The first obstacle that I had to get around with this soup was the lack of the right sausage. Deborah had spotted this problem awhile ago and we have been on a mission to get the sausages made somewhere here in St. Louis. It turns out that many of the recipes coming up will need this special sausage. It is a basic sausage made with pork that only has salt and pepper added, not all of the spices and fennel that most sausages have in them these days. Michael’s family have been friends with the Volpi family for many, many years and it turns out that Armando, the patriarch, is also friends with Marcella. We were hoping that Volpi would be able to make a batch of sausage according to Marcella’s recipe. Unfortunately, they would only be able to make it in bulk, not stuffed in the casing. We have one other company here that may be able to make it for us, but the timing didn’t work out for this recipe.
This recipe took two days to finish. The first thing that I had to do was cook the pork hock for about an hour and then debone it. I then cut it into strips. Next I browned onions, garlic, the cooked hock and pancetta together. Then I added some drained San Marzano tomatoes, celery, and lots of shredded red cabbage. This cooked down for some time, and then the broth was added with some salt and pepper. I simmered this for about 3 hours the first night. I then refrigerated this overnight to allow the fat to congeal. I then scooped the fat off before starting it simmering again. I then browned some ground pork with salt and pepper, in place of the sausage. I drained this and added the meat to the soup. Next I pureed cannellini beans and mixed them in. This simmered for about fifteen minutes and then I added whole cannellini beans and simmered some more. While this was cooking, I sauted some garlic in extra virgin olive oil and added a sprig of rosemary. I strained the oil and added it to the soup.
I have to say that the smell of cooking cabbage has never been a favorite of mine. I was prepared not to like the soup because of that. Over the lengthy simmering process the cabbage became very soft and not really cabbage like. To my surprise the combination of flavors in this soup really worked well together. My 9 year old niece was visiting and she loved the soup. I think my mom will really like it too. She has been in the hospital lately, so a bowl of home made soup might be just the ticket for her on Mother’s day. Once again, Marcella has made me love something that I never would have tried if I had chosen the recipe myself. I can’t wait to get in the right sausage for these recipes, but the substitution worked okay here.