Braised Spicy Pork All’Arrabbiata with Tapenade And Cheesy Polenta

Red pepper flakes bring some heat to this Williams-Sonama spicy Italian red wine sauce  in which pork cubes cook slowly until they are melt-in-your-mouth tender.  Serve the braised pork on top of a mound of cheesy polenta made from semolina flour.  If you can’t find it, make the polenta  with traditional coarsely ground corn meal, as directed on the package.  A spoonful of tapenade made from briny green olives, lemon and capers adds bright flavor to the finished dish.  I added a few shavings of pecorino to serve.  The dish fills the house with enticing aroma during the 2 hours of cooking.    The tapenade can be made the night before for even more ease of preparation.  Just as good the next day as leftovers, you could prepare the whole dish the day before and reheat.

The first time I made this recipe, we all swooned over the dish but especially loved the green olive tapenade.  So the second time, I doubled the  tapenade and reduced the amount of olive oil the recipe called for by half.  Leftovers are great over grilled fish, chicken or on a bruschetta.

Braised Spicy Pork All'Arrabbiatta with Tapenade on Cheesy Polenta

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Braised Pork all’Arrabbiata with Olive Tapenade and Cheesy Polenta


For the pork:

2 1/2 boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes(more if you really want it hot)
1/2 cup red wine
1 can diced plum tomatoes(I used fire roasted)

For the olive tapenade:

2 anchovy fillets, minced(or 1 Tbs anchovy paste)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup green olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup  fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1 Tbs. capers, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the semolina polenta:

4 cups (32 fl. oz./1 l) milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (5 1/2 oz./170 g) semolina flour
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) grated Parmesan cheese


1. Preheat an oven to 325F (165°C).

2. Season the pork with salt and black pepper. In a large Dutch oven over high heat, warm the olive oil. Working in batches, add the pork and brown on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.

3. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a glaze, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and season with salt and black pepper. Return the pork to the pot, cover with the lid and transfer to the oven. Braise until the pork is tender, about 2 hours. Using a large spoon, skim the fat off the sauce.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the olive tapenade: In a bowl, stir together the anchovy, garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice, then whisk in the olive oil. Add the olives, parsley and capers and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Set aside.

5. To prepare the semolina polenta, in a Dutch oven or a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the milk, 2 tsp. salt and black pepper to taste and bring just to a boil. Slowly whisk in the semolina flour and adjust the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring constantly, until the semolina pulls away from the edges of the pot, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the butter and Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

6. Divide the polenta among 4 shallow bowls and spoon the pork and sauce on top. Add a spoonful of the olive tapenade and serve. Serves 4.