Legendary Dishes | Bottaggio (pork casserole in sour-sweet sauce)

ITALY

This is a mini-bottaggio made with beans, cabbage, potatoes, pork belly and fresh pork sausages in an aromatic tomato sauce

The art of braising vegetables with meat in an aromatic stock has lost none of its allure among rural communities where pork, leaf vegetables and root vegetables are essential ingredients in the indigneous food culture.

Pot cooking is still an integral aspect of the traditional food culture in Belgium, France, Italy and Spain, where every part of the pig is utilised in a variety of dishes and vegetables are used for their specific properties.

Combining a battuto of carrots, celery and onions with the poorer parts of the pig, pork products, herbs and spices, water and cabbage or potatoes to produce a creamy potage that is neither soup nor stew is still popular in northern Italy.

This ancient tradition goes by many names.

In Lombardy it is generally known as bottaggio or potage and cooked using a method thousands of years old.

In some regions potage is regarded as a medieval food. Restaurant chefs keen to infuse dishes with their creative juices enjoy the potage challenge, flavouring duck and goose with sour and sweet flavours.

But it is the bottaggio made with cabbage and pork that is still a dish of high esteem.

What is interesting is the debate over the origins of this dish. Some food historians believe it is a product of the Spanish when they ruled Lombardy and Naples. They trace it to specific mentions in the cookbooks of the 1600s and 1700s.

Others point to the Medicis in Florence, while some insist it is nothing more than a tradition that has existed in Europe since Roman times when wild boar played a huge role in feast and festive occasions among those who lived in tribal communities.

We have looked at the various interpretations including the ancient traditions and have arrived at this version.

Stock

  • 4 litres water
  • 1 pig head
  • 4 pigs feet
  • 4 pigs ears
  • 200 g pork belly rind
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 sage leaves
  • 1 sprig rosemary

Place all ingredients in a very large pot, bring to the boil, remove scum, reduce heat and cook over a low heat for six hours, strain.

  • 3 kg cabbage, cut into strips
  • 3 litres stock
  • 1.5 kg pork ribs
  • 12 fresh pork sausages, pricked
  • 500 g carrots, diced
  • 500 g celery, diced
  • 500 g onions, chopped small
  • 400 g prunes
  • 400 g salami, cut into slices
  • 350 g plum tomatoes, skinned
  • 100 g pork belly / bacon, cubed
  • 75 ml dry white wine
  • 60 g butter
  • 60 g olive oil
  • Black pepper, pinch
  • Salt, pinch

Melt butter into oil in a large pot over a low heat, add carrots, celery, onions and pork belly or bacon pieces.

Increase heat to high and cook for ten minutes. Remove pot from heat, deglaze with wine.

Put pot back on heat, add ribs, salami and sausages. Stir for a couple of minutes, add tomatoes and stock (less if you want a thick pottage), bring slowly to the boil.

Reduce heat to low, add cabbage and cook for two hours.

Add prunes and seasonings, cook for thirty minutes.

Serve with polenta.