Cotechino with onions and mushrooms

Cotechino with onions and mushrooms

Dean Cambray

Cotechino is an Italian boiling sausage with a distinctive sticky, gelatinous texture that comes from adding pig’s skin to the mix. In fact it gets its name from coteca, the Italian word for ‘skin’. You can buy good cotechino sausages from specialist smallgoods manufacturers, but like me, you might relish the chance of making your own.

For this recipe you’ll really benefit from having made friends with your butcher! Ask him to do the hard work for you in preparing the pig’s head and tongues. You might also ask him to mince the cotechino mix for you, too, once you’ve prepared it. Most domestic mincers will struggle to process the tough skin, but your butcher’s machine will (if you’ll pardon the pun) make mincemeat of it! You’ll also need to ask him for an ox ‘bung’ casing, which will make a nice fat sausage.

I always cook my cotechino in its vacuum-pack (or plastic wrap). It is less likely to burst and, because it cooks in its own juices, the flavours intensify. Use these juices to add extra flavour to the onion and mushroom braise.

Cotechino is traditionally served with salsa verde or with braised lentils, and it is also one of the key ingredients in the Italian dish, bollito misto. Here I serve it with earthy mushrooms and onions, both of which work well with its rich spicy flavour.

Cotechino sausage


Quantity Ingredient
1 boned pig’s head, (remove the ears)
2 pigs’ tongues, peeled and trimmed
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 orange, zested
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
kitchen or table salt, (not rock salt or salt flakes)
1 ox bung casing

Onions and mushrooms

Quantity Ingredient
50g butter
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 onions, thickly sliced
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
200g mushrooms, sliced


  1. Check over the boned pig’s head and if there is any residual cartilage attached to the ear, nose or throat, trim it away. Chop the remaining meat and skin into 3 cm cubes.
  2. Chop the pigs’ tongues into 3 cm cubes.
  3. Mix the diced meat with all the remaining ingredients except for the salt. Weigh the mix and calculate 1.5 per cent of the amount. Measure out this quantity of table salt and add to the mixture. Use your hands to mix everything together well, so that the flavourings are evenly distributed. At this stage, I like to cover the bowl and refrigerate the cotechino mixture overnight, which allows all the flavours to develop, but you can proceed straight away to making the cotechino if you prefer.
  4. When ready to make the cotechino, remove the mixture from the refrigerator and feed it through a mincer fitted with a very sharp blade, until you achieve the consistency you like. I prefer a coarser texture. Alternatively, take the mixture to your butcher and ask him to mince it for you.
  5. Fill the ox bung with the cotechino mixture and tie the end securely with string. Sit the cotechino on a wire rack so the air can circulate around it and refrigerate overnight. At this stage the cotechino may be vacuum-packed or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 3 months.
  6. To cook the cotechino, place the unopened package in a pan of cold water and bring it to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer very gently for 4 hours, topping up with water as needed. Remove the cotechino from the pan and drain it briefly on a tea towel. Cool in iced water. When cold the cotechino will firm up and set hard, which makes it much easier to slice. When ready to serve, open the vacuum-pack and remove the cotechino (use the jelly for braising vegetables or lentils). Grill or or pan-fry the cotechino in a little olive oil until golden brown all over.
  7. To prepare the vegetables, melt the butter and olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan. When it starts to sizzle, add the onions and garlic then lower the heat and sweat gently until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the pan and stir them into the softened onion mixture. Sauté until the mushrooms are soft, about 8 minutes. Increase the heat and allow to bubble away until most of the liquid in the pan has reduced. Stir in the chopped parsley and top with slices of grilled cotechino.
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