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Filtering by Tag: pepe rosso

Friscatula con Cavolo Verzo (Calabrian polenta with Savoy Cabbage)


With the rain finally arriving in the Bay Area, it is starting to feel like winter, and thanks to the rain and cold we are able to make and cure our annual production of Calabrian sausage , that we typically produce in January when the weather conditions are ideal for curing sausage, cold and humid. In addition to the curing of sausage I love to prepare Friscatula, Calabrian polenta with savoy cabbage, during this time of the year. 

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Our Annual Salumi-making


My parents used to raise a hog in Calabria every year and right after New Year's Day we would all get ready for the Annual Whole Hog Ritual. We don’t raise a pig in California, of course, but we still maintain the tradition of making our own salumi the old-fashioned way. When it gets cold here in the Bay Area and it is drizzling we buy lots of pork meat and make salsiccia, sopressata, capocollo, pancetta and prosciutto. This year we made our first batch right after Christmas and we started eating the cured sausage this past week, since it takes around three to four weeks to cure. There is nothing like the taste of homemade salumi!

It is actually very easy to make fresh homemade sausage. But the making of cured sausage I leave to my father, the expert salumiere, who knows what he's doing. Calabrians who make their own salumi at home use only salt and the perfect weather conditions to cure them. But all commercially-made sausage is required by government agencies to add preservatives and nitrates.

My cookbook will have the recipe for making fresh Calabrian sausage, but let me show you in pictures the basic method. We always use pork shoulder, and add more pork fat to raise the percentage to about 25%.  We then grind the meat and the fat using the grinder attachment on my Kitchen Aid mixer:

We season the ground meat with only the following ingredients: salt, wild fennel seeds, and pepe rosso dolce (sweet Calabrian paprika). We add peperoncino macinato (hot pepper powder) to some for the spicy version. Nothing else goes into the meat.

We make our own pepe rosso from the sweet peppers that we dried during the summer months and the hot pepper powder from our dried hot peppers. We forage for and harvest the wild fennel seeds, since it grows wild everywhere in California. If you want to give making the sausage a try you can buy the pepe rosso, the hot pepper powder and the wild fennel seeds online from these two sites that carry products imported from Calabria:

The meat is mixed until it is a beautiful red color. My grandmother used to say that it wasn’t mixed well until your hands were colored red from the paprika.

The  meat is then stuffed into natural hog casings using my mom's old fashioned sausage stuffer. But back in Calabria she and her mother would spend the entire day stuffing casings with a funnel and their thumbs!

Sausages ready to be hung in my dad's wine cellar, where they will cure for three to four weeks:

A photo by Sara Remington of my dad in his wine cellar admiring his salumi:

We still have to make sopressata, but at least we are all done making this year's sweet and spicy sausage, pancetta and capocolli. That prosciutto in the photo above was made last year. Since we still have some left, we are skipping making prosciutto and instead we may make more capocolli.

A close-up of our cured Calabrian sausage attractively sliced and ready for eating:

Peppers and more peppers


We harvested lots of peppers during the months of September and October!

I have the same three varieties in my garden that we always grew in Calabria: sweet Italian peppers, peperoni di Senise and a couple of corno di toro yellow peppers. The peperoni di Senise are ideal for drying, as they have a thin skin and dry quicker than the Italian sweet peppers. Because September  in the Bay Area is also our Indian summer, we are able to dry them outside.

Here are some pictures of my dad stringing all the peppers from our harvest:

He hangs them out in the open until they are fully red and dried. This can take up to a month or so, depending on the weather.

Each string of peppers is called a ristra:

And this is what the peperoni di Senise look like when they are completely dried:

We grind up these peppers into pepe rosso, a mild, sweet paprika-like powder, that we use in making Calabrian sausage.  The ones that we don’t grind we keep whole and use during the winter months in many braised dishes.  There is a winter snack made in my town of Verbicaro made with these dried peppers, called pipi arrusckuatiin my dialect and peperoni cruschi in Italian.  They're like potato chips, but made with peppers instead. I will tell you more about this snack when I make them during the upcoming winter months.

Although some of the sweet Italian peppers end up dried, we use most of them fresh in various dishes.  One of my favorite ways to eat sweet Italian peppers is to remove the stem and seeds, put an anchovy inside, and pan fry them whole in olive oil.  We also use them fresh in frittate, pan fried with potatoes or with eggplants and tomatoes, stuffed and baked, grilled and peeled with olive oil and garlic, tossed with pasta--you name it, we make it.

In the next post I will include a recipe that you can prepare with red and yellow bell peppers, which are more readily available in this country. The recipe will be one that didn’t make it in my cookbook.  For all the other pepper recipes that I've mentioned above you will need to wait until next fall, when my cookbook, My Calabria,  will be published.