The cotechino is a cured-meat typical of Modena, so much that it earned the prestigious IGP stamp in 2009.
The areas of production authorized by the IGP are the provinces of Verona, Reggio Emilia, Rovigo, Rimini, Varese, Como, Bergamo, Bologna, Cremona, Brescia, Milan, Lodi, Forlì, Mantua, Lecco, Ferrara, Piacenza, and Ravenna.
Instead of its characteristics, it has a pinkish coloration towards red with a homogenous fat granulometry. Its composition was studied to guarantee thick and regular slices. Instead, the taste is very intense, savory, and with seasoned and sweet notes.
But what are the origins of this product? What ingredients is it made of?
Let’s find out together in this practical guide, where you can learn a lot of curious facts.
Why the cotechino is called so, history and what animals it comes from
The cotechino is called so because the word derives from “cotica“, the Italian word for pork rind. In various Italian regions, the name takes on the respective variants of the dialects. Just think of the “codeghin“ in the Veronese dialect, “coessin“ in the Vicentine dialect, and the “coeghin“ in the Padovano dialect.
The history of this bagged meat is very ancient: in fact, a legend narrates that its creation can be traced back to the beginning of the 16th century when the habitats of the court of Pico della Mirandola invented this genius method of conserving pork meat, which was used as a reserve during the long period of siege by the Pope Julius II della Rovere’s troupe.
The cured meat started spreading massively towards the end of the 18th century as a replacement for the yellow sausage, which had made the city of Modena renowned during the Renaissance.
Its creation and transformation with semi-industrial methods happened inside the first two famous cured-meat shops: Bellantani and Frigieri.
The cotechino is exclusively produced using pork, and it is made up of a mixture of the former, pork rind, fat, salt, pepper, and other seasonings. All the ingredients can be placed inside a natural or artificial gut.
How the cotechino is produced, ingredients, calories, and nutritional values
First of all, the cotechino is produced by grinding pork meat using stamps that have holes between 7 and 10 millimeters for the fatty and muscular parts, while between 3 and 5 millimeters for the pork rind.
After this step, there is roughing and kneading inside vacuum-packed or atmospheric pressure machines. The resulting mixture is then placed inside natural or artificial casings.
If it’s a fresh product, it undergoes another drying step in a hot air stove. At the same time, the pre-cooked one is boiled in hot water and placed inside airtight containers that can tolerate the autoclave process, which has a minimum temperature of 115o C.
The purpose of this last process is to guarantee ideal conditions for the bagged meat to be sold and conserved for a long time.
Concerning the nutritional values, 100g of the product have a caloric content of 450 Kcal, of which:
- 42.30 grams of fat;
- 17.20 grams of proteins;
- 36.80 grams of water;
- 1138 mg of sodium;
- 109 mg of phosphorus;
- 11 mg of magnesium;
- 178 mg of potassium.
Given its high-fat content, moderate and healthy consumption is recommended. It should become a food consumed on special occasions, like Christmas.
Recipes with the cotechino
Besides the traditional pairing with lentils, mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut, the cotechino can become a crucial ingredient in other recipes. In the following lines, we will propose three of them.
Gnochetti with polenta, cabbage, and cotechino
This recipe is the perfect solution for eating leftover cotechino slices, turning into a delicious first course.
Ingredients for 6 people:
- Four slices of cotechino, already cooked and leftover
- 200 grams of cabbage
- Salt and pepper j.e. (just enough)
- Extra virgin olive oil, j.e.
- Rosemary j.e.
- 200 grams of yellow flour
- Few branches of thyme
- A glass of white wine
- A clove of garlic
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano j.e.
- Rinse, cleanse, and roughly mince the cabbage and stir-fry it in a frying pan with a drop of olive oil, a clove of garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper. When the cabbage becomes soft, turn off the heat, and keep aside.
- Prepare a soft polenta by mixing the yellow flour with a bit of water. Please put it on the stove, stir continuously with a manual whisk to stop lumps from forming and when it becomes thick, add two-thirds of the freshly stir-fried cabbage.
- Turn off the heat, and with the help of the prongs of a fork or a specific tool, create plenty of irregularly shaped gnochetti.
