Cassöeula: the traditional winter dish

Taste the traditional dishes of Milano

Cassöeula is the elaborate, high-calorie dish made from pork and cabbage that best typifies Milanese cuisine. Variously known as cassouela, cazzoeura (derived from cazza, pan), its name refers to the casserole dish in which it is prepared.

 

While not exactly delighting lovers of culinary nuance and sophisticated combinations of flavours, its strong, decisive flavour makes it a real winter warmer of a dish. Cabbage firmed by a good frost, tomato purée, lots of onion, celery, chopped carrots, black pepper and pork meat in every form: ribs, sausage, tails and trotters.

 

A curious legend is linked to the origins of this dish. It is said that during the Spanish dominion of Milano towards the end of the 16th century, an army official taught this pork and cabbage recipe to his lover, who worked for a noble Milanese family.

 

The dish was so well received that it spread quickly through the Lombard capital, and many years later it even came to be Arturo Toscanini’s favourite treat.

The recipe

Ingredients – Serves 8-10

 

  • 10 verzini (fresh sausages, using casings cured with parmesan and moistened with wine)
  • One pig’s tail chopped into small pieces
  • 500 g pig’s nose
  • 2 pig’s ears
  • 800 g pork rinds
  • 2 trotters cut into quarters (once lengthways, then halved)
  • Half a rack of ribs (the meatiest part)
  • 3 firm cabbages, with the best green leaves (approx. 3 kg)
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 3 onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • A big bunch of parsley
  • A glass of tomato sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ l white wine
  • 60 g lard or butter

 

Prepare the cabbage: pull off the leaves, wash and shred the biggest darkest leaves (only these) along the rib. Do not drain completely after the final rinse and place in a pot to wilt. Take care not to boil. Drain, squeeze and put aside.

 

Chop the carrot, onion, celery, garlic and parsley. Take a deep nonstick pot (a good sized saucepan), heat the lard or butter and sautée the chopped vegetables.

 

Boil a pot of water (unsalted) and plunge the pieces of meat, except the verzini, to render them; blanch each meat separately for 2 minutes, drain and rinse under hot running water.

 

Add to the sautée in this order: trotters, ears, tail and nose. Sautée for 5 minutes, add pepper and two glasses of wine.

 

Cover with the lid and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Then add the pork rinds and tomato and continue cooking for another 30 minutes.

 

When the liquid has been absorbed, add the verzini (prick them before cooking) and cook for 2 minutes. Add the cabbage, adjust the salt and finish cooking for another 10 minutes.

 

At the end, the cassöeula is very thick, so be careful to keep stirring so it does not stick to the pot.

 

Cassöeula must rest for a couple of hours before serving. If you wait longer, or even serve it the day after, it is even better.