Pan roasted sausages with grapes for Artusi’s 200th birthday

I would go as far as to say that Pellegrino Artusi helped me start this blog almost a decade ago. And write my first cookbook, Florentine. He would be turning 200 today, so I felt it apt to cook him dinner for his birthday. I didn’t choose anything fancy because to be honest, the recipes in his 790 page cookbook are anything but fancy. They’re regular recipes of the best kind — home cooking. So I chose something satisfying, homely, seasonal and, well, something that felt very ‘Artusi’ to me.

Born into a wealthy family in Forlimpoli in Emilia-Romagna on August 4, 1820, Artusi moved to Florence in 1852. He bought a home in the leafy Piazza d’Azeglio (incidentally, it is one of my favourite piazze in Florence — it is also very close to the Sant’Ambrogio market), where he lived with his butler and cook until his death in 1911 at the age of 90. He wrote several books but the one that he is known for, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, which he self-published at the age of 71 in 1891, is not only considered the first Italian cookbook (which makes him the great-grandfather of Italian cuisine) but it has never gone out of print. It’s a book that you’ll find in the kitchens of most Italian families, dog-eared and stained from frequent use, passed down from generation to generation.

I would say every Tuscan in particular knows ‘Artusi’, as his book is often called, and is familiar with its dishes — it does have a slight Tuscan bias to its language and recipes, as you would expect from someone who lived in Florence most of his life. In fact, he is even credited with contributing to unifying a young, highly regional Italy with one language: Tuscan, the language of Dante, Petrarch… and Artusi.

I was introduced to Artusi before I even started this blog; but the book was one of the reasons I began writing about food. It was a tattered, yellowing copy belonging to Marco’s nonna, Lina, passed on to my mother in law. The splattered cover was falling off, notes were stuck in randomly here and there, and the book opened instantly to the most well-used pages (the pasta frolla recipe, along with the notes in nonna Lina’s handwriting pointing to pastry “recipe B”, it is my absolute go-to for any shortcrust pastry but epecially for a classic crostata).

But my main relationship with Artusi really began when my blog was only a month old, in January 2011, when I began a series where I wrote about one of his recipes each month for a year — here is the first of that series, Artusi’s January, with a recipe for biancomangiare, or almond milk pudding. I got to know Artusi very well in that first year, choosing recipes from his seasonal menus or letting fate pick a page for me. I kept the book by my bedside table and carried in my handbag; it went everywhere with me. With nearly 800 recipes in the book, there is always something interesting to try or read about.

It had never occurred to me to make these sausages with grapes until now, but somehow it seemed quite fitting. It’s August, we are still a few weeks away from proper grape harvest season but it’ll be upon us any moment and you can find good grapes already. Plus, his three-sentence ‘recipe’ for salsicce coll’uva starts charmingly with “It is a trivial and ordinary dish, but I note it because the sausage, with that sweetness of the grapes could be to someone’s liking.”

Artusi’s recipe doesn’t specify any quantities, or whether the grapes are white or red. There is no other ingredient called for other than “a drop of water.” In Umbria, where this is a typical country dish, white grapes are often used. In Tuscany, where red grapes reign, I thought it would make sense to go with red, but in the end I couldn’t resist trying both. My verdict: go with a grape that has a hint of acidity. I find the green table grapes I used were very sweet, too much so, while the red grapes had a more interesting flavour here. I threw in some rosemary and sage with the sausages, and instead of water, added a splash of white wine — but I do believe water is just as fine. Either way, the wonderful thing is the little sauce that gathers at the bottom of the pan, a mixture of fat from the sausages and juice from the grapes, watch that it doesn’t evaporate all away.

