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February 20, 2014

Cotechino: pork sausage with nutmeg and parmigiano reggiano

Almost 500 years ago, the paesani of Mirandola in northern Italy were running out of food. Outside the walls of their tiny town, the Popewas waging an attack. Even though popes then weren't supposed to lead their own armies, Julius II was fighting a nasty cold in the frigid January winter to direct his forces in their attack on a little town just north of Modena. He wanted Mirandola out of French control and under his Papal territory. The folks inside those crumbling walls just wanted something to eat.

As our grandmothers never fail to mention, they didn't have Tupperware back then. But the Mirandolese were good at using their resources. They got the idea to use pigs' forelegs and trotters as ready-made sausage casings. Stuffing the pigskins with richly seasoned ground pork prevented their last foodstuffs from spoiling and kept them well fed even after Pope Julius stormed through the walls and took control.

Centuries later, the area got a reputation not for Julius' snotty winter attack but for those delicious sausages. Named for its original pigskin casing (or cotene), cotechino are a still favorite of modern day Italians. We like serving it the way they do: tender slices of the sausage nestled in a bed of hot lentils or mashed potatoes or polenta.

Since Smoking Goose Cotechino--rich with nutmeg, grated parmigiano reggiano, and black peppercorns--is stuffed in natural casings and fully cooked, it's simple to warm whole in a water (or stock or wine) bath over medium heat. Pull the hot sausage from the pan, cut thick, and drizzle the juices from the cutting board over the steaming slices.

Poor Pope Julius II got so sick after his winter march against Mirandola that he nearly died. Perhaps what brought him back was some gentle cotechino treatment? Snag your Cotechino meat magic in our Dorman St. Meat Locker and ask for it at a favorite meat store near you.

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