So you can look like a total rock star next time you’re ordering antipasti, learn what’s behind the salumi names, from lomo to guanciale and beyond, and how best to enjoy each one. (And in case you missed it, check out what Chi Spacca’s Chad Colby had to say on the subject.)
Bresaola: One of the few Italian salami made from beef, bresaola is a lean meat that is salted, air-dried, and aged for at least a few months. Bresaola has a distinct dark red, purplish color and a tough, lean texture. Enjoy thinly sliced with a bit of lemon juice and olive oil.
Capacollo (Coppa): There’s a slight difference between capacollo and coppa, mainly that coppa originates from Emilia Romagna while capacollo hails from Calabria. Both of these cured meats are made using the muscle starting at the neck of the hog, then dry-cured, often after being rubbed with hot paprika. Best served paper-thin, coppa is great served with pickles or in Italian sandwiches.
Culatello: Hard to come by in the U.S., culatello is often considered the most prized (and expensive) salumi in Italy. Haling from Parma, the meat comes from the rear legs of a pig and is traditionally aged in an environment where mold thrives, like caves or barns, contributing to the culatello’s distinct flavor. Eat alone or with bread at the start of the meal. To learn more about culatello, check out this great article by Armandino Batali, owner of Salumi in Seattle (and also, Mario’s dad).
Guanciale: Once completely foreign, if you’ve ever tried to make an authentic carbonara or all’amatriciana, chances are guanciale is on the ingredient list. Made from the jowls of hogs, the meat is rubbed with pepper before aging, and is less fatty than its common substitute, pancetta.
Lardo: This salumi comes from the fatback of a pig, which is then cured with herbs and spices, often rosemary. The most prized variations come from the Aosta Valley, where pigs are fed a diet of chestnuts, grains, and vegetables, and from Colonnata, where lardo is cured in basins made of marble, which the area is known for. A traditional serving method includes piling the lardo on a piece of toasted bread with a drizzle of honey.
Lonza: (Or lomo in Spanish), this air-dried cured pork loin is a lean cured meat, usually seasoned simply with the likes of black pepper or fennel. This is nice when served with other meats, cheese and bread at the beginning of a meal.
Mocetta: A traditional product from the northwestern Aosat region of Italy, this cured meat is most often made with goat or other wild game such as deer or boar. Serve as an antipasti.
Mortadella: A staple of Bologna (and the Italian version of what we now see in American supermarkets labeled as bologna), mortadella is made from ground pork with larger pieces of lardon throughout. Black pepper, pistachios, and nutmeg are often added for flavor. Served thinly sliced, mortadella is a great addition to an Italian sandwich.
Pancetta: Considered to be Italy’s version of bacon, pancetta is made from pork belly, then usually peppered, rolled, tied, then hung to cure. It’s most often used as a cooking ingredient to add flavor, like in this Chestnut Cake.
Prosciutto: This dry-cured ham most often made from the hind leg of a pig and sometimes wild boar is served uncooked (crudo) but can also be found cooked (cotto). The leg is salted for a couple months before being hung. The most famous variety, di Parma, has a slightly sweet and nutty flavor, while another popular variety, di San Daniele, is even sweeter still and a bit darker in color.
Sopressata: Originating in the Southern regions of Italy, this dry-cured meat is traditionally made from pork, which is coarsely pressed or ground into sausage. Each region lends its own flavor and style; for example, Sopressata di Calabria is made with hot pepper while Sopressata di Puglia is characterized by the large piece of lard in the center of leaner pieces of meat. A bit further north in Tuscany, they use the leftover cuts of the pig for the sausage instead of the choice cuts. Sopressata is great in sandwiches and salads, like this one with roasted beets, watercress, lentils and taleggio.
Salami Piccante: Or what we call pepperoni is a pork salami from Calabria. The distinct flavor and color comes from red peppers and paprika ranging in heat that the meat is generously rubbed with. Use it to spice up an antipasti platter or in salads and sandwiches.
Speck: Made from smoked, dry-salted, aged hog legs, speck comes to us from the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy. Known for its distinct smoky flavor, this cured meat is great in cooking, (used almost like a smoked bacon) for when you’re looking to add a richness of flavor, like in this Risotto with Asparagus and Speck.