Here, six crowd-pleasing recipes for your summer cookout.

Imagine walking into your dining room to see your four-foot tall 84-year-old grandmother sitting at the table, hunched over a plate of bones picked clean with a look of fulfillment usually reserved for pets getting their tummy rubbed.

That was more or less the scene when I conducted an unofficial Zoomer taste test of Mastro's new no-fuss Italian-style pork back ribs (though the messy napkins and loosened belts seemed quite official). The verdict: these pre-sauced, fresh-not-frozen ribs are excellent.

First, the jury: joining me were five fellow diners that ranged in age from 50-something all the way up to my grandmother.

The ribs, which do not require pre-cooking, come in three flavours: balsamic and fig, roasted garlic and tomato, and spicy fire-roasted tomato.

Now, I know what you're thinking: you don't hear terms like "pre-cooked" and "pre-sauced" much in the Italian vocabulary. But these are Italian style ribs, so I'll give them a pass on that.

We decided to prepare one pack of each style. Since most of the work is already taken care of, they were ready to eat in around 15 minutes.

To say that the taste-testers devoured the ribs would be an understatement - the table more closely resembled the remains of a hyena feeding frenzy than a family meal.

The ribs were so tender the meat practically fell off the bone. My grandmother overcame the double handicap of wearing dentures and possessing the appetite of a bird to polish off multiple helpings - the first ribs she says she's been able to eat in years.

As far as taste, the spicy ribs actually had a bit of a kick to them, which was nice since too often food that claims to be "spicy" is more accurately only "slightly spicier than usual." The roasted garlic and tomato was full of flavour and proved the favourite among most, though the balsamic and fig, despite its more subdued taste, had its supporters. I'm almost embarrassed to say that my mother even finished off the sauce residue inside the rib packaging.

In all, three packs (along with side dishes) served six of us, while leaving no belly unstuffed. And speaking of sides, Maestro's got some great recipes for dishes to accompany your ribs (see following pages).

If you're planning a weekend cookout with family and friends, these ribs come garnished, are quick to prepare and, if my family is any indication, are sure to please guests of all tastes and appetites.

As the Italians would say, bellissimo!

Mastro Italian-Style Pork Back Ribs, available at Sobeys, Metro, Real Canadian Superstores, and No Frills


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