Sauerkraut, Italian style

5 Jan

You are not hallucinating. That is indeed a big old mess of sauerkraut being added to a simmering pot of tomato sauce.

Weird, huh?

Not if you are a member of my family, it isn’t. To many of us, this dish has been a staple for many decades. In fact, it was the subject of the very first item that ever appeared on this blog, back in April 2010. (Click here to see the original story.)

It being a new year I decided to start it off by giving this unusual family recipe the full step-by-step treatment, which it did not initially receive. It is the concoction of a man named Luigi, the stepfather of my dear Aunt Laura. Luigi was from Trieste, in the north of Italy and on the border of Slovenia. This would explain his affinity for sauerkraut, but in decades of research I have never once come across a recipe that, like his, puts the stuff together with a red sauce.

You may be tempted to write this off as too oddball a pairing to attempt. I know that it sounds weird, believe me. But I have served this dish to many people over the years, including serious chowhounds and even a couple of professional chefs, and rarely am I not asked to provide a recipe.

Okay, so get yourself a couple of those one-pound bags of sauerkraut you see in the refrigerated case and dump them into a colander so that the liquid drains out. (Luigi did not rinse his kraut, and neither do I, but you may choose to in order to cut down on the acidity a bit.)

Cut up about a pound of pork butt into one-inch cubes.

In a medium-size sauce pot saute two or three garlic cloves (and some hot pepper if you like) until softened.

Add the pork and allow the meat to brown.

Then add two 28-ounce cans of tomatoes and bring to a boil.

Then stir in the sauerkraut and turn down the heat so that the sauce cooks at a slow to medium simmer.

In about an hour the sauce should be done, but you could also simmer it for longer. I usually give it a taste and decide.

If you did happen to click on the original story about this dish then you will have noticed that the headline was “Luigi’s polenta.” That’s what we call this dish in our family, and over polenta is the only way that we eat it. I strongly urge you to follow our lead here and have ready a nice potful of the stuff.

You will not be disappointed.

Have a very good year everybody!

Luigi’s Polenta

2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound pork butt, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 28-ounce cans of tomatoes
2 pounds sauerkraut, drained of the liquid (you may also rinse it, to cut down on the acidity, though I don’t)

1. In your favorite pot for making sauce, saute the garlic in olive oil until softened. (I also add some hot pepper.)

2. Add the pork and saute until lightly browned.

3. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.

4. Add the sauerkraut (we use the bags you get at the supermarket in the refrigerated section).

5. Turn the heat to low to medium and let simmer for at least an hour (longer is fine if you prefer).

6. Serve over polenta.

9 Responses to “Sauerkraut, Italian style”

  1. Charlene Ann Baumbich January 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    This sounds absolutely amazing. Plus, once you mentioned Slovenia I was sold. My husband is 100% Slovenian! This mostly Irish gal will give the recipe her best shot.

  2. Thomas Henry Strenk January 5, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    Notice you just drained the sauerkraut. I always rinse mine to cut down on the acidity.

  3. Mister Meatball January 5, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

    Yeah, you could certainly drain it if you want.

  4. jerseypaulie January 5, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

    An Italian and German recreational vehicle get in an accident and the German says \”you got tomato sauce in my pork and kraut\”. The Italian says \”you got pork and kraut in my marinara sauce\”. Just like the peanut butter cup story, but much better on polenta.

  5. kennebunksgossip January 6, 2014 at 4:14 am #

    So glad to see your post…there are too few per month!!This sounds so good!Alto Aldige has this combination of Italian and German!

  6. Pattie January 6, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

    Unbelieveable! When I was growing up my friends thought I was insane when I said one of the things I looked forward to most when we went to Italy every summer was my Nonna's sauerkraut soup and sauerkrat sauce- I thought we were the only family ever that ate this way at the time!

  7. Julia January 6, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

    My family is from Trento, the sister of Trieste, and we make this all the time. We also make the polenta with brown gravy and rabbit or veal stew meat. There is another great Tyrolean recipe for a dumpling soup that is only found in this area of Italy.

  8. S Sawyer January 10, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

    Oh Yum! I must try this tomorrow!

  9. Liana January 12, 2014 at 1:34 am #

    It's just part of the recipe for \”Lazy Cabbage Rolls.\” lol My family is from Montebelluna, near Treviso and Venice (in case you are lost) but my husband's family is Polish/Ukrainian (depending on the war borders over the centuries) so I've done this one before. It's certainly yummy, I ladle it over rice and it's Polish, over polenta and it's Northern Italian.

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