Tag Archives: sauerkraut

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.

Luigi’s polenta

1 Apr

First, a thousand thank yous to dear Aunt Laura. That’s about how many times I’ve called her over the years, asking if she can please please please repeat to me the recipe that I love so much. Not once have I been scolded for failing to write it down the time before. My aunt surely knows that I have dozens of scraps of paper, basically filled with the same scribbles, some stained with red sauce, others pristine as the day I last called her.

But rituals are important. And so I call.

Luigi is long gone. He was Laura’s stepfather and, like my own family, he’d emigrated from Italy in the early 1900s. What distinguished him from the others in our corner of Brooklyn is that he was from “the north,” from Trieste, in fact, while everybody else had come from around Naples.

If not for Luigi’s growing up as a Triestin, on the border of Slovenia, I would definitely not have imagined — no way, no how — dropping a bag of sauerkraut into a pot of red sauce.

To wit, Luigi’s extraordinarily tasty and ridiculously simple recipe for pork and sauerkraut red gravy over polenta:

1. Saute olive oil and garlic in your favorite pot for making sauce. (After making this once, go ahead and play. You could add some hot pepper or pancetta, or whatever you want. I’ve certainly fooled around with the recipe enough myself.)

2. Get some pork butt (maybe a pound or so) and cut it into one-inch cubes. Then add them to the oil and garlic to brown.

3. Once the pork is lightly browned add a couple 28-oz. cans of tomatoes (your choice if they’re whole or crushed, whatever you have around).

4. Turn up the heat and cook for about 10 minutes.

5. Drain the juice off of 2 lbs. of sauerkraut (we use the bags you get at the supermarket in refrigerated section) and add the kraut to the sauce.

6. Lower the heat to low to medium and let simmer for 45 minutes (longer if you want; again, up to you).

7. Serve over polenta.

Grazie, Luigi.

Grazie, Laura.