Chouriço is a type of pork sausage that’s an integral part of Portuguese cuisine. Since a large population of Portuguese immigrants have settled in southeastern Massachusetts, it’s no surprise that you’ll find an abundance of chouriço available in markets and on restaurant menus throughout the region.
Made from a mixture of pork (shoulder or butt), wine, and spices including paprika, garlic, salt, and pepper, it’s most often made into links, or sold as ground. Although the words sound alike, Portuguese chourico is not quite the same as other varieties of chorizo. It’s similar to Portuguese linguica, which contains the same ingredients but is stuffed into a different kind of casing (hog vs. beef). While all are sausages made from pork, Portuguese chourico is smoked and is typically cooked before consuming (although it can be eaten as is); Mexican chorizo is fresh and should also be cooked; and Spanish chorizo is dry-cured, sometimes smoked, and can be eaten as is (similar to a salami). Portuguese chourico is commonly available in both mild and hot varieties, and its underlying smokiness gives any dish that unmistakable Portuguese flavor.
The texture, fat content, and spice level vary from one manufacturer to another, so be sure to try a few varieties to find the one you like best. The links are delicious simply grilled, cut into bite-sized pieces, and served as an easy appetizer dipped in mustard or pesto. Ground or diced links work beautifully in a breakfast hash with onions, potatoes, and eggs. Replace the bacon with ground chourico in a batch of your favorite chowder. Or try a batch of chourico bolognese.
In most markets you can find chourico from larger producers like Gaspar’s, Mello’s, and Michael’s, but smaller, local makers are also worth a visit, like Acoreana Market in Fall River. Be sure to visit Portugalia Marketplace also in Fall River as well, for chourico and a variety of other Portuguese products.
While similar, chouriço and chorizo are not quite the same. Here’s a basic guide:
Made from pork and spices, smoked (cooked); stuffed into beef casings. Commonly found on menus in a dish called chouriço à bombeiro, where a chourico link is set in an individual clay brazier, splashed with alcohol, and set afire.
Made from pork and spices, smoked (cooked); stuffed into hog casings. Typically less fatty and thinner than chourico. Often sliced or diced and used in egg dishes, with rice or beans, or as a topping for pizza.
Made from pork and spices, fattier, fresh, and sold raw; stuffed into beef casings. Must be cooked before consuming. Often cooked with its casing removed and used as crumbled sausage.
Made from pork and spices, with a typical orange hue due to pimento (smoked paprika) flavoring. Most often dry-cured and stuffed into beef casings. It’s not as fatty and can be eaten right out of the package. Typically sliced and served as part of a charcuterie board.
Cook’s Note: If not serving all the chouriço bolognese at once, keep pasta and sauce separate, or make a double batch of sauce and freeze for later use (up to 1 month). The sauce can be made in advance, kept covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Leftover sauce can be served inside a baked potato, spooned over creamy polenta, or combined with brown rice and stuffed into parboiled peppers, topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano, and baked for simple stuffed peppers.
- 1 medium onion roughly chopped
- 1 celery stalk with some leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 carrot peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or more as needed
- 3 ounces pancetta finely chopped
- 1 pound ground chourico
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup white wine
- 2 to 3 cups low-sodium or homemade beef stock, or more as needed
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup whole milk at room temperature
- 1 pound fettuccine pappardelle, or tagliatelle
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving
- In a food processor, add onion, celery, and carrot and puree until finely minced, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Set aside.
- In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add pancetta and chourico and cook until lightly browned, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes. Add in additional oil if needed until mixture is just browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside.
- If not enough fat/oil left in pan, add about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add pureed vegetable mixture and cook until softened and mixture is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Season with pepper. Add tomato paste and cook for another 1 or 2 minutes. Add pancetta/chourico mixture and any accumulated juices to pot and stir to combine.
- Add wine to deglaze pan, scraping up browned bits on bottom of pot. Continue cooking until wine is mostly evaporated, 5 to 10 minutes. Add 2 cups stock and bay leaf and reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, for 1½ hours, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, until sauce has thickened. If liquid reduces before meat is tender, add an additional ½ cup stock and continue cooking. Add milk and continue cooking for another ½ hour. Discard bay leaf. Taste and adjust as desired. Keep sauce over low heat.
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 2 to 3 minutes (for fresh) and 7 to 10 minutes (for dry). Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid and then drain pasta. Transfer pasta to pot of sauce and add ¼ cup pasta water. Stir to combine. Cook for another 1 or 2 minutes, adding in additional pasta water if needed to reach desired consistency, like that of a sloppy joe. Transfer pasta and sauce to a large serving bowl, top with Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve warm.
Karen J. Covey is a chef who’s most at home in the kitchen. During the colder months, big pots of comfort food take center stage, filling the house with their heady aroma as they simmer. www.karenjcovey.com