Spaghetti Cowboy

A Texas classic with an Italian accent

When Bryan Caswell opened Houston's Stella Sola restaurant last fall, few knew what to expect from a menu that combined Italian cuisine with Texas traditions. But those familiar with the chef's acclaimed seafood restaurant Reef recognized his trademark flair for bold flavors and devotion to top-quality ingredients. Caswell's country-style pork ribs show how well even the most incongruous inspirations can come together in the right hands. He rubs the ribs with fennel seeds and pairs them with a decidedly Texan take on pesto made from smoky jalapeño peppers.

Recipe Adapted from Bryan Caswell, Stella Sola, Houston

Country-Style Pork Ribs With Jalapeño Pesto
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Bryan Caswell's recipe for pork ribs from Houston's Stella Sola restaurant
Servings
4
to 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 celery ribs, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large fennel bulb, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, divided
  • 10 country-style bone-in pork ribs
  • 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup fennel seeds, coarsely ground in a spice grinder
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 jalapeño pepper--roasted, skinned, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • 1 large shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Combine the celery, fennel, onion and two of the garlic cloves on a rimmed baking sheet. Place a wire rack over the vegetables and set the baking sheet aside.
  2. Rub the ribs with 2 tablespoons of the grapeseed oil and season liberally with salt, pepper and ground fennel seed. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil in a large skillet until the oil just begins to shimmer. Working in batches, cook the ribs over medium-high heat until golden brown, about 2 minutes, then turn the ribs over and cook until the other side is brown, another 1 to 2 minutes longer. Arrange the ribs in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet, transfer to the oven and roast until cooked through, about 35 to 40 minutes.
  3. While ribs are baking, make the pesto: Place the pine nuts, jalapeño, parsley, basil, shallot, Pecorino and the remaining garlic clove in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until a smooth paste forms. With the processor running, slowly add the olive oil through the feed chute. Season the pesto with salt, pepper and lemon zest, then transfer to a serving bowl.
  4. To serve, arrange the roasted vegetables on a platter. Top with the ribs and serve with the jalapeño pesto on the side.
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