Cooking from Scratch: Spicy pork pasta a ghost of menus past

One fun thing about living in Lawrence? The restaurants are always changing. One not-so-fun thing about living in Lawrence? The restaurants are always changing.

It’s a mixed blessing. For every new gem (hello there, Hank Charcuterie!), a place I love closes down (I still miss you Westside Deli and Bistro).

For every new menu creation I can’t get enough of (kale and beet salad at Limestone, anyone?), there’s another favorite that disappears forever (still holding a grudge about the butternut squash ravioli, Free State).

The pasta below was inspired by one such disappeared favorite.

Do you remember Esquina? For about two seconds between when it was a taco place and when it turned into Intorno, Esquina served upscale Latin American food. This pasta dish with spicy lamb, peas and mint was on the menu all spring, and I couldn’t get enough.

When I make it at home, I use slow-cooked pork instead of lamb, just for economy’s sake. You’ll end up with extra meat, so plan to have tacos later in the week.

I also cut back the spice a bit so that my son will eat this, but I often add some hot sauce to my individual portion at the end.

With sweet, green spikes of peas and mint, this ghost of Lawrence’s restaurant past makes a delicious spring-time supper.

Spicy Pork Pasta with Peas and Mint

Serves 4


For the pork roast

About 1 1/2 pounds sirloin pork roast

1 adobo chili and about 2 tablespoons of the sauce it comes in, or more if you like it hot

3 cups chicken stock

1 teaspoon salt

For the pasta and sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 garlic clove

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup frozen peas

A handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped into ribbons

About 1 pound wide pasta, such a pappardelle or rombi

Parmesan cheese, for serving


Place the pork roast into the insert of your slow-cooker. Add the chili, sauce, stock and salt. If you’d like a spicier roast, feel free to add a few tablespoons more of the adobo sauce.

Then cook the meat on high until the roast easily falls apart when pierced with a fork, usually somewhere between 6-8 hours. Shred the meat, reserving about half of it for another use. Reserve about 3 cups of the pork juices, as well.

When you’re ready for dinner, boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta according to the package directions.

As the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns the color of a caramel. Roughly chop the garlic and add it to the pot; then add 1 cup of the reserved pork juices, continuing to whisk. When the sauce has reduced down, add the pork and another 2 cups of juices. Let that cook over low heat just long enough to warm the pork back through, adding salt and pepper to taste.

When your pasta is ready, toss a cup of peas into the pork mixture and remove it from the heat. Portion the pasta out into bowls, scooping a generous ladleful of the pork and sauce over each portion. Top with sprinkles of mint and Parmesan cheese.

— Meryl Carver-Allmond lives in Lawrence and writes about chickens, babies, knitting, gardening, food, photography, and whatever else tickles her fancy on any given day at