Cotechino "Bel e Cot" (Good and Cooked) and other traditional glories

The thought came during a delicious Mutton and Caper pudding; for the benefit of my children (and my stomach) I should re-connect with my mothers (food) heritage. She hails from a bigger than I expected 12,000 inhabitant (in)significant town Russi (Ross in the dialect), near Ravenna in Romagna, the fun bit of Italy (not so far north that all they do is work and not so far south that all the day is skive). It is said that Emilia-Romagna is friendly place and if a traveller knocks on a door asking for a drink they will be brought a glass of water, you know you have crossed into Romagna when they start to bring you wine.
I decided to investigate the local food. Russi is famous for the festival of the Madonna of the Seven Sorrows (grim events in her life often depicted gruesomely as seven swords in the heart) and, as with almost all Italian festivals, food takes centre stage. First up (primo) Cappelletti al ragu, pasta "little hats" filled with soft cheese and dressed with meat sauce; nothing new there. Main course (secondo) is Bel e Cot, literally “Good and Cooked”. Intriguing. As luck would have it a colleague lives not too far away from russi  and was kind enough to source the product and send some over. After a week the box arrived, was quickly opened and 4 large pink revolting suspicious sausages were extracted.

Immediately I remembered that I didn’t much like Cotechino, of which Bel e cot is a variant, just as I don’t much like bollito misto al carrello, the much revered trolley of boiled and roasted meats so typical of Emilia which I was taken for with ominous regularity in the Modena area some years ago. One restaurant, Arnaldos, was renowned as the place where Enzo Ferrari ate his bollito and a lovely restaurant it was too (with excellent pasta made in house), as long as I didn’t have to eat bollito.

It’s a trolley full of boiled meat wheeled around by a dinner lady with a doily on her head for goodness sake. I was reminded of this during a recent visit to Verona and Ristorante Ciccarelli, famous for Carrello Bolliti-Arosti, thankfully also renowned for its past with 3 sauces and as luck would have it today was bonus sauce day as we were presented with 4 to top our delicious handmade Tagliolini. Our bowls were cleared away and 2 trolleys arrived, (one at each end of the table to stop our escape?), the doily lady asked what I would like and I answered sheepishly “another bowl of pasta”. Situation diffused, bollito avoided and a second delicious bowl fo fresh egg pasta was smothered in sauce and devoured. To show there were no hard feelings I assembled a salad from trolley no.2. Desserts were offered, also from a trolley (I don’t think trolleys have the school dinners connotation in Italy) and declined in favour of double double espresso ristretto; essentially super caffeinated tar…but I digress.

Bel e cot is a boiled pork skin and head sausage which must be eaten warm or the rind inside toughens and it becomes like chewing rubber, so not really a 15 minute throw together for a tired office worker. Having organised lovely wife and father to, respectively, produce (lumpy) mash and boil Bel e Cot for 2 1/2 hours I assembled the dish in the classic way, with “my homemade” mostarda; chutney with added Dijon mustard. Weirdelicious. Bel e Cot looks and smells like hot cat food and is incredibly moreish. by the time I'd fried and sliced the second one the family (including children) had scoffed the plain boiled version (which was far better) 

Dessert (dolce) is Ciambella Romagnola (easy peasy doughnut shaped Bundt cake) and a glass of rough red Canena over which there is some discussion whether its wine at all or just a kind of 'must'. A feast of friends...

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Italian, Recipes, Lifestyle, Wine