Salsiccia di Bra, or “Bra sausage,” may be the only Italian food to have ever been protected by a royal decree. A cylinder of seasoned veal meat, its origins date back to the 16th century, when local butchers in Bra, Italy, started using veal scraps to make a spiraling sausage that was typically eaten raw. Far from being considered a leftover food, the pork-free sausage was popular, especially with the Jewish community living in the nearby city of Cherasco.
In 1847, when King Carlo Alberto of Savoy, a region comprising modern-day northwest Italy, passed a nationwide ban on beef sausages, local butchers worried for their best-selling cold cut. But Bra sausage was spared. According to oral history, a special decree granted them the right to make and sell their beloved sausage despite the veal ban.
Why would a king bother to save a veal-based sausage? According to a popular theory, Carlo Alberto realized that the ban would negatively affect Cherasco’s Jewish community. Others think the king enjoyed salsiccia di Bra himself and wanted to ensure a steady supply to the royal kitchen.
What’s sure is that 170 years after the veal-meat ban, salsiccia di Bra remains one of Bra’s iconic foods, and is considered a certified traditional product by local food authorities. Locals mostly eat it raw as part of antipasti, a selection of cold cuts and vegetable dishes that is served before the main course, or as a snack during aperitivo, a pre-dinner drink. Similar to a beef tartare in texture, salsiccia di Bra has a more delicate taste compared with other types of Italian sausage. Eating it raw or with just a splash of lemon juice is the best way to appreciate the fine mix of herbs, meat, and wine that make up the secret recipe.
Indeed, the exact recipe of salsiccia di Bra is a secret of the Consortium for the Protection and Enhancement of Bra Sausage, which safeguards the long-standing butcher tradition. But certified producers say the secret lies in just the right mix of meat, white wine, and local herbs.
Need to Know
Bra sausage is mostly eaten raw or as part of a ragù, a meat-based pasta condiment. Unfortunately for those keeping kosher, the recipe now includes pork fat. Every spring Bra hosts a festival dedicated to salsiccia di Bra. Information about dates and tickets can be found on the town website.
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Where to Try It
This restaurant was founded in 1984 by chefs and restaurateurs aiming to preserve local food traditions. Ask for a serving of raw salsiccia di Bra as an antipasto or cooked as a meat-based condiment (ragù) that is typically matched with fresh egg pasta (tajari).
Locals and visitors alike can be found queuing outside this tiny butcher's shop to secure salsiccia di Bra or other meat products.