I have been away from home recently, and what I really enjoy is coming up with a dish using ingredients that I have…and need using up. This must be one of the reasons I enjoy camping and we always eat so well.
I had ‘nduja (a soft chilli-laden, soft salame from Calabria), a bunch of cime di rapa and some small and fabulous, pure pork sausages that I had cooked in some tomato salsa the day before. We had eaten most of these with polenta and these were left over.
What I did was simple. I braised the cime di rape in some garlic and extra virgin olive oil as I do when I cook cime di rapa with pasta. Once cooked, I added the ‘nduja….probably too much, I love chilli but do others like it as much as I do? I could have used a half of the quantity and it still would have tasted great. The ‘nduja melts with the heat and coats the vegetables.
Next, I added the sausages and only a little of the tomato salsa. I was making a pasta sauce and not a soup a , so I needed just a little liquid.
I had rigatoni on hand, and some Sicilian pecorino pepato.
You will need to accept that it tasted vey good. So much so, Squid, that I did not have time to take a photo – it was gobbled up far too quickly by my two guests.
As a child, I lived in Trieste with my parents, and Ragusa, Catania and Augusta were the towns in Sicily where my Sicilian relatives lived. Both Trieste (located at the head of the Gulf of Trieste in the region Friuli-Venezia Giulia) and Sicily are at the extreme ends of Italy, and as you would expect, the cuisines are very different.
I grew up with both cuisines and appreciate them both for very different reasons.
Capuzi garbi (or crauti/krauti) is sauerkraut in Triestino (the Triestine dialect) and it is a very popular ingredient in Triestine cuisine especially when mixed in Gulash (made with pork or beef), or with a lump of smoked pork, or luganighe (Triestine) – salsicce di maiale in Italian, and pork sausages for us mere mortals in the English speaking world.
When you look at a map of Italy, it is easy to see why this part of Italy has common roots with the cooking of Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Istria.
I have German and Polish friends and they too are fond of sauerkraut, and like my relatives and friends from Trieste, they tend to overcook it; my mother also did this when she cooked capuzi garbi.
But as we know, cuisine evolves and some of us have taken on new methods of cooking traditional foods.
In my kitchen, I cook sauerkraut for about a quarter of the time as the traditional method and at times, I also like to add a little fresh cabbage to lighten the taste and to add a different texture. A little flour browned in a little oil is added to the sauerkraut towards the end of cooking, but not me, and unlike my Triestine contemporaries I also add caraway seeds, bay leaves and a dash of white wine.
The ingredients are: pork sausages, sauerkraut, bay leaves and caraway seeds. Onion, extra virgin olive oil and pepper (the sauerkraut could be sufficiently salty). Fresh cabbage and a dash of white wine are optional.
Drain the sauerkraut and squeeze out the moisture. Soften some onion in a little oil (in Trieste lard is also common and added to the oil).
Adding a little white or savoy cabbage is optional.
And with the cabbage also add the sauerkraut and the rest. A dash of white wine will keep it moist while it cooks.
Cover and cook for about 15- 20 minutes on low heat until the sausages are nearly cooked and the flavours have had a chance to meld.
Remove the sauerkraut and slightly brown the sausages – only for appearance.
I love a good Italian pork sausage (Salsiccia di maiale). There are regional variations, some add white wine, some red, other common ingredients are fennel seeds, chilli flakes, orange peel, black pepper…but no additives to bulk up the meat, and it should have the right balance of fat and lean meat.
I first encountered what was called All-in-one Sausage Roast at one of the cooking classes by TSAA (The Sicilian Association of Australia). I liked them.
My young nephew Luke who lives in Adelaide recently cooked for me Roasted Sausages, Peppers, Potatoes and Onions, almost the same as the same dish I enjoyed at TSAA and it came from The Sopranos Family Cookbook, as compiled by Arti Bucco.
My brother and sister in law were away overseas recently and Luke had to fend for himself. He discovered cooking. Thank you Luke, we all liked it and it is good to see a member of the Raniolo family enjoying cooking and eating.
The cookbook contains all of the recipes of the food that featured in the TV series. There were 6 seasons of The Sopranos about mobster Tony Soprano, (James Gandolfini), his family and his mob who live in New Jersey. The food, like the Sopranos, is Sicilian.
I like pork sausages especially those that have a bit of chilli in them and Luke bought his from an Italian warehouse-come supermarket called Banquet Food Wholesalers at 994 Port Rd Albert Park. The butcher who has a corner of the shop sells good meat and like a good butcher makes his own sausages. Adelaide is a great place for finding good produce – I love shopping there when I visit.
Luke also included carrots in his baked dish. We all like vegetables and root vegetables do not release any liquid when they cook so the carrots were an appropriate edition.
It is easy and tastes great. You will need good quality Italian sausages (those that include fennel and/or chilli are great!)
