For Lombard gourmets, Milanese in particular, it is the cult dish of the winter – but not only. Here's where to taste that addictive mix of cabbage and 'poor' pork cuts
The time is right for Cassoeula, the symbolic dish of the Lombard popular tradition. The one whose origins are essentially unknown (as for three quarters of the regional recipes, moreover) but that conquers only to hear that greedy, engaging and vaguely French pronunciation. In fact, it is not clear why someone attempted the Italianization, calling it a trowel or trowel. Lassa is, just as it makes no sense to try to understand whether it is the progressive simplification of a 'pruning' that reached the region through the Spanish domination or the downsizing of a dish of Baroque cuisine, containing more refined pork meat which is the absolute protagonist together with cabbage. Having said that, as often happens, the current version (with the first evidence at the beginning of the 1900s) is only the synthesis of the two, the dish is clearly linked to the rituality of the popular cult of Sant’Antonio Abate, celebrated on January 17, a date that marked the end of the slaughtering period. But we like the legend of the people much more: it is said that to ferry it to Milan was a young Spanish soldier who fell in love with a Milanese cook, to whom he taught how to prepare it. Eventually conquering it, the legend says.
We need verzini
The mystery of the origin of the name is also amusing: it probably derives from the spoon with which it is mixed (cassœu) or from the pot with which it is prepared (casserole). The famous Cassoulet of the Languedoc has nothing to do, except the pork which, together with the others, ends up in the bean ragout at the base of the recipe. If anything, there is another explanation for the name Cassoeula: it is known that, by tradition, the dish was prepared by construction site workers once they arrived at the roof. From here the trowel – we hope very clean or new – to mix it during cooking. As mentioned, the two poles of the dish (single, mind you) are the cabbage which for Lombard gourmets "must make the drop, so that it disintegrates during cooking " that is practically frozen and the poor parts of the pig. The only nobles, if you like, are the ribs. Then space for ear, rind, foot, pigtail, little face, verzini. The last ones deserve two more lines: they are classic fresh pork sausages which take their name from their historical combination with cabbage, mainly in the cassoeula. But they are also good on their own.
There is also the light version
Returning to the concept of non-coding of recipes, there is the classic Milanese one – where we continue to discuss whether it takes a touch of tomato or not – but passing from one Lombard province to another, more or less soupy variants are encountered, with the addition of goose meat, vegetables prepared in a different way. The important thing is that they are as good as those of the places in our selection, which respect the ancient rules. Without giving in to the temptation of light Cassoeula: it is legitimate to remove some 'heavy' cuts of meat or more simply – as many do – degrease the rind. But having started out as a poor and fat dish, at least once you have to try the original version. That of our soldier, in short, who made the fortune of the cook.
10 places in Milan to eat cassoeula
In the heart of the 'five streets', the most evocative pedestrian area of the city. Encyclopedic menu with all the Milanese and Lombard specialties (but not only). The cassoeula is always on the menu, the environment is welcoming with customers that change between lunch and dinner. Beautiful cellar.
Elide Moretti, who is celebrating her 60th birthday in the kitchen this year, is the most famous interpreter of the cuisine under the Madonnina: Milan liked a lot to drink and is still liked by loyalists and neophytes. For historical dishes, robust portions and an unchanging environment.
Contemporary trattoria, in the "Old Milan" style and a menu open to Italy which, however, offers a broad view of the Milanese tradition. Cassoeula is the protagonist in the cold season, in a variant that is respectful of the original ingredients but lightened.
Antica Trattoria Galeria
It is furnished like an old farmhouse: wood, bricks, vintage items. 'Rough' but highly satisfying Lombard cuisine, starting with the cassoeula with regular polenta. In the summer, the tables outside on a patio can be enjoyed.
Award-winning Trattoria Arlati
Much loved by show business people, it is the home of the 'Confraternita della cassoeula' who celebrate the dish accompanying it with good music and great bottles. You can breathe the history of the city, not surprisingly in the 2006 was awarded the Ambrogino D'Oro
Trattoria Masuelli San Marco
The seasonal menu includes cassoeula, but only on Thursday or Friday, and by reservation. You can choose between the pork or goose version. The stone-ground ottofile corn polenta is a must. The venue celebrated its centenary in 2021.
Antica Trattoria della Pesa
Open since 1880, it also had the future Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh coming from Paris in the kitchen. Today, in a more elegant environment than in the past, it continues in the wake of the Milanese-Lombard tradition with the entire repertoire, including the cassoeula.
Intimate atmosphere, soft lights, fireplace and traditional dishes: the essential elements of an 'out of town' in the city, always popular. Among the proposals on the menu, the cassoeula is certainly one of the most popular together with the 'uregia d'elefant' cutlet.
Trattoria La Pesa 1902
At the end of the 90s, this restaurant in the San Siro district had the merit of relaunching – especially among the youngest – Milanese cuisine. Thirty years later, he continues his work in defense of tradition. The cassoeula is always on paper, along with other classics.
Osteria dei Malnat
As he said "the best rule is not to follow the rule". This is why in the review it makes sense to point out the 'revisited' cassoeula of this place, ten minutes from the Meazza Stadium: in practice it is a cabbage and pork stew, with sausage and dark ribs. Not bad.