SALUMI - Ingredienti: Marcella's Guide to the Market - Marcella Hazan, Victor Hazan

Ingredienti: Marcella's Guide to the Market - Marcella Hazan, Victor Hazan (2016)




Cured Ham


Prosciutto, a product of Nature and craft, is the world’s most perfectly created food. Nature furnishes the pig, an animal that surpasses all others in the copious variety of its delectable parts. Artisans take the most precious of those parts, the hind leg, and under the benevolent influence of Nature’s other gift, climate, exercise the ancient skill of curing meat with salt and air and time.

You can cook with prosciutto, but it grants its greatest pleasures when you eat it out of hand, sliced fresh from the cured leg, and laid on a single side of buttered, lightly toasted, good plain bread. Also, yes, it is delicious with cantaloupe melon, and heavenly with ripe, ripe figs. My first recollection of a taste I enjoyed goes back to when I was a little girl. It has been almost eighty years, a long reach for taste memory, but I can lucidly remember a slice of Parma ham that the salumaio who was serving my mother kindly handed me. Its bright pink color ringed by a glossy white ribbon of sweet fat, the wonder of its luscious, fleshy scent, of the tender, silken meat—if I think of it, I am instantly hungry.

The role of salt in the curing process is to draw away moisture and keep the meat from spoiling while it is curing. Prosciutto, the word, comes from the Italian verb prosciugare, which means to dry out. Good prosciutto never tastes either salty or dry because of the moist, sweet fat that surrounds it. To strip away that narrow rim of fat is a misguided practice that upends the subtle balance of flavors the curer achieved and prevents prosciutto from delivering the pure pleasure that, after its long, carefully monitored cure, resides within it.

If you have the opportunity, ask the fellow who slices prosciutto if he has the gambetto—the end piece toward the shank—available. It is the sweetest and most savory part of the leg. When I can’t get to someone who can slice prosciutto fresh for me, I buy one or more of the vacuum-sealed packs of imported Parma ham from the supermarket. The contents are visible, so I go through all the hams in the deli meats counter to pick out the ones that show the most fat.

When you are intending to drape a slice of prosciutto over melon or to wrap it around a honey-oozing fig, it is helpful to have it sliced thin, as long as it’s not so thin as to be impalpable. If you are eating it with buttered bread or unsalted crackers, it should be sliced thicker, ideally by hand, to provide more chewy pleasure.

You may want to add the deep flavors of prosciutto to the filling of tortellini or to line a pasta rotolo. Prosciutto cut into slivers or sliced thick and diced is the main component of a classic sauce for tagliatelle that the cooks of my hometown make. It is sautéed in unsalted butter at steady, but moderate heat. It mustn’t cook long or hard, or it will be too salty. The same caution applies to the Tuscan peas and prosciutto dish. Another prosciutto classic is saltimbocca, in which the sliced ham is pinned with a toothpick to a veal cutlet. In Bologna, prosciutto is wrapped around a small bundle of asparagus, crisscrossed with slices of fontina cheese, and baked.

When prosciutto is cooked, heat dries it out and it becomes saltier, prompting us to reduce or eliminate salt on the other ingredients. On occasion, as I have suggested in some of my recipes, you might consider cooking with prosciutto cotto or plain baked ham instead of cured prosciutto.


Wherever someone raises pigs in Italy, someone cures prosciutto. In most instances, the enthusiasm they arouse is not likely to travel far from the production zone, but there are a few whose quality has been widely recognized for centuries. Each prize example of the ham-curing craft can trace some of its distinctive character to the air wherein it spent part of its time. The best known of these is the prosciutto of my childhood memory, the celebrated, salmon-colored Prosciutto di Parma, which for ages has been synonymous with prosciutto itself. The dry, briny air that accompanies the aging of Parma ham is lofted from the Riviera and travels over the hills south and west of Parma, where towns such as Langhirano, at eight hundred feet above sea level, hang their hams during the final months of their cure. Altogether it takes twelve months to cure a Parma ham weighing about twenty-two pounds. An occasional larger ham may cure for up to fourteen months. There are producers who look for legs of special merit in size and quality, which they will age as long as twice the standard time of twelve months. I ­haven’t seen Parma ham aged twenty-four months in any shop here, but if you should find it, that is the one to get. It would be for eating by the slice, not for cooking.


