One of the highlights of Italy is the food. Continuing with our series on Italian foods to try, we have looked at Italy’s cured meats. The best way to enjoy Italian meats is served all together as antipasti, with bread and olive oil. Each meat is processed, cut and tastes slightly different. So whether you will be enjoying them from your own kitchen, or on your next Italy trip, we have broken down some of our favourites for you.
A popular meat that originated in the Lombardy region, Bresaola is an air-dried beef. The beef is left to age for approximately two or three months, when it then is hard and dark red in colour. The best way to eat Bresaola is thinly sliced and covered in olive oil, lemon juice and capers. This Italian cured meat is available all year round.
Mortadella comes from Italy’s most gastronomic city, Bologna, otherwise known as La Grassa (the fat). Bologna is famous for being the birthplace of the Bolognese sauce, however it is here you will find the best of Mortadella meat. Mortadella is a large Italian sausage that is first ground and then made into a paste. This meat is great because it is prepared by being cooked for several hours at a low temperature, but then can be eaten up to eight months after, often as a sandwich filling.
This Italian meat is made from pork jowl or cheeks. On initial thought, it might not sound that appetising, however Guanciale is a very tasty cured meat, seasoned in salt, sugar, pepper, herbs and other various spices. It is more commonly used in pasta dishes, for example the much loves spaghetti carbonara. Guanciale is a thicker meat, a bit like Pancetta, so makes the perfect cooking ingredient, compared to thinner meats that are served as antipasti.
Some might be asking why this is featuring on our ‘cured meats’ list, as strictly it isn’t a meat, but fat – salt-cured cut of pork back fat. However, it is very popular, normally served with cured meats, and is just too delicious not to mention. Lardo originates from a village in Tuscany, Colonnata and is served most commonly as an antipasti.
Now on to our well known favourites -
Prosciutto, more commonly known as Parma Ham, is a dry-cured ham that is air-dried for up to 24 months. The intended way to enjoy Prosciutto is uncooked, and served thinly sliced as an antipasti, in sandwiches or even on pizza.
Pancetta is Italian bacon. Like the bacon we would be used to picking up in our local supermarkets, Pancetta has a salty flavour and can be bought either smoked or unsmoked – in slices or in cubes. Pancetta is also normally spiced with black pepper.
The delicious, strong taste of Salami comes from the curing process, up to 40 days. Salami is actually a family of sausages, made from various animals – typically beef and pork. The meat is then seasoned with salt, pepper, wine and other various herbs and spices.
In previous years, Salami was commonly eaten amongst Italian peasants. This is thanks to its easy curing process – salami is stored at room temperature.
If you haven’t already, check out our top Italian cheeses post.
What is your favourite Italian meat? How do you like to enjoy it?