The use of fruits in savory dishes was once common place in Italian cooking, as it was in European cooking generally. Giuliano Bugialli, for example, tells us that the original duck à l’orange was a Tuscan dish. But with some notable exceptions like mostarda for boiled meats and strawberry risotto, it’s become a rarity. So much so that some Italians I know find the very idea of dishes like ham and pineapple, or guinea hen and cherries, or even turkey with cranberry dressing absolutely revolting.
In any event, here’s another example of this rare kind of dish: Sausages and Grapes, or salsicce all’uva, a simple vineyard worker’s dish from Umbria and Tuscany. The combination of sausages and grapes may sound odd, even off-putting, but it actually works. The sweetness and slight acidity of the grapes cuts the richness of the pork quite nicely.
In its most basic version, Sausages and Grapes could hardly be easier to make. It’s literally just sausages sautéed in a skillet until done, with grapes thrown in for the last five or ten minutes. No need for a soffritto, as the sausages lend lots of savor on their own. The only trick, as for any sausage dish, is to make sure to cook the sausages over a gentle flame, sautéing them slowly so their insides are done by the time the outsides have reached a nice golden brown. And, yes, it is possible to overcook sausages—and there’s not much less appetizing than a dry and tasteless overcooked sausage—so don’t let them go too long. If you’ve used gentle heat, they should be ready as soon as they’re brown all over. If in doubt, prick the sausages; if the juices run clear, they’re done.
- 4-6 sweet Italian sausages
- 1 small bunch of seedless grapes
- Olive oil
- Freshly ground pepper
Prick the sausages here and there with the prongs of a fork. Don’t skip this first step as it prevents the sausages from bursting their skins as they cook and the stuffing expands.
In a large skillet or sauté pan, sauté the sausages gently in the olive oil until golden brown on all sides. Do not rush the process or the outside will brown before the meat inside is fully cooked.
While the sausages are sautéing, pick the grapes off their stems, then wash and drain them in a colander. When the sausages have browned, add the grapes and let everything simmer together for about 5-1o minutes, just until the grapes begin to soften a bit.
Season generously with freshly ground pepper and serve.
Notes on Sausages and Grapes
Obviously, with a recipe this basic, the quality of your two main ingredients will make all the difference. Best quality Italian sausages, made with pork and not too lean, are my favorite. I particularly like luganega sausages, the kind that are fairly thin and sold coiled in rounds, but they are almost impossible to find where I live, so I make do with ‘standard’ sweet Italian sausages. Still, I bet that the dish would work fine with other sausage types. Just try to find sausages with good fat content. Too many sausages you find these days are quite lean—I guess for health reasons—but it’s the fat that gives this dish its flavor!
As for the grapes, most Italian recipes I’ve seen call for green grapes, but red will do just fine. And while the ones I found in the market today were pretty large, smaller grapes are better; they taste sweeter and cook more quickly.
Some variations on this basic recipe for Sausages and Grapes call for adding a bit of onion to the sausages for extra savor, or a splash of wine—sometimes red, sometimes white—while the sausages are simmering. Some will have you cut up the sausages beforehand; this helps them to cook more quickly, and, I suppose, it helps the flavor of the sausage meld more thoroughly with the grapes. You will notice that the recipe doesn’t call for salt; it shouldn’t need any, as sausages should already be quite heavily seasoned, and salt would upset the delicate balance between the savor of the sausages and the sweetness of the grapes.
A wonderful dish. I used red grapes and added a bit of red wine simmered to a syrupy viscosity and served it on polenta. Tasty!
Sounds fantastic, Jim!
What a great recipe to share with a glass of chilled white or maybe red when using red grapes. As they say, sometimes less is more. This is so simple but sounds so divine, how can one not try it.
I think you’d like it if you do, Ron. Thanks for stopping by!
Happy to say everything is at hand over here and yes, I cut the sausages but not too deep just because they release the flavours to enrich potatoes or grapes or whatever is in the skillet …. Love it !
Fascinatingly easy and our grape harvests are only three months and a tad away . . . do normally avoid anything in the ‘sausage’ category for health reasons, but this is too tempting to turn the page . . .
Ah well, a sausage or two every once in a while won’t do too much harm…
This reminds me very much of a dish we had in Montalcino a couple of years ago. It was small veal meatballs cooked with grapes and served to look like a bunch of grapes, garnished with a grape leaf. The combination of the meat and grapes is really quite wonderful.
I have some very nice, fatty sausages in the fridge right now. I’ll work on getting the grapes tomorrow and making this for dinner!
By the way, last week in Sicily, we did buy some Luganega sausages in the Ballarò market to make a risotto – they were fantastic.
A very clever conceit, David. Make me want to try that dish. Nothing like luganega sausages…I just wish I could get them around here. 🙁 But the dish is delicious anyway—enjoy it if you do try it!
