Real Simple Recipe: Slow Cooker Bratwurst with Sauerkraut and Potatoes


I've been reading the recipe section in Real Simple for a very long time. I got hooked way back, when they used to show an ingredient and use it in several dishes. I love the clarity of the instructions and the simplicity of the meals. Admittedly I hadn't made any of the recipes until last week.

My slow cooker has started calling to me. I've only used it four or five times in the year+ that I've owned it, but each time I use it, the results are better. I am becoming  a convert to the idea of a great hot meal awaiting me as soon as I walk in the door from work.

My last foray into slow cooker cooking was with this America’s Test Kitchen’s Slow Cooker Spicy Sausage Tomato Sauce . It turned out pretty tasty.  Primarily I had used the slow cooker to make pulled pork, or stews. I thought it was time to try something a little different.

Real Simple presented me with a fantastic recipe that was different from anything I ever made before. The ingredients list includes sauerkraut (which I love, but don't often have), bratwurst (which I've seen but never used) and caraway (which remind me of my dad, Joe, and therefore make me happy). My local butcher shop supplied me with handmade bratwurst and also happened to have a nice German sauerkraut and mustard (in a boot mug) for sale. I gathered up the remaining ingredients on the list and set to work.

There was no browning involved. Nothing but slicing and measuring. Once everything had been thrown into the slow cooker, I turned it on to low, set the timer for 8 hours, and went about my business. The house started to smell really good around hour 4 and by the hour 8, I was ready to eat.

The dish was great. I love how the caraway mixed with the sausage and white wine to create an earthy flavor. No one flavor over powered any of the others. Instead, the flavors all melded together nicely, and served with mustard on toast (make mine gluten free), this dish was deeply satisfying.  Next time,  I'll make half a batch. There is only so much sauerkraut one girl can eat.

 Real Simple: Sausages with Sauerkraut and Potatoes

serves 4 to 6 people


  • 1 1/2 pounds new potatoes, halved if large
  • 2 cups sauerkraut, drained
  • 1 small onion thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds bratwurst links
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat -leaf parsley
  • Toasted bread, butter and mustard for serving


  1. In a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker, mix together the potatoes, sauerkraut, onion, broth, wine, caraway seeds, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Nestle the bratwurst in the vegetables.
  2. Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours.
  3. Sprinkle the bratwurst, potatoes and sauerkraut with the parsley and serve with the toast, butter, and mustard. 

Slow Cooker Pasta Sauce and a Review: America's Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution

Hello friends. I know I've mentioned here a time or two how much I love Cook's Illustrated magazine. Well, I'm even more in love with the America's Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution cookbook, especially their slow cooker pasta sauce.

Now you may think it odd that I, a gluten-free lady, would be psyched about pasta sauce. Well you know what?  A lovely brand of brown rice pasta makes it very easy for me to participate in all things pasta again.

And, you may also wonder why a lady who was raised by another lady who happens to be an excellent Italian-American cook would want a pasta sauce book. I'm here to tell you, we all have our ways of cooking, and pooh-pooh other versions of our tried-and-true recipes. I've never made a tomato sauce that has onions or sugar in it (Gran Fran says that's not the way it's done). Nor have I ever tried to use a slow cooker for sauce (Gran Fran's head is now exploding in NYC while she reads this and discovers that I had the audacity to leave an appliance not only plugged in but on and simmering things for hours on end in an empty house).

I went through the book and found many interesting recipes, including some for Asian style noodles, which happen to be rice, that I will totally try to make. I chose to make the Spicy Sausage Ragu with Red Peppers: it's one of the slow cooker pasta sauce recipes in the book. I'm new to slow cooking (see comment above about Gran Fran's head exploding) and I'm also not the best at actually following all the steps in a recipe. Since I create my own recipes 98 percent of the time, I find it hard to believe that anyone knows better than I how to put something together.

My previous successes with Cook's Illustrated recipes reminded me that I had to take the time to really make this recipe. I made a pact with myself to follow every step in the Ragu recipe, including browning ingredients before throwing them into the slow cooker. I tend to wing it, so this was a true test of my patience. I'd also like to point out that I started cooking this at 6am so that it would be ready for dinner with a friend by 7pm. I think my neighbors are more than fed up with their noisy cooking crazy person on the second floor (that's me, if you didn't catch on) who tends to cook late at night or early in the morning. Who knows? All I know is that a good recipe with clear instructions really floats my boat.

If I can follow this in the wee early morning hours and have a great dish by dinner, I fully recommend this book to all of you. It's especially good for people like me who need to find some discipline and pay attention to directions every once in awhile. As it turns out, I really did enjoy leaving my comfort zone and trying a new version of something I've made hundreds of times. I'm really excited to cook my way through a bunch of these recipes and will be posting my results.

I will say, though, as delicious as this sauce is when first prepared, it is even better re-heated. The initial sauce turned out a bit thin for my liking (my friend, however, said it was just the way she liked it, so maybe it's personal preference). The sauce thickened nicely as the portions were reheated. That said, I loved the flavors, but I have to admit, I left some of the sausages in their skins and cut them up into chunks to go along with the sausage meat. I just love a chunky sauce. Other than that, I followed the recipe to a T and was rewarded with a great sauce.

Give this book a try, even if you consider yourself an advanced cook. America's Test Kitchen recipes always teach me something new and turn out great.

