All around the world, Italian cold cut meats (called “salumi”) are considered an incredibly delicious ingredient. They can be used in gourmet recipes or to be enjoyed by themselves while sipping a glass of rich wine.
Even their story is part of what makes them so unique. Let’s take a step back and explore the fascinating history that preserved them throughout times.
From Prehistoric Times to our tables
Cold meats make themselves known starting from Paleolithic times, as sun-dried meats for longer conservation times. However, the concept of deli meats, as we think of them today, goes back to about 500 B.C. with the Etruscan and Roman populations.
In fact, there are some references to cold cut meats even in the book “The Odyssey” and in the medicinal recipes of Hippocrates.
During Etruscan times, the prosciutto was a popular item among merchants.
For the Romans, ham and prosciutto were often among the main courses during a banquet or even served with fresh bread as street food.
Little by little, the need for a better way of conserving meat became different from area to area. During the Renaissance, these variations created several specific cured or cooked meat recipes, with additional seasoning that varied from region to region.
Finally, during the 1800s, deli meats started to be a common ingredient for everyday foods. Specialized stores began to populate the small and large towns all around Italy.
The most commonly known “salumi” use veal or pork meat, though you can also choose poultry nowadays.
This delicate food is a super lean cured veal cut, typical of the northern regions of Italy. It is salted and dried, not cooked nor smoked. This process ensures a gentle and refined flavor, with a rich taste that is not pungent. It is often used in dietetic menus, as it keeps the calories to a minimum.
The bresaola is a perfect choice to accompany wine and cheese during wine tasting events, as its taste is so subtle that it does not overwhelm any other foods.
Coppa (also known as Capicollo)
Prepared in Center Italy’s regions, the coppa has many variations, depending on the spices used to make it. Prepared with pork, it presents a rounded shape of intense red lean meat, marbled with some fat meat lines. The mixture is the perfect balance for this food, especially because it remains very soft once cooked.
The mortadella is one of the Italian children’s all-time favorites, mostly when used to prepare sandwiches with fresh cheese. From its look, this cold cut meat resembles the American bologna, though its flavor is very different.
The mortadella is made with finely ground and cooked pork meat with small black and green peppercorns and pistachios.
Just the right amount of twist!
Who has been to an Italian restaurant without ever trying the fantastic pancetta?
To become perfectly sweet-salty, it needs to follow precise steps: salted, then spiced, rolled onto itself, and finally dried. A little bit of pancetta’s unique flavor will enhance any pizza, pasta, or even side dishes.
Many recipes around the country prepare this pork deli meat, varying from one region to another. The pancetta can be smoked, or it can have a kick of hot red peppers.
However you find it, you will never be disappointed.
We could never skip the most known Italian “salumi”: the prosciutto!
This food is prepared through a precise and lengthy drying process. Furthermore, it takes on many slight flavor differences depending on the provenience. In this particular case, it varies from city to city. One of the most famous prosciutto types is the Prosciutto di Parma, which is considered the number one in the entire Italian deli meat family.
You can read all about its process in our previous blog.
Let’s not forget about the smallest one of them, though the most flavorful: the salame. It offers endless recipes and spices to try, and it is perfect for eating cold as a snack, accompanied by a few cheese pieces and maybe a glass of good wine.
It is also perfect for adding flavors to any recipe, pasta, and pizza for the most, but also panini and casserole dishes.
Most of these cured meats are our favorite ingredients, and we include them in many of our recipes to prepare the most authentic Italian food for our patrons.
If you are curious to know more about our ingredient list, look at our menu, and find the perfect dish for you!