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Rome recipe: Tonnarelli with sausage and grapes

Cooking grapes and sausage together as a savoury dish may seem unusual but the combination can be traced back to 1891.

Autumn in Italy brings the grape harvest and, with it, an invasion of sweet, shiny spheres which can be seen piled up precariously at Rome’s markets and produce stalls. Grapes are popped in the mouth on the go as a speedy snack, adorn cheese platters as a garnish and occasionally, as in this case, crop up in seasonal recipes.

Cooking grapes and sausage together as a savoury dish may seem a little unusual but the combination can be traced back to 1891 when Italian gastronome Pellegrino Artusi included a recipe for Salsiccia coll’uva in his famed culinary bible La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiar Bene (The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well).

This recipe takes inspiration from the same ingredients for a pasta version which deliciously balances the delectable flavours of rich Italian sausage, sweet grapes and a background hint of salty Pecorino Romano.

For 4 people:
60 white grapes (seedless if possible)
4 pork sausages
Extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 whole garlic clove, peeled 
400g tonnarelli (or any long fresh pasta)
6 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.

Using a sharp knife carefully cut an X into the base of each grape and then cook in the boiling water for about 2 minutes. Remove the grapes, keeping the water aside to cook the pasta.
Leave the grapes to cool then, pulling away from the X, peel off the skins and remove any seeds.

Remove the outer casing of the sausages and roughly chop them into chunks.
Heat a splash of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the chopped onion and whole garlic clove. After 3 minutes, when the onion begins to soften, add the sausage meat and continue to cook for 10 minutes before stirring in the grapes.

Cook for another 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper and remove the garlic clove. 
In the meantime, bring the saucepan of water back to the boil, add salt, and cook the pasta until al dente.

Drain the pasta and add to the frying pan, mix together well to coat the pasta then turn off the heat, sprinkle in the Pecorino Romano and stir well, shaking the pan, to thicken up the sauce before serving.

By Kate Zagorski, who has lived in Italy since 2000. Married to a food-obsessed Roman chef, she leads food tours and also works as a freelance food and travel writer.

Marymount - International School Rome
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