Spicy Sausage Ragu with Red Peppers

(Slow Cooker Pasta Sauce)

Makes 12 cups


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds hot Italian sausage, removed from its casing
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano or 2 teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (28 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsely
  • Salt & Pepper


  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and brown well, breaking up large pieces with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker
  • Add onions, garlic, tomato paste, oregano, and red pepper flakes to fat in skillet and cook over medium-high heat until onions are softened and lightly browned, 8-10 minutes.
  • Stir in wine, scraping up brown bits and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add ingredients to the slow cooker.
  • Stir crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce into the slow cooker.
  • Cover and cook until the sauce is deeply flavored. 9 to 11 hours on low; 5 to 7 hours on high.
  • Let sauce settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using a large spoon.
  • Microwave bell peppers with remaining tablespoon of oil in bowl, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir softened bell peppers into sauce and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes.
  • Before serving, stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Author's Note:

I received a complimentary copy of

America's Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution.

There was no monetary compensation for this review.


I got a bunch of really nice gifts for my birthday, many of which had to do with cooking.

Two are featured here: a lovely stuffed quail and a beautiful Le Creuset skillet.

The quail is incredibly fitting, as you are about to learn. The friend who gave me the tiny bird to roast knew some of my family history, and that my daughter's middle name is Quaglia (a shortened version of Quagliariello). She also gave me a gift certificate for a lovely speciality butcher shop here in SF, Olivier's, which I cannot wait to cash in.

I asked Joe (my Dad) to recount the story one more time of the history of his family's name. Here is his story, which I felt I couldn't do a better job of paraphrasing so included the whole epic story.

Well, it all started during the Holy Roman Empire. My ancestors were poor peasants who tilled the land not two miles from Caesar's Palace. (Not that one.)

A couple of thousand years later, my paternal grandfather decided to tear himself away from the rocky, dry land he was tilling, and he arrived in Brooklyn around 1900. He got a job working in a shoe factory, which turned out to be demanding and ill-paying, but still better than the land-tilling ever would, so he decided to stay.

His name was Thomas Quagliariello, the last name being Italian for "little quail." Starting with the day he spent at Ellis Island, he was aware that his last name didn't sound American. So he decided to follow the course taken by his cousin, a locally well-known boxer.

This cousin had a cigar-smoking manager who ruled that, for poster purposes, the boxer need a name shorter than Quagliariello. The manager smoked only light cigars, which were identified on the side of their box by the Spanish word "claro," which, in different contexts can mean, "mild" (for cigars), "clear" (for weather), or "I understand" (as in "It's clear").

So Pasquale Quagliariello became boxer Patsy Claro, and my grandfather, believing this was an American name (even though it sounded Italian), followed suit. Years later, my father and two of his half-brothers did the same, while the other brothers either retained their original name or shortened it to Quaglia. 

And that's the story.

So as you can see, my friend hit the nail on the head with her gift, which was delicious as well.

Stuffed Roasted Quail

each bird serves 1 person

  • Order pre-stuffed birds from your local butcher, if you can get them.

You can stuff your own bird, but I believe it would be very hard, based on the tiny nature of these birds and the tiny bones you'd have to remove. If you are going to stuff it yourself get some nice sausage, roasted chestnuts and some raisins or sultanas. I can't really advise you how to stuff the actual bird, but check

this link

out, it may be helpful.


  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  • Put a small amount of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Make sure the pan is big enough to allow space between multiple birds.
  • Lightly salt the bird and put it in the pan.
  • Roast the bird(s) for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes.
  • Drain the fat from the pan and serve up the bird(s).

Chicken Scarpariello: A Gift for Gran Fran

There was a time that I couldn't deal with cooking things that had too many steps. I suppose I just became lazy at some point. Eventually, I came back around to the thrill of the multiple step recipe, that involves measuring cups and spoons and even multiple knives for different ingredients. It dawned on me that Gran Fran just keeps cooking, no matter how much mess, how many pots and pans or how long it'll take. If there is a recipe that needs to be made, she will make it no matter what.

This year, for her birthday,one of my sisters asked me to shoot and make a bunch of Gran Fran's recipes so we could make her a nice little book as a gift. I didn't have much time, only a week and a half, so I tried to choose recipes that would be relatively easy to work through.

A quick look through Gran Fran's blog, revealed to me that many of the recipes, though simple, involve many steps and ingredients. So much for making this project easy. Though it was challenging, due to time constraints (not to mention that Gran Fran planned a last-minute trip that landed mid-deadline, making me stop my work, so as to not ruin the surprise gift that was to come a few weeks later), I really did enjoy working on these recipes.

The recipes I chose all turned out really well, flavor-wise, I think, because of the many layers of flavor. For this Chicken Scarpariello, the hot cherry peppers offset the sweet fennel sausage nicely. The steps are simple, there are just a lot of them. But, the end result is totally worth it.

original recipe from The Italian Pantry, Fran Claro's Food Blog

Chicken Scarpariello

Serves six


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, quartered
  • One 4-pound chicken, well rinsed, dried, cut into 10 pieces
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 pound sweet sausage with fennel, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
  • 4 to 7 hot cherry peppers in vinegar, diced
  • 1 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth



  • Add chicken to pan; sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. 
  • Brown chicken thoroughly on allsides.
  • Remove chicken from pan; set aside.
  • In same pan, saute sausage until cooked through
  • To pan, add diced peppers, including seeds; stir.
  • Remove sausage andpeppers from pan; set aside.
  • Add wine to panand reduce by half; add broth.
  • Stir all scrapings from bottom of pan into the wine and broth.
  • Return all ingredients to pan; bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat; cover closely.
  •  Simmer 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
  • Remove sausage and chicken from pan; set aside.
  • Over medium heat, reduce sauce until it coats a spoon.
  • Pour sauce over chicken; serve with mashed potatoes.
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