Pork sausages

Augusto considers the slaughtered and shorn sow

Nerone, Nicola, Peppe and split pig

Augusto and Peppe at work

Peppe and prosciutto

Grinding the meat

Seasoning the pork

Filling the sausage casing

Tying off the individual sausages

Fidalma takes time off from her restaurant to prepare polenta

Polenta with pork and fegatelli (pig liver wrapped in bacon)

SALSICCIE - To make 20 sausages.

1.8 kilos lean pork meat

400 grams pork fat

2 garlic cloves

60 grams salt

10 grams ground pepper

Chili pepper to taste

6 meters of sausage casing, thoroughly washed.

Chop up the refrigerated pork and fat into small pieces, and slice the garlic finely.  Mix all the ingredients together, and then mince to a medium grind.  Cut the casing into manageable pieces, tie a knot in one end, and then fill with the sausage mix.  The Romans did it with their fingers, but it can be done more easily by squeezing the mix in with a tube and piping bag.  Press out any air pockets that may form and then tie off the individual sausages.


In the European countryside, and around Sorano, where it is indigenous, Sus scrofa persists abundantly as the wild boar.  The boar began to be domesticated as many as 10,000 years ago, and its look has altered over time to become the generally larger, tuskless and less hairy cousin, the hog.   The Romans, and the Etruscans before them, raised hogs for consumption, and its meat was eaten and praised more than any other.  As Pliny wrote in his Natural History, “there is no animal that affords a greater variety to the palate of the epicure; all the others have their own peculiar flavor, but the flesh of the hog has nearly fifty different flavors.”  Vincenzo Tanara devoted a section of his 1644 work, “Economia del cittadino in Villa” (Agronomy for Villa-Dwelling Citizens), to pork products and noted that there are 110 ways to prepare dishes from them. 

In the past in Sorano, and in much of Italy, every family would buy a piglet or two towards the end of December and raise them throughout the following year to be slaughtered in early January, just when the young fully grown pig has sexually matured and so become a hog.  The pigs were either kept in stables in town, or, like on my plots of land, in some of the small caves in the valley below Sorano.  For many people the pig products, both fresh and preserved, were the only meats that they would eat during the course of the year.

To this day every part of the hog is utilized, save the hair and the toenails.  My friend Peppe Pera and his family continue the tradition of slaughtering their pig at the beginning of the New Year, and I have been invited to their farm near Sorano to participate on a couple of occasions.  Augusto Funghi is the chief butcher at the local salumificio, and oversees the proceedings. The animal is quickly and systematically reduced to prosciutti, shoulders, ribs, cutlets, bacon, lard and a big bowl of innards.  All the trimmings are collected and these, extra pieces of pork meat, and lard are all minced to make sausage filling.   As Augusto says, the “pig is filled with itself” as each sac, like the bladder, and every loop of the intestine is packed to form various salami and sausages.

The Italian word salsicce is derived from the latin salsus meaning “salted” and insicia, meaning minced meat, and it is these two ingredients, along with some pepper, an olive clove and some chili pepper to taste, that make up the classic Italian sausage filling.   Sausages can be eaten fresh, dried, or, as I particularly like them, sott’olio- preserved by drying for several days and then placed in a large closeable container and covered with olive oil.   Another delicious treat is to fry some boned pork cutlets, slice them into small pieces and immerse them, like the sausages, in oil.  They will keep for months, and get even better with time.