Here is the recipe, fiddled with, as good recipes always are so as to suit one’s tastes.
You could add garlic cloves, fennel cut into chunks, fennel seeds, sprigs of rosemary, more chillies…Go for it!
We had 6 people, Luke cooked sufficient quantities for 10, but they all went.
Sufficient for 4 people:
500g waxy potatoes cut into 5 cm chunks or slices (I like them not peeled, Italians peel them)
2 medium red onions
3 red peppers (use green and yellow as well if you wish)
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
pork sausages, 1-2 per person
carrots to taste, optional
Preheat oven to 200C. Cut potatoes into chunky slices about 5mm thick. Similarly cut onions and peppers (and carrots) into chunks. Place them all into a roasting dish and toss in olive oil with some salt and pepper. Place vegetables in a single layer in a large shallow roasting pan – do not crowd them, otherwise they won’t brown.
Roast vegetables, for 30- 45 minutes, turn once or twice.
Place the sausages on top of the vegetables. Prick them.
Bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until sausages and vegetables are cooked through.
This photo above is a photo of one of the courses I very much enjoyed in a Sardinian Restaurant in Bologna called Taverna Mascarella. It was listed on their the menu as Cicoretta con salsiccia (fresh pork sausage)
Cicoretta is either young chicory or it can also mean wild chicory. The large featured photo is of a man collecting wild greens in Agrigento (by the entrance to the temples) and the one below is a photo of wild chicory sold in the Catania market in Sicily.
I have written about chicory on this blog before and it is one of my favourite green leafy vegetables. You could also make it with other greens: Cime di rape or Cavolo Nero (also called Tuscan cabbage) or Kale or even spinach.
1 bunch of Chicory.
2 Italian fresh pork sausages (with or without fennel or chilli)
Clean and wilt the greens. Drain them.
Cut sausage or remove the mince from the skins and separate it into small pieces. Saute the sausage in some extra virgin olive oil. Add the greens, salt and pepper (to your liking) and toss them around in the hot pan with the sausage meat until the greens are well coated and flavoured.
The crusty wedges you can see in the photo are made with grated Pecorino sardo (Sardinian pecorino). If you add grated cheese to a heated non stick frypan and keep on cooking it it will stick together and form a wafer. You could do this on a stove or in an oven.
Try making small ones at first, just add a spoonful of grated cheese to a non stick frypan and watch it melt. Cool in the pan and the cheese will solidify and you will be able to lift it out with a spatula.
The Sicilians from the southeastern corner of Sicily, especially from Ragusa, eat a lot of pork. One of their signature dishes is ravioli di ricotta al sugo di maiale. These are ravioli stuffed with slightly sweetened ricotta and dressed in a strongly flavoured, slow cooked, tomato ragù (ragout) made with pork meat, which includes some pork skins.
Another dish my relatives in Ragusa make are causuneddi, which is aSicilian word with no Italian or English translation. Causuneddi are gnocchi-shaped pasta cooked with what Sicilians call broccoli which are, in fact, young kohlrabi complete with leaves. Strips of pork skin are added for flavour. My aunt Niluzza is a champion at making both of these.
Pork sausages are added to sugo (a meat tomato sauce used to dress pasta), eaten fried or grilled. I have included a photo taken when I was last in Ragusa of a length of coiled pork sausage being cooked on a rustic grill – the Sicilian version of a BBQ – in fact, an Italian BBQ. No fancy BBQs for Italians. The length of sausage has no links and it can also be cooked in a frypan. Done this way the sausage is poached in a little water, without a lid. When the water evaporates the coiled sausage begins to brown in its own fat.
This is another version of braciole di maiale, except that these are stuffed.
The braciole (see previous post) are farcite or imbottite (word for ‘stuffed’) mainly with a mixture of pork liver and pork sausages. You would have to ask your butcher to supply you with double pork chops with a slit in between them (as if you were cutting them into two chops) and then you can go home and stuff them.
My younger relatives (daughters of my cousins) would not dream of making them at home, they have a favourite butcher and he madethese braciole for them. It was a different story for their mothers.
pork braciole, (chops) 6 double
minced pork, 100g
pork liver, 100g, chopped finely
sausages, 100g, pork preferably made with fennel
pork salame, 100g, cut into very small pieces
fennel seeds, ½ teaspoon, crushed
white or red wine, 1 ½ cups
water or stock, 1 ½ cups
extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup
salt, and freshly ground pepper, to taste
onion, 1, chopped
Mix liver, sausages (without skins) minced pork, salame, pepper, fennel seeds and a little red wine.
Stuff each double chop with some of this mixture.
Close the chops by sewing the edges.
Softened the onion in the oil, add the chops and sprinkle with the wine and water (or broth). Braise the chops (with lid) for about 30- 40 mins over low heat until cooked. You may need to add more water/wine – do not let them dry out.
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