- To guarantee uniform cooking, try and create them more or less of the same size.
- Spread the gnochetti on a clean tea towel and let them cool down completely.
- In the meantime, crumble the pieces of cotechino, add them to the remaining cabbage in the frying pan, and a few branches of rosemary and thyme.
- Heat it at a high flame, pour in the white wine, and let the alcohol evaporate.
- Add the gnochetti, stir for a few minutes, and serve with a generous layer of grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Crunchy carpaccio with cotechino
This second course is a very original way of eating the cotechino. Also, since the preparation is easy and fast, you have no excuse to recreate it.
Ingredients for 4 people:
- 300 grams of cotechino
- A small handful of currants
- Balsamic vinegar, j.e.
- A small handful of pine nuts
- A few sliced almonds
- 200 grams of spinach
- Put the cotechino in the freezer for 30 minutes to be easier to slice.
- Slice the peeled cotechino into paper-thin pieces.
- Divide the spinach into four plates.
- Place a few slices of cotechino on each layer of spinach and garnish with the currant, almonds, and pine nuts.
- Season everything with the oil balsamic vinegar as you wish and serve.
Spaghetti alla chitarra with nuts and cotechino sauce
The leftover cotechino will turn into an irresistible first course with this recipe.
Ingredients for 4 people:
- 250 grams of advanced cotechino
- 50 grams of peeled nuts
- Extra virgin olive oil, j.e.
- Salt and pepper j.e.
- 100 grams of concentrated tomatoes
- 350 grams of spaghetti, alla chitarra, or any other long pasta that you like
- Half a stick of celery
- A shallot
- Half glass of white wine
- A handful of fresh thyme
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano j.e.
- Clean the cotechino by removing the skin’s external layer and crumbling it. Keep aside in a bowl.
- Cleanse and wash both the celery and the shallot and finely mince them with a standard or crescent knife.
- Stir fry in a frying pan with a drop of oil, celery, and shallot, by adding a pinch of salt.
- Add the crumbled cotechino to the vegetable mix and dilute with white wine. When the alcoholic part has evaporated from the mixture, add the concentrated tomatoes, and dilute them with a spoon of hot water.
- Reduce the flame and let it simmer for about ten minutes.
- Cook the spaghetti alla chitarra in plenty of salted water for the time indicated on the packaging.
- While the spaghetti is cooking, roughly mince the nuts and toast them with a drop of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan.
- Drain the spaghetti alla chitarra, pour them into the pan containing the cotechino sauce, turn off the flame, and stir for a couple of minutes, so that all the ingredients can blend perfectly.
- Serve the spaghetti alla chitarra with minced nuts, fresh thyme, and a generous layer of grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Difference between the cotechino and the zampone
Many people think that the cotechino and the zampone are the same things, but it is not so, as the two cured types of meat are distinct in the external wrapping. A pig’s leg is used for the zampone, in which you can easily spot characteristics like nails. It’s a less refined product than the cotechino.
Concerning the latter, its preparation requires longer, especially if it’s an artisanal product. The outer part is manually sewn by specialized workers who work in unique factories to create the wrappings of cured meat.
Immediately after the pork grinding, all the parts meant to be sent to the unique factors are selected. These factories have the job of selecting, cleaning, and preparing them to host the deliciously seasoned mixture.
Conclusions of the cotechino
The cotechino is a gastronomic specialty well appreciated both in Italy and around the world, so much that every year, we register thousands of sales and orders.
The lovers of the tradition can buy it freshly made to be prepared like it used to back in the day, while those who do not have the time can instead rely on the equally tasty, pre-cooked version.
To cook the above mentioned, all you need to do is leave the product inside the silver vacuum pack, place it inside a pot of cold water, heat it until it boils, and respect the cooking time indicated on the packaging.
Once you are done with this step, remove the bag from the pot, let it rest for a few minutes, open it with a pair of scissors, drain the fluid from the cooking, slice it up in pieces, and serve.
Also, today, the various factories that produce this bagged meat, to satisfy all the needs of the consumers, have put out an ample variety of formats at their disposal.
Just think of the packages containing the already sliced up products for single people or those who wish to enjoy this deliciousness at Christmas and during other periods within the year.