Salsicce coll’uva (Sausages with grapes)

Serves 4

4 Tuscan pork and fennel sausages
a sprig of rosemary and 4-6 sage leaves
1 bunch of red grapes (or mixed red and green grapes)
60 ml (1/4 cup) white wine or water

Poke the sausages here and there with a fork and place them in a frying pan over medium heat. Let them brown all over and release some fat, then add the herbs and the grapes. Pour over the wine (or water) and continue cooking, turning the sausages and grapes as needed — you want the sausages evenly cooked and the grapes to be puffed and a little blistered. If the pan is looking a little dry, add a splash more wine or water or cover to stop the evaporation. It should take all of 15 minutes. I did not add any salt or pepper to this dish as Tuscan sausages are flavourful enough. Serve with crusty bread, a glass of wine and something green — a salad or some sauteed spinach. Or below for another Artusi recipe with spinach.

Frittata in riccioli per contorno (Spinach frittate for a side dish)

This is a cute and intriguing recipe that I wanted to try (see photo at the top of this post). Artusi suggests serving it as a side dish to a stew. It makes a nice lunch on its own too, maybe with a tomato salad.

1 small bunch of English spinach, washed
2-3 eggs
salt and pepper
knob of butter
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Blanch the spinach until it is completely wilted. Drain very well (you should have just a small handful left) then pulse it in a food processor until it is smooth. Crack 2 eggs into the processor and blend together with a pinch of salt and ground pepper. It should look very, very green, but you can add another egg if the ratio of spinach is so high that the frittate don’t hold. In a small frying pan greased with butter, fry very thin frittate, rather like crepes, until dry on one side. You don’t need to flip them, but turn them out onto a board until you have finished all the mixture. Roll up the crepes and slice into “tagliatelle”, then put these back into the pan with a knob of butter and toss well until coated. If you like, you can sprinkle them with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

If you’d like to see more of Artusi, please do take a look at some of these — just a small selection of some favourite recipes I’ve written about in the past:

Zuppa Certosina (a sort of egg drop fish soup named for the Tuscan monastery)
Artusi’s gnocchi alla romana (baked semolina gnocchi)
Tuscan chicken liver pate (as is common, Artusi doesn’t give any measurements for this one, which he likes to add dried porcini to)
Artusi’s raspberry acetosa (a delicious raspberry syrup with a vinegary kick)
Duck pappardelle (still one of my all-time favourite pasta sauces)
Chicken gnocchi (the chicken is actually inside the gnocchi; one of the most soothing, comforting dishes ever)
Pumpkin pie (not just an American tradition after all, this is a favourite I make every autumn)
Rose petal jam (one of the most popular recipes on my blog, and one very close to my heart)
Torta Margherita (a 4 ingredient gluten an dairy free birthday cake)
Quattro-quarti (a pound cake, which I adapt into a pistachio, polenta and olive oil version)
100 year old apricot jam (my very favourite)
Polenta and elderflower cookies (modern sounding but delightfully old fashioned)
Braciuole nella scamerita (a wintry, very Tuscan, comforting pork neck with cavolo nero)
Spiced walnut linguine (a “lean” dish of walnut pesto laced with sugar and spices)
Artusi’s Good Friday menu (save this for a traditional Easter meal)
Almond milk gelato (with a hint of orange blossom water, so refreshing)
Sweet tomato jam (yes, this is sweet, you’d never guess it’s actually made from tomatoes)
Artusi on the perfect bistecca
Nocino (sweet and spicy walnut liqueur)
Artusi’s minestrone (and one of my favourite anecdotes in the book)
The language of food (an essay about how Artusi contributed to the Italian language)
Brodo (beef broth; the very first recipe in Artusi’s 790 recipe cookbook)
Artusi’s bomboloni
Polpette di trippa (funnily enough, Artusi was not fond of tripe but he includes this recipe which he in turn found in a seventeenth century cookbook. It’s insanely delicious; it will convert any tripe hater)


  1. A gorgeous dish. And I see your copy of Artusi is properly aged and no doubt well thumbed.

    • Emiko Davies says:

      Thank you, Frank! Yes, it is well aged, well used. The spine is cracked and opens to the most used recipe of all, which is now committed to memory, pasta frolla ricetta B 🙂