The Umbrian town of Norcia is, among other distinctions, so famous for the skill of its pork butchers and the quality of their products that the term norcineria throughout Italy designates a shop thatpurveys pork and pork specialties of the highest quality—and nothing else. This is one of the memorable pork dishes that I discovered in Umbria recently. And though there are no sausages better than those made by an Umbrian Norcino in his hometown, this will be wonderful with any good-quality sweet sausage available in yours. The name—Sausages in the Skillet with Grapes—describes the ingredients and cooking method perfectly. Just keep in mind that the cooking here is slow and gentle, not high-temperature grilling as one usually does with sausages.
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 plump garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
- 2½ pounds sweet Italian sausages, preferably without fennel seeds (8 or more sausages, depending on size)
- ½ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
- 1¼ pounds seedless green grapes, picked from the stem and washed (about 3 cups)
You will need a skillet or sauté pan, 12-inch diameter or larger, with a cover. Pour the olive oil into the skillet, toss in the garlic cloves, and set it over low heat. When the garlic is sizzling, lay in all the sausages in one layer, and cover the pan. Cook the sausages slowly, turning and moving them around the skillet occasionally; after 10 minutes or so, sprinkle the peperoncino in between the sausages. Continue low and slow cooking for 25 to 30 minutes in all, until the sausages are cooked through and nicely browned all over. Remove the pan from the burner, tilt it, and carefully spoon out excess fat. Set the skillet back over low heat, and scatter in the grapes. Stir and tumble them in the pan bottom, moistening them with meat juices. Cover, and cook for 10 minutes or so, until the grapes begin to soften, wrinkle, and release their own juices. Remove the cover, turn the heat to high, and boil the pan juices to concentrate them to a syrupy consistency, stirring and turning the sausages and grapes frequently to glaze them. To serve family-style: arrange the sausages on a warm platter, topped with the grapes and pan juices. Or serve them right from the pan (cut in half, if large), spooning grapes and thickened juices over each portion.