Want to know why so many people enjoy this thinly-sliced meat? Read our ultimate guide to answer the question, what is prosciutto?
If you've ever been to a party where the host served a charcuterie board, you've probably experienced prosciutto in all its glory. This deli meat is highly-revered by many, and it's no wonder why. Prosciutto is Italian ham known for its saltiness and distinctive flavor that complements many other types of food.
Want to know more about this specialty meat? Today, we'll go over all you need to know about prosciutto, from how it's made to where you can buy it. You'll learn how to distinguish unique kinds of prosciutto and what foods and beverages pair well with this meat.
Then, we'll introduce you to some of our favorite quick prosciutto recipes. You can pick your favorites, and we'll add all the ingredients you need to a grocery cart to help make the meal prep process easier. For now, let's get started learning about this flavorful deli meat.
What Is Prosciutto?
The first thing to know about the word prosciutto is that it translates to ham. Prosciutto crudo refers to raw ham, while prosciutto cottorefers to cooked ham. The type most people enjoy is prosciutto cotto, which is the kind we'll be talking about.
How Is Prosciutto Made?
The dry-aging process used on pork legs to create thin slices of salami, prosciutto, and parma ham didn’t start in New York delis — it actually goes back many centuries to Roman times. The curing process starts with high-quality pork legs coated in sea salt. Then the uncooked meat rests for several weeks.
While the meat rests, the salt draws out the moisture and blood. The salt also intensifies the flavor and helps prevent bacteria from entering the meat, making it safe to eat.
After the resting time is over, the pork hind legs undergo a hand-washing process and then get seasoned. Afterward, the ham gets covered with a lard mixture to ensure each leg dries appropriately. The next step involves patience, as the pork legs dry-age for 14 to 36 months. The meat remains in cellars with little sunlight or air during this time.
Each step in the process is crucial to the flavor of prosciutto and makes it distinguished deli meat.
Where Does Prosciutto Come From?
There's some mystery surrounding the exact origins of prosciutto. The legend surrounding this cured ham is that pre-roman Italians developed the process of dry-aging pork to preserve it for extended amounts of time.
Their methods led to the discovery of how delicious this kind of meat could be, and over time, more people began adopting the practices surrounding prosciutto-making in Northern Italy. Today, we enjoy prosciutto as fine, artisanal meat that makes a terrific addition to many recipes.
What Does Prosciutto Taste Like?
You can distinguish multiple flavors in each bite of prosciutto. It's salty and sweet simultaneously, and some varieties include unique spices that color its flavoring.
Each delicate slice of prosciutto includes a streak of fat along its pink surface. The fat isn't chewy or tough and can usually melt on your tongue. Overall, this meat has a rich flavor and a soft texture that make it appealing to many.
What Are the Types of Prosciutto?
As we go a bit deeper into prosciutto knowledge, it's worth noting that there are a few different kinds of prosciutto. As we've learned, the dry-curing process for making prosciutto is quite detailed, and varying any step of the curing technique can lead to a slightly different type of meat.
Factors such as the breed of pig, seasonings used, and pig's diets can also affect the texture and taste of this cured ham. Let's examine some of the different types of prosciutto.
This cured ham variety comes from Tuscany, Italy. Here, pig farming is a widely-held occupation that yields a profitable income.
The prosciutto made in Tuscany often has a dark rind because of the pepper and other spices used in its dry rub. If you see prosciutto with this name or the name prosciutto Toscano, it means the meat came from pigs born and butchered in Tuscany.
Prosciutto di San Daniele
This type of prosciutto comes from the San Daniele region of Italy. Salt curing is one of the significant steps in the making of prosciutto, and this kind of prosciutto involves a unique salting process. The meat is cured only with sea salt in this variety of ham, and then it is pressed for three days to strengthen the flavor.
Prosciutto di Parma
Although all Italian prosciutto is revered for its delicacy and intense flavor, Prosciutto di Parma has an exceptional reputation. This meat's curing process is twice as long as other types, giving it a rich, buttery flavor and texture.
How Is Prosciutto Different From Other Pork?
In addition to prosciutto, there are many other types of meat made from pork. Let's take a brief look at the different kinds of cured meats to understand their unique qualities.
- Culatello: This meat comes from the loin of a pig's hind leg. It is cured in a hog bladder in a moist cellar, and only one importer can transport this meat from Italy to the United States.
- Capicola: This type of meat comes from the coppa muscle in a pig's shoulder or neck area. Like prosciutto, this meat is dry-cured for an extended period. It tends to have more fat than prosciutto.
- Speck: This is another meat that comes from a pig's hind legs. It features a light salt crust and smoky flavor.
- Bacon and Pancetta: These meats come from the pork belly and require cooking before eating.
How Do You Eat Prosciutto?
Prosciutto is best served as thinly-sliced meat and you can enjoy it in several ways. First, you can eat slices of prosciutto alone to savor every aspect of their sweet and salty flavor and creamy texture.
Since prosciutto is highly versatile, you can also pair this meat with bites of fruit, cheese, bread, and vegetables. Sharp cheeses tend to be a good match for this meat. Many wines can also highlight the complex tasting notes in prosciutto.
Where Can You Find Prosciutto?
You can get pre-packed prosciutto from the deli section of your grocery store or supermarket. However, some people find this type of prosciutto to lack the delicate qualities of fresh prosciutto.
If you want prosciutto that tastes excellent and melts in your mouth, try getting it sliced fresh from the deli counter. If you want an even more authentic prosciutto, you might want to take a trip to Italy to get it from the source!
How Long Does Prosciutto Last?
Once you purchase your prosciutto, you can store it for future use if you're not ready to enjoy it immediately. When you buy pre-packaged prosciutto, it will last around two months if it's fully sealed.
However, you should know that once you open the package, you should finish it within two days. You'll also want to eat prosciutto fresh from the deli within five days.
How Do You Serve Prosciutto?
Let's say you're having a few people over for a meal, drinks, and games. When preparing food for your guests, having prosciutto available is an excellent option that is sure to please.
There are several ways to serve prosciutto. You can prepare meat and cheese skewers, fold prosciutto slices on a charcuterie board with fruit and nuts, or wrap it around fruit slices.
However, you don't have to limit yourself to charcuterie boards! You can also use prosciutto in the place of other deli meats in sandwiches for an elevated taste.
Nine Prosciutto Recipes That Will Have You Drooling
Ready to find out what all the excitement is about? Now that you've learned some of the origins and preparation processes behind this cured ham, it's time to try it!
Here are nine recipes you can make with prosciutto this week! Whether you enjoy these recipes alone or prepare them for family or friends, they're sure to be a hit.
1. Prosciutto and Burrata Pasta
Are you a pasta lover? If so, you don't have to stick to the same lasagna you always make. Why not mix things up for a change?
Our Prosciutto and Burrata Pasta is an excellent dish you can prepare when you want to try something new. Every bite is creamy and loaded with rich flavor.
2. Zucchini and Prosciutto Pizza
You might think you know pizza, but you've never tried it like this! They say not to reinvent the wheel, but we couldn't help putting a fresh twist on traditional pizza to make it into something brand new.
Our Zucchini and Prosciutto Pizza recipe combines ricotta cheese with melty prosciutto and zucchini slices. It's a combination you'll have to taste to believe.
3. Cantaloupe and Prosciutto Plate
Melons and prosciutto go hand in hand. This snack only requires three ingredients, but the resulting flavors will blow you away.
Our Cantaloupe and Prosciutto Plate is the ideal snack to throw together when you need something quick before heading out the door. It's ready in just two minutes!
4. Prosciutto and Egg Toast
Sometimes, an elevated breakfast can help start your morning on the right foot. Upgrade your usual eggs and toast with our Prosciutto and Egg Toast dish. The cream cheese, boiled egg, and prosciutto make a perfect team on top of crunchy toast. Add arugula on top for a fancy finish.
5. Prosciutto Pasta Salad
Are you craving something fresh and filling? You don't have to settle for bland foods when you need to make a quick bite to eat. You can make our Prosciutto Pasta Salad in ten minutes! Enjoy the vibrant combination of tomatoes and zingy lemon on pasta with creamy prosciutto for the finishing touch.
6. Prosciutto and Tomato Bruschetta
When you're in need of a snack that's bursting with flavors, this is the one for you. Our Prosciutto and Tomato Bruschetta is filling, and it takes five minutes to prepare. How's that for a quick, crunchy bite to eat?
7. Nectarine, Prosciutto, and Mozzarella Salad
Perhaps you've been curious about pairing prosciutto with fruit. It's a winning combination that works in so many recipes. Our Nectarine, Prosciutto, and Mozzarella Salad is no exception. The bright nectarine taste complements the buttery prosciutto excellently. With mozzarella in the mix, this salad is anything but boring.
8. Pappardelle With Prosciutto and Soft-Boiled Egg
This quick pasta dish is one you'll dream about for days. Our Pappardelle with Prosciutto and Soft-Boiled Egg recipe combines the creamiest flavors of multiple foods. It's done in under ten minutes, so you can prepare it for dinner guests and return to your conversations without missing a beat.
9. Italian Antipasto Platter
Antipasto dishes are terrific appetizers that help set the stage for the main course. When you want to enjoy bites of different foods before your meal is ready, our Italian Antipasto Platter is the perfect solution. Burrata, prosciutto, and cherry tomatoes are just a few stars of this show.
More Easy and Cheap Dinner Ideas
Getting meals on the table shouldn't be challenging. At Jow, we think you deserve stress-free meals that taste amazing. When you're on a budget, it can be intimidating to try new dishes. If you buy too much of an ingredient or select the wrong kind of another ingredient, it can result in expensive groceries and food waste.
We can help with that. One way we help make meals affordable is by optimizing your grocery lists. You can tell us how many people are in your household, and we'll adjust the ingredients to yield the perfect amount of food for your family based on the recipes you're making.
Let us help you try new recipes stress-free at Jow!