San Daniele’s prosciutto is produced in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, in the mountainous northeastern edge of Italy. It’s a heavier leg than the one used for Parma ham, and it is aged a month or two longer. The trotter is left on, except if shipped to America, when it must be cut off by FDA request. San Daniele is cured high above sea level, where it benefits from an intersection of pine-scented, Alpine airs and the Adriatic’s marine breezes. With its sweet flavor, delicately persistent aroma, and all-encompassing Venetian finesse, San Daniele stands apart from other cured hams. You don’t want it sliced paper-thin on a machine, but hand-cut and palp­able. It needs to be served on a large plate with unsalted butter and grilled bread. Nothing else you would do could increase your enjoyment of it.


Another eminent example, Prosciutto di Carpegna, ages for more than a year in the dry, clean air of a small hill town 2,500 feet above sea level. Carpegna, abutted by evergreens and oak trees, the kind of vegetation that flourishes in a dry, cool, mild climate, looks down on the Adriatic from its high perch in the Marche region, close to the Republic of San Marino. In size, color, and flavor, Carpegna’s prosciutto resembles Parma’s ham more closely than San Daniele’s. It is fragrant, sweet, and deep.


Cinta Senese is an odd-looking breed of hog from Tuscany’s south. It is black or darkest gray, with a broad white band hugging its shoulders. Cinta, the Italian word for “belt,” alludes to that white band. In their fourth month, the pigs are let out to roam freely in the woods, where they feed on acorns. When Cinta Senese’s dark red flesh, thickly padded with glossy, ivory-white fat, becomes prosciutto, the flavor is extraordinary, intense, sensually stirring, yet fine and fragrantly nutty.

The leg is cured with the trotter on, like San Daniele prosciutto, and aged up to a year and a half. It makes an expensive slice of ham, which travelers to Tuscany can enjoy while the FDA ponders whether it will approve its export to the States.


Smoked ham is a rarity in Italy, a taste associated with Teutonic rather than Latin gastronomy. In the far north of Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, the remote Sauris valley, which is the source of the country’s finest smoked prosciutto, is in fact a German-speaking enclave inside the Italian border. The Sauris production method is drawn both from the Teutonic tradition of spicing and smoking and from the Italian practice of air-drying. The legs to be air-cured are first massaged with a seasoning blend of sea salt, black pepper, and garlic. Using beechwood, they are smoked for no longer than three days, and after a resting period, they are hung to air-dry for at least ten months. The taste of Prosciutto di Sauris, which awaits an export permit, is exquisitely sweet, with smoke just a delicate accent.


Speck is produced in Alto Adige/South Tyrol, a formerly Austrian region that became Italian after World War I. Even more than the smoked prosciutto from Sauris, it leans heavily on Teutonic curing tradition, using more spice and more smoke before completing the cure by the Italian air-drying method. The leg that will be made into speck must first be boned and tied, and commercial producers trim away some of the fat. The cured meat is a dark, vivid red against a bright white rim of fat. It is firmer, drier, and more pungently aromatic than Italian-style prosciutto.


Cooked Ham

After becoming masters of dry-cured ham, Italians waited several centuries before trying their hand at making cooked ham. It was worth the wait. Prosciutto cotto sets the standard of quality that any ham that is either steamed or boiled would hope to reach. The legs used to make prosciutto cotto come from a hog’s hindquarter, like the ones used for curing Parma ham, but they are boned and partially skinned. A proprietary blend of salt and aromatic substances, which varies depending on the producer, is injected into the leg’s muscles, then the leg is trimmed to fit a mold wherein it is steamed at moderate temperatures.

A high-quality prosciutto cotto is juicy, tender, fragrant, and appetizingly pink. It gives me as fine a pleasure as the best cured prosciutto. I enjoy mine most when sliced not too thin, with none of its sweet fat removed, and laid on buttered bread.

Prosciutto cotto is invaluable to the cook as a milder alternative to cured prosciutto, which can become quite salty through cooking. I would use it in any sauce that calls for prosciutto, such as the one with prosciutto and asparagus, or in a saltimbocca, or in a baked vegetable dish, or in a frittata.

The best of many producers are Rovagnati Gran Biscotto, Ferrarini, and Parmacotto. Parmacotto has its own New York shop and restaurant, Salumeria Rosi, from which you can order Italian prosciutto cotto online. Rovagnati’s Gran Biscotto is also available online, as well as sliced to order at many stores that specialize in Italian products. You may also look online for Ferrarini, which is very highly regarded in Italy both by professionals and consumers.



I wasn’t raised to cook with guanciale. I didn’t even know it existed. When I was young, I assumed, like other Italians, that there wasn’t anything worth knowing about food beyond the dishes that Mother brought to the table. Everything I have learned since, aside from my family’s cooking, I have learned by living in many different places. In Italy, a different place is different in everything: in its appearance, in its dialect, in the history of its people, and strikingly, in its cooking. When, in the 1960s, my husband and I moved to Rome, I made guanciale’s acquaintance, and along with it came the experience of a bold cuisine with rich, palate-­stunning flavor.

