In the last years Italy has seen a flourishing of Sagre, village fairs, with gastronomic theme. Every village that has a claim to fame through a special gastronomic product organises one, and often even those who don't. Inevitably, whatever the theme of the fair might be, you can always find a stand selling pane e salsiccia, sausage hot from the grill served between two slices of bread or a roll. The sausage can vary, depending on where you are in Italy, but is usually redolent with garlic. Most of the times there's no other addition to this basic match, but eventually mushrooms, grilled aubergines or peppers, sauteed leaf broccoli (the great friarielli from Napoli for example) and even cheese can be added.
For me pane e salsiccia is inevitably linked to Festival dell'Unita', the festival of the former Italian Communist Party. Now, maybe the word communist nowadays, doesn't scare people anymore as it did before (Fundamentalist... buh!!!) but for those who link "communist" to Stalinist dictatorship a brief explanation on the Italian version is needed, trying to be as objective as possible.
The Italian CP, at least after the entry of the Soviet tanks in Prague in 1968, break off from the Soviet influence and played the role of the social/labour party. It was, till the fall of the Berlin wall, the second political force in Italy and a few Italian Regions have been historically "red". It may come as a surprise but Toscana, Umbria and Emilia-Romagna had, for a long time, "communist" local governing bodies. As anyone who's been there can confirm these regions don't exactly show that typical "soviet" atmosphere :-). Another thing that one has to recognise is that those communist could eat! A festival dell'Unita' in any of the bigger Tuscan cities is something one can hardly forget: stall after stall serving inviting food. And they always made great pane e salsiccia! It's probably not a coincidence that Italy's foremost "foodie" magazine Gambero Rosso was originally a supplement to an independent communist newspaper.
This post from Josh indirectly made me think and crave for pane e salsiccia. So on Monday I did my own version of it. For each roll I used: 1 ciabatta "roll" (or mini-ciabatta), a sausage (possibly Italian, garlic flavoured), split in the middle and grilled, some sliced smoked scamorza and some grilled aubergines (ideally marinated in garlic, chilli pepper, mint and vinegar, but I had no time for that). The important thing is to get everything ready at the same time, with the sole exception of the aubergines (which should not, on the other hand, be cold). So as the sausage cooked, I very quickly sauteed the scamorza slices in a very hot pan to form a crisp crust while softening them without melting them completely. I assembled the panino in the order (bottom to top): sausage, cheese aubergine. Oops, as you can see the pic is upside down. You could spread some mayo or mustard on the bread but only if you like. Serve warm and enjoy, I sure did :-).