These Juicy, Flavorful Ribs

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Tuscans are experts at doing very little to their ingredients to make a good meal—you rarely need more than a handful of things to bring out the best in your hero ingredient. Take, for example, a raw artichoke salad, which you'll find offered in many Tuscan trattorias in the winter and spring when young, fresh artichokes are in season—and so delicious that you need nothing more than salt, lemon and olive oil to season its raw slices.

Or take Florence's favorite dish, bistecca alla fiorentina, an oversized, two-fingers-thick steak, grilled bloody and seasoned simply with salt after grilling. Some add pepper, and at the most, extra virgin olive oil. I met a retired Florentine butcher once, who told me that a proper bistecca alla fiorentina doesn't even need salt. Less is more, especially—and this is key—when you have high-quality ingredients to begin with.

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Give it a little brush of rosemary.
Give it a little brush of rosemary. Photo by Emiko Davies

Arista, Tuscany's answer to roast pork, is often rubbed with a mixture of herbs (rosemary, sage, sometimes lemon zest) before being rolled up, seasoned with some olive oil and salt, and doused with a glass of wine before roasting. It's eaten just as simply—dressed with maybe a spoonful of the pan juices, but nothing else is needed.

In a similar way, Tuscans prepare pork ribs for the grill with just a vague hint of rosemary (you use a rosemary sprig to brush olive oil onto the ribs as they're grilling) and garlic (which goes into a dressing to drizzle over the finished ribs). No heavy spices, no sauces. The key to getting the right flavor is to grill over charcoal, preferably.

A little goes a long way here.
A little goes a long way here. Photo by Emiko Davies

If you want to boost your ribs' flavor and juiciness, a brine before grilling is a very good idea, and another nice way add some oomph to a beautiful piece of meat before preparing it simply.

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Rosticciana (pronounced "rosti-chyana"), or ribs, are usually served as part of a larger platter of "grigliata mista," literally "mixed grill"—grilled chicken, stout, fennel-studded Tuscan sausages, some tagliata (rare grilled steak). It would all be served with sides like roast potatoes, cannellini beans with olive oil, or a simple green salad—the classic meal for sharing around during a big gathering.

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Rosticciana (Tuscan Grilled Pork Ribs)

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Serves 4
  • 2 pounds (about 1 kg) pork ribs
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • salt
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Tags: Italy, Regional Italian Food, Tuscany, grilling, ribs, brining