I have never seen sausages with grapes but I love the idea and will definitely try it. When I was young we used to make a Hawaiian toast. It was a piece of white bread with ham and pineapple I loved it.
Sounds like fun. Just don’t offer it to an Italian, I can just imagine the reaction… 😉
Dear Frank, as they say……you cannot have too much of a good thing…….Lovely recipe, it bring back good memories of my dear Toscany. Many thanks and God Bless.
And thanks for your comment, Vittorio!
Frank, I have prepared this as your inspired me the first time around – a splendid dish at this time of year.
Definitely the time of year for it…
Glad you highlighted this post again — I missed it the first time around. Yes, this combination does sound a bit odd. At first. But as I think about it, it the two flavors sound delightful together. Fun stuff — thanks.
And thank you for your comment, John!
I could see this as a lovely addition to a buffet table menu! Looks absolutely gorgeous and as you said, couldn’t be easier! Love it!
Frank, this is a dish I make often using red grapes. I also throw in the pan 4 or 5 crushed cloves of garlic. Yummmmmm.
It is yummy, isn’t it? Thanks for your comment, Nancy!
Nice! Salsicce have a special place in my heart. They are connected to a lot of childhood memories.
So glad I could bring them back to you, if only for a moment. 🙂
This one made me laugh – the bit about how some Italians find dishes like ham and pineapple positively revolting rang true, bringing back memories of one of my Italian professors at UCLA. She just could not wrap her head around “your American idea of breakfast.” She railed against the idea of pouring maple syrup over bacon and eggs. She was darn funny about it, and judgmental as all get out. We all laughed, but those who were real “maple syrup dousers” began to rethink their pouring technique….
This dish sounds wonderful. It is so simple but I bet it is super tasty. Thanks, Frank for rolling us into fall with this one.
Love that story, Adri! Truth be told, Italians can be pretty judgmental about food issues. But here’s the thing: often, they’re right… Thanks so much for stopping by. 🙂
Delicious! I haven’t tried this combination yet…a new recipe da PROVARE 🙂
Hope you like it, Paola.
This has to be one of the best ways to welcome fall weather! I make a version from Julia della Croce’s “Umbria” cookbook but use a little red wine to make a bit of a sauce…seems there are versions with both dark and green grapes…thinking I should try making it soon using green grapes!
If you ask me, it’s delicious either way! I like to add a bit of wine sometimes, too, as it makes use of that yummy fond.
confesso di non aver mai assaggiato questa ricetta,adesso mi hai messo voglia e voglio provarla ! Buon fine settimana Frank !
Si, si, vale la pena provarla, Chiara. Grazie per il tuo commento!
I love this dish! I usually do it with red grapes. These days, the globe grapes do seem to be used and like you – prefer the smaller sweeter ones. If you think about it, pork and fruit always seems to work.
Your post brought back memories of a dear friend and one of my first mentors, Giuliano. I was not familiar with this dish, it looks wonderful and I plan to prepare it in the coming week.
This looks like a lovely dish. Very interesting post. If Giuliani Bugiali says it, it must be true!!!
He was/is a real font of wisdom.
My mamma and papà believed that you could eat anything but with moderation!! A good recipe such as this would be eaten occasionally and mamma would not stint on quality. Butter has been made into a villain but it isn’t. It adds such flavor to a dish as would the fat content to the sausage. I remember mamma sautéing onions and my hubby would swear she added sugar to her dish. I’d correct him and tell him that by sautéing the natural sugars come out — as they would in the grapes. I love this recipe — I’m anxious to try it out. Gracie e buon fine settimana!!
There’s so much wisdom in those old ways of thinking about food. That’s why we need to preserve these traditional recipes. Thanks for stopping by, Marisa!
And why not? Pork and apples, or stone fruits such as peaches and apricots; or turkey and cranberries are well known and appreciated here. Your recipe here (and the others you mention) all make sense.
Thanks, Al! Couldn’t agree more.
Unfortunately,Italian salsicce do not exist here in U.K. What passes as Italian style are disgusting.What is far worse is what has happened to Italian Coppa,Salame ,Mortadella etc etc.The ratio of meat and fat. Due to world economy, in Italy the ratio is now 60/70 % fat and the rest is meat and the pigs are now much fatter with the fat a reddish colour to deceive the user.There is NO body that controls these ratios apart from hygiene .I strongly believe WE the public must find a voice to confront this Does anyone know what the correct ratio should be? Frank Fariello can you use your eminent position to start an enquiry? Eating a salami sandwich can be dangerous to your health(Like cigarettes!)
Sorry to hear it, Giacomino! And while I’d love to, I’m not sure I have the clout to get an inquiry started…