What is salsa caruso?
Salsa caruso is a sauce that is served hot, prepared with cream, mushrooms, cooked ham and cheese.
It accompanies cappelletti, from Emilia-Romagna in Italy. These are egg-based pasta stuffed with meat or cheese and folded into “little hats” as its Italian name suggests. They look like tortellini.
After this description, it seems hard to guess that salsa caruso is a Uruguayan sauce, but it is actually a classic of Uruguay’s gastronomy.
Uruguayan cuisine and Italian immigration
The culture of Uruguay was strongly influenced by Europe, first by Spanish settlers and then by Italian immigrants.
Emigration has really marked the history of Italy. It began in the early nineteenth century and lasted 150 years. In the early years, Europe was the main destination for Italian expatriates and then the American continent became the predominant destination, especially South America with Argentina and Brazil first and foremost. Today in Uruguay, 20% of the population is of Italian origin.
The immigrants were above all workers, peasants and craftsmen who could no longer find work on the peninsula. Indeed, in the decades that followed its unification (1861), Italy had to face an economic, social and civil crisis. The country was in fact highly divided linguistically, economically and geographically because it lacked infrastructure. Cropland was impoverished, scarcity and social conflict prevailed as nascent trade union movements were repressed.
Exile to seek a job seemed to be the only solution to poverty and not to fall into banditry. The immigrants thus constituted labor for the major works undertaken, in particular on the American continent such as the railways, canals and metropoles.
They took their culture and, above all, their cooking with them. This is felt in Uruguay since many national dishes are in fact reinterpretations of Italian recipes with local products. Thus, pizza, gnocchi, pasta or polenta, are very popular and an integral part of Uruguayan gastronomy.
The cuisine of Italian origin is also one of the few vegetarian options in such a carnivorous country, populated by lovers of asados, barbecues of all kinds whose smell invades the gardens on Sunday. Uruguay is one of the largest producers, consumers and exporters of meat in the world.
What is the origin of salsa caruso?
Salsa caruso is obviously related to Enrico Caruso, the famous Italian tenor, born in 1873 in Naples. Caruso was one of the great opera performers of the twentieth century. With his so-called “velvet” voice, he is considered the tenor of the century.
He was famous all over the world. His popularity was due to the fact that he recorded his performances on records, which was innovative at that time. At his burial in 1921, the King of Italy Victor Emmanuel III was present.
In 1917, he began a tour of 2 years in South America and went to Uruguay, especially in the capital Montevideo, where he was admired, well-publicized and highly anticipated. He was received by the governors and intellectuals of the time. Caruso was considered a gourmet and as any good Italian, he was served pasta dishes.
It was finally in the 1950s that salsa caruso was invented by a great Italian chef called Raimondo Monti, chef at that time of the restaurant Mario y Alberto located in Montevideo. He had settled in Uruguay in 1939 shortly after winning a gold medal with his team at the world exhibition in Paris in 1936.
Monti wanted to create a sauce that would be a derivative of Bechamel sauce and that would be representative of the Italian culinary tradition. Since the restaurant specialized in stuffed pastas such as tortellini, cappelletti, or ravioli, he decided to serve it with cappelletti.
The special touch of this dish is undoubtedly the addition of meat broth in the sauce. He decided to name his sauce in honor of Enrico Caruso and his coming to Uruguay, to show his admiration for the Italian tenor.
Over the years, salsa caruso has become a very popular sauce in its country of origin but also in the rest of Latin America, especially in Argentina and Brazil. It is now considered part of the Uruguayan cultural heritage.
- 10 tablespoons butter
- 3 oz. button mushrooms , cut into slices
- 1 large onion , chopped
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup creme fraiche
- ½ lb cooked ham , chopped
- 4 oz. grated cheese
- 2 tablespoons concentrated meat broth
In a Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat, then brown the mushrooms and onion.
To this preparation, add the 2 tablespoons of flour stirring well, the meat broth, the milk and the creme fraiche.
Cook, whisking constantly until thick.
Finally add the ham and cheese and mix well for 1 minute.
Serve with cappelletti pasta or similar.