Cassoeula, sometimes Cazzuola or Cazzola or bottaggio (probably derived from the French word potage) is a typical winter dish popular in Northern Italy, mostly in Lombardy. The dish has a strong, decisive flavour, and was a favourite of conductor Arturo Toscanini. One writer describes it as a “noble, ancient Milanese dish”, and writes of the inexpressible “pleasure that it furnishes the soul as well as the palate, especially on a wintry day”
Origins of Cassoeula
One account of the origins of the dish associates it with the January 17 celebration of St Anthony the Abbot which coincided with the end of the pig slaughtering season. The parts of the pig used for the dish were those ready for consumption immediately after slaughter, whereas the better cuts of meat would be hung to improve the flavour.
Another account traces the origins of the dish to the 16th century when Spain ruled Milan; it tells how a Spanish army officer taught the recipe to his lover, who cooked for a noble Milanese family, and the dish was well received and became popular.
Overview of Cassoeula Ingredients
The meat used in the dish includes mainly pork meat (usually least valuable parts like ribs, rind, head, trotters, ears, nose and tail), Verzino sausage, and sometimes other meats like chicken and goose. These are cooked in a casserole with ingredients such as onion, carrot, celery and black pepper for about two and a half hours, after which the cabbage is added and cooking continues for a further half-hour.
Usually, cassoeula is served with polenta and a strong red wine. It is tradition for this dish to be eaten starting after the first frost of the season, to let the cabbage be softer and tastier.
Many variations of this dish exist across the territory, but all of them share the use of cabbage. For example, in the Province of Como the head is used, but not the trotters; in the Province of Pavia only the ribs are used; and in the Province of Novara goose is added.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 rack pork ribs
- 900 g pork butt
- 4 pork sausages
- 1 bacon end, coarsely chopped (or 500g large bacon bits)
- 1 carrot, cut into 5mm dice
- 1 stalk celery, peeled and cut into 5mm dice
- 1 small onion, cut into 5mm dice
- salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- ½ cup white wine
- 2 medium-sized heads cabbage, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups beef stock
- Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven or other large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the pork ribs and sear all sides. Set aside.
- Repeat, searing the pork butt and then the pork sausages until all are nicely browned on all sides, using more olive oil if needed. Set aside.
- Add the chopped bacon ends and saute until the fat is rendered and the bacon is slightly crisp.
- Add the carrot, celery and onion, and cook until soft and just beginning to brown. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Add the white wine to the hot pan to deglaze. Cook until the wine is almost evaporated.
- Add the chopped cabbage in a layer, stirring to combine with the vegetables. Place the meats on top of the cabbage.
- Add the beef stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook over low heat for 2-3 hours, until all the meat is tender and falling apart.