Guanciale is the jowl of a nine-month-old pig, rubbed with salt, black pepper, and other spices, and air-dried for three months. It is often compared to pancetta, which undergoes a comparable cure, but it is firmer and more richly endowed with tasty fat, and the flavor it contributes to the dishes where it is present is more intense than pancetta.

Guanciale is an indivisible part of such iconic Roman pastas as carbonara, amatriciana, and gricia. It is also essential to vegetables such as fava beans braised in the Roman manner with olive oil. If you are among those who appreciate the luscious texture and flavor of tripe, trippa alla romana with mint and guanciale will make you happy. If you are making a battuto mincing celery, onion, carrot, and parsley and you want to add intensity to it, you could use guanciale. Wrap very thin slices of guanciale around peeled, marinated shrimp and grill over a moderate fire. Delicious. When making a sauce with prosciutto dice, you may sometimes replace the prosciutto with similarly diced guanciale. Guanciale sliced thin can be crisped as you would bacon. My husband nibbles it as he slices it. If it has been fully cured, it is safe to eat uncooked, like prosciutto.

Guanciale in America is necessarily different from guanciale in Italy. Italian butchers use hogs that are at least nine months old and weigh more than 350 pounds. The hogs butchered in the States are no older than six months, and when slaughtered, weigh about 270 pounds. The quality of the meat in the much smaller American guanciale, the balance between well-developed fat and muscle heft, falls short of the Roman original.

The flavor of American guanciale may not quite equal the Italian model, but even at the commercial level there is acceptable guanciale available in this country, both online and from food stores that specialize in Italian products. If you have access to a good, and possibly older and heavier hog, you may even decide to make it yourself, following the recipes posted on the Internet. It shouldn’t be too difficult.


Pancetta translates as “little belly.” It is made, indeed, from the half fat and half lean meat of a pig’s belly. Pancetta is salted, spiced, and air-cured for three weeks to three months, depending on the cure and the curer. It enjoys a broader welcome in American kitchens than any other Italian pork product, and well-deserved it is. Sliced or diced or chopped fine, depending on the recipe, its balanced flavor enriches dishes beyond counting in cuisines both in and out of Italian tradition.

Nothing like a thin slice of pancetta works so well in making rollups, best with veal, but delicious with any meat scaloppini. When skewering delicate seafood such as scallops or shrimp for the grill, a strip of pancetta pinned to each piece with a toothpick will enhance it with moisture and flavor. Diced pancetta is divine intervention in the cooking of vegetables, and heaven-sent in pasta sauces. If you can’t get your hands on guanciale, pancetta is an irreproachable substitute in a carbonara or an amatriciana. Add a grating of Parmigiano and black pepper to eggs and pancetta to make a frittata that achieves absolute goodness.

Pancetta comes either flat—stesa—or rolled up—arrotolata. I prefer the rolled-up version, the more popular one in northern Italy, because I find it moister and sweeter. It doesn’t take me long to go through a whole pancetta, particularly if I find the delicious one that Paul Bertolli makes at Fra’ Mani in Berkeley. I keep it refrigerated, tightly wrapped in aluminum foil. When I am out of his and need pancetta, I get it from the supermarket, sliced thick or thin as I may require. If you don’t use all your sliced pancetta right away, lay the slices flat on a sheet of aluminum foil, arranging them side by side with minimal overlapping. Place another sheet of foil on top and flatten it with a rolling pin or a bottle to force out all the air you can. Fold over the edges of the foil. You should be able to see the profile of each slice bulging against the foil. This is a neat way to keep leftover slices of prosciutto or mortadella or other sliced meats.

Pancetta Affumicata

In Venice, where I once lived, and elsewhere in the Veneto region and in the other regions of northeastern Italy, smoked pancetta is as common as the more Italian salt-cured version. It is a gastronomic souvenir of the nineteenth-century Austrian occupation.


If you travel to Tuscany, carnesecca is what native Tuscans call pancetta. A Tuscan product called rigatino is similar to pancetta. It is made from the flank of the pig, salted and rubbed with pepper, garlic, rosemary, and ground lemon and orange rind. It is rolled up like pancetta and aged for about a month and a half.


La Rete di Maiale


Anyone who has overcooked a fish fillet, or has been faced with a discouragingly lean piece of pork loin or venison, or has had game birds to roast, or is weary of the dryness of chicken breasts, or would like her hamburger to have a more luxurious feel, any cook at all needs caul fat in her kitchen.

