Whenever we visit my husband’s hometown of Memphis, there’s nothing I love better than sinking my teeth into sauce-drenched ribs from one of the barbecue joints around town. These ribs are magnificent and messy, since the smoky-sweet sauce can’t help but dribble down your chin—and even the unctuous meat flops from the bone to land there too.
So a few years back, when my colleague, Senior Editor Annie Petito, set out to develop a radically different type of rib recipe called rosticciana—with no sauce, no spice rub, and meat that was even a little bit chewy—I thought I wasn’t all that interested. No matter that it was a beloved specialty from Tuscany.
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But when she brought out a plate piled high with these ribs for the team to sample, we couldn’t get them into our mouths fast enough. They glistened with juices, and with salt and pepper as their only seasoning, their flavor was purely, gloriously porky. Their crisp, browned exteriors added even more meaty savor. To my surprise, I found the slight, pleasing resistance from the meat even more gratifying than the texture of buttery-soft Memphis ribs.
As if all this wasn’t enough, we drizzled these ribs with a rosemary-infused vinaigrette that cut through their richness while adding another layer of flavor.
One more thing: Unlike barbecued ribs, which take hours over indirect heat, these Tuscan ribs cook in just 20 minutes.
For a lazy cook like me who also likes to impress guests, that means they’re now my go-to for entertaining when it’s warm enough for grilling.
Rosticciana (Tuscan Grilled Pork Ribs)With no sauce and minimal seasoning, rosticciana forgoes the hallmarks of American barbecue in favor of one distinct feature: juicy, unadulterated pork.
The only thing hard about rosticciana is that you’ve got to remove the tough, papery membrane, or silver skin, stretched across the rib’s underside. We sometimes leave this membrane intact when barbecuing, since it softens during the long cooking time. But because these ribs cook for such a short period, it’s best to strip it away. And luckily, at the test kitchen we have a good method for that.
How to Make Annie Petito’s Rosticciana
Our go-to for almost all rib preparations, including these grilled ones, is St. Louis–style. This cut refers to spareribs that have been trimmed of belly and skirt meat and excess cartilage, which cuts down on the additional trimming needed at home.
- Cut 2 racks of St. Louis–style spareribs (trimmed, with silver skin removed) into 2 rib-sections. Some recipes for rosticciana cook the whole rack. But by cutting 2-rib sections, Annie created more surface area for browning. This smart tweak also means the ribs cook faster.
- Salt for 1 hour. Juiciness is a hallmark of these ribs, which don’t benefit from as much softening of collagen to give them the appearance of moistness that barbecued ribs have. Salting ensures the meat hangs on to as much of its juice as possible and also seasons them thoroughly.
- Brush meat side of ribs with oil and sprinkle with pepper. Minimal seasoning means the ribs taste only of nutty-sweet pork.
- Grill over a medium-hot fire. Grilling them over a medium-hot (rather than blazing) fire helps prevent overcooking. You cook each side, covered, for 4 to 6 minutes per side, and then flip a final time, cooking until the meat side is deeply browned with slight charring, another 4 to 6 minutes.
- Serve with rosemary vinaigrette. Recipes for rosticciana often finish in a minimal way, with a sprinkling of chopped garlic and rosemary, a brush of rosemary-infused oil, or a squeeze of lemon. Annie combined all of these touches into an aromatic vinaigrette that cuts the pork’s richness.