The Cotechino is universally recognized as the father of the Zampone or pig’s trotter stuffed with chopped, seasoned meat. Its name derives from “cotica” which means the pig’s rind. The idea of stuffing the meat of the pig in a small casing made from the pig’s intestines was a very antique and effective method for preservation. More recently a natural pork casing is used.
History of Cotechino
The Cotechino uses a natural pork casing while the pig’s foreleg is used for the Zampone. As previously mentioned, Cotechino came many years before the Zampone, originally being sausage for poor people. It was usually eaten with stew or vegetable soup. It was handmade by “salsicciari Modenese” Modena’s sausage makers.
Cotechino, and similarly Zampone originated in Mirandola in 1511 during the Siege of Pope Julius II.
It wasn’t until the beginning of the last century when the Cotechino reached its culinary fame. In 1910, Pellegrino Artusi titled recipe number 322, “Wrapped Cotechino” in his famous cookbook La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene (The science of cooking and the art of eating well).
How to Eat Cotechino
Cotechino has an elongated shape and is normally placed in warm water to soften its casing. It is cooked in boiling, unsalted water and wrapped in a cloth to prevent it from splitting.
Like the Zampone, a commercialized, precooked version of the Cortechino is available in a vacuumed packed bag, suitable for placing in boiled water for reheating. Cotechino is also a typical dish during the Christmas holiday and New Year’s Eve in Italy, with a side dish of lentils or kidney bean stew, in addition to mashed potatoes or spinach mixed with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano. Lots of crusty bread is also a great addition for soaking up the juices. Cotechino symbolizes wealth and good fortune for the coming year. Although it’s so delicious that the recipe is made year-round.
Cotechino con Lenticchie (Cotechino Sausage with Lentils)
Recipe courtesy of Eataly
Yields: 6 servings
- 3 pounds precooked Golfera Cotechino sausage in the casing (approximately 3 sausages)
- 2 cups lentils
- 6 garlic cloves
- crushed ½ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes or to taste
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon fresh sage, minced
- ½ teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
- Fine sea salt, to taste
- Freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the sage, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf, and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Add the lentils and pour in just enough water to cover them.
- Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce to a simmer.
- Cover, and allow the lentils to simmer very gently until they are tender and creamy, 35 to 45 minutes.
- Check occasionally, and add water in very small amounts if the lentils begin to stick before they are fully cooked.
- Fill a large pot halfway with water. Prick the cotechino in several places with a pin. (Don’t use a fork: the holes will be too large.)
- Add the sausages to the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium. Simmer the sausages until you see the fat in the casing change from a solid to a liquid and the sausages begin to plump up, 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the sausages.
- Remove the sausages from the water, and place them on a dry towel
- Pour the remaining ½ cup olive oil into a large pan, and set over medium heat.
- Scatter the garlic cloves in the pan. Cook until light brown, then remove with a slotted spoon and discard.
- Scatter the chili pepper flakes in the infused oil, increase the heat, and immediately place the sausages in the pan.
- Cook the sausages, rotating them frequently until they’re lightly browned on all sides, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the sausages from the pan, allow them to rest for a few minutes, then slice them into ¼ inch rounds.
- To serve, place some of the lentils in individual serving bowls, and top each portion with a few slices of cotechino.