Caul is a lacy membrane of pure fat that shelters the organs of a pig’s abdominal cavity. It is as pretty as a doily and does wonders wrapped around a piece of meat. While the meat cooks, the caul around it melts and vanishes, leaving behind it moistness and good flavor.

In Italian cooking, the most celebrated use of caul fat is with fegatelli (pork liver). Cut fresh pork liver into stubby, sausage-like chunks, sprinkle with salt, lay a bay leaf on each chunk, and wrap it a couple of times with a piece of caul. Grill over charcoal, just long enough for the caul to melt, which it does quickly. I adore liver, and of the many things I can do with it, fegatelli with caul fat is the one I love best.

Caul fat is soft and flexible. Cut it to fit and wrap it around anything you want to bake, roast, or fry. Drape it on the breast of a chicken you are roasting, wrap a whole quail with it, line a gratin pan in which you will bake vegetables or wrap it around the vegetables themselves, use it as a more practical and edible sausage casing, enclose mashed potatoes in a square of caul to make fritters, bandage a leg of lamb with caul, or enclose a whole meat loaf.

Before you use it, soften caul fat for about ten minutes in lukewarm water and rinse it with vinegar to chase away any funkiness. Soak it briefly in water again afterward.

You are likely to be buying caul fat frozen. It stays in excellent condition in the freezer for several weeks. If possible, thaw only what you are going to use. If you must thaw it all, spread the caul flat and roll it up lined with plastic wrap for storage in the refrigerator. If you have a butcher that can provide you with fresh caul fat, line it with plastic wrap and store it until you need it. It should keep well in the refrigerator for two to three weeks.


Cotechino and its twin, zampone, are large pork sausages whose delectable creamy consistency, when they have been cooked, comes from the large percentage of ground pork rind in the composition of their stuffing. Cotica is the Italian word for pork rind or skin, hence the name of the sausage, cotechino. Zampone is the pig’s trotter, scooped hollow and filled like cotechino with a ground-up mixture of pork shoulder, neck, and other lean cuts, fatback, and pork rind. They were created in Modena province at the time of the Renaissance and have remained among the most delicious of northern Italian pork products for five hundred years. Cotechino came first, soon followed by zampone.

When fully cooked, pork rind becomes gelatinous. It is said that one can tell if a cotechino contains the necessary amount of gelatin when your fingers become sticky touching a cooked slice of it. Cooks in Italy capitalize on the succulent, buttery character of pork rind by using it in stews, soups, and a casserole of cannellini or cranberry beans; cutting into a fine dice and adding it to the filling of stuffed vegetables; or even by cooking the rind to soften it and making stuffed meat rollups with broad strips of it.

In northern Italy one celebrates New Year’s Day at home with reddish pink slices of a boiled cotechino—or ­zampone—spread on a platter alongside a mound of lentils that are a metaphor for coins, hence prosperity. A sliced cotechino or two is the starring event of a Sunday with the family in winter, served with mashed potatoes, or polenta, or sautéed Savoy cabbage, or alone with mustard fruits. In Venice, where it is called musetto, the creamiest of all cotechinos, one of our favorite winter cicchetti—Venetian tapas served at wine bars—was a steaming slice of cotechino served over a round of bread or a square of grilled polenta and topped with mustard.

There are varying approaches to cooking a whole cotechino, but all agree that it has to start in cold water and it must boil at a simmer for about two hours. I like to let it soak in cold water first for at least a few hours, or even overnight. Some puncture the casing first with toothpicks and cook it wrapped in muslin. I do not.

It may not be easy to find butchers that make fresh cotechino, and when they do, they rarely endow it with its traditional full complement of ground pork rind so that, once cooked, it ends up with the consistency of boiled salami. What you can find easily at online sources is fully cooked, creamy cotechino imported from Italy and packed in a sealed foil bag. Boil the cotechino in that bag for about thirty minutes, checking the package instructions. Once done, retrieve the bag using tongs, place it in a deep dish, and snip open one end, emptying out the hot fluids it contains. Slide the cotechino out of its foil bag and onto a serving platter, where you can slice it. Handle it carefully; the hot, moist sausage is very slippery, and it could slide right off of the platter and onto the floor, as has once happened to me.


Lardo is what you make to capitalize on the sweet taste and luscious texture of the most delectable part of the pig: its fat. Lardo is not the rendered fat used for frying; it is a solid piece of pure, uncooked fat cured with salt, garlic, herbs, and spices for a period that, depending on where it is made and by whom, may last from a few weeks to two years. The fat for lardo, a layer about one and a half inches thick, is taken from the pig’s back, preferably from over its hindquarters. It is cured with sea salt, black pepper, rosemary, and chopped garlic and aged in a tightly closed container.

The lardