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Gourmet Pastas and Sauces on-line

by Craig Camp of Vino & Cibo
(return to recipes)

When Italians refer to Affettati, or sliced items, this category of food items span the range of cured pork products made in Italy. Every part of the pig is used and each region has its unique specialties.

It's dangerous to be a pig in Italy and it's impossible to imagine an Italian meal without a full range of these meats being offered as antipasti.

Affettati are the foundation of the wonderful panini (sandwiches) which are the real fast-food of Italy. Even the smallest grocery store will have a broad selection and your order of prosciutto will be carefully sliced and wrapped, almost gift-like, to be sure that it arrives at your home in perfect condition.

Here are some major affettati:

Prosciutto Crudo: a salt and air cured uncooked (crudo) ham that is considered the pinnacle of flavor and elegance in affettati. The most famous types range from the most delicate to the fullest flavored -- San Daniele from Friuli, Parma from Emilia Romagna, and Norcia from Umbria. Outside Italy when you ask for prosciutto this is what you get.

Prosciutto Cotto: a cooked (cotto), usually boiled ham. Smoked (affumicato) versions are also produced.

Pancetta: this is the same cut of pork we commonly call bacon, but pancetta is produced by different methods. Regular pancetta is cured not smoked, and it is rolled into a sausage-like shape. Smoked pancetta is also produced and is similar to American bacon, but is meatier. Speck is a meaty pancetta produced in Trentino/Alto Adige. It is smoke and herb cured and more closely resembles Prosciutto Crudo than regular pancetta.

Lardo: falls in the pancetta family, but because I like it so much, I will give its own spot. Lardo is lard and that's it. It is the pure fat portion of the bacon cured in salt and herbs and then served very thinly sliced. It melts on your tongue like soft butter. I have not yet checked the American Heart Associations daily recommended portion of Lardo, and no, this is nothing like the American lard that you buy in a tub and that my grandmother used to make her extraordinary pie crusts.

Bresaola: salt cured beef from the mountains of Valtellina in Lombardia. Very lean.

Coppa: salt cured, and air dried pork from the neck and shoulder. Coppa is traditionally produced in Lombardia and Emilia Romagna. It is meaty with a rich, red color.

Mortadella: really a sausage, but often included on a plates of affettati. Delicate, pink and creamy in texture it is made from pure pork which is laced with slices of fat for richness. Sometimes pistachios are added for and additional flourish. True Mortadella is only made in the area surrounding Bologna. That is why Americans call their bland imitation of Mortadella bologna -- what baloney.

Salame: there are more types of salame than there are regions of Italy. Everyone has their specialty. Salame is usually made from pork, but there also many varieties made from wild boar, donkey, venison and horse. All are made with cured meat and fat. The differences in styles are dependent on how finely the meats are chopped, the ratio of fat to meat and the seasonings used. Salame can also be smoked.

© 2003 Vino e Cibo about the author
Craig Camp is a freelance food and wine writer living in the Lombardia region of Italy, just thirty minutes from the Swiss border. He produces a range of food and wine newsletters and hosts gourmet tours, all of which are featured on his Web site, . Although he is a native of northern Illinois and former Chicagoan, his love of Italian food, wine, and culture led him to adopt Italy as his home. Prior to returning to his writing career, Camp took a two-decade break to import and distribute fine wines in the United States. He is also the author of the weekly "Wine Camp" column in The Daily Gullet at His other interests include jazz and baseball which are harder to enjoy in Italy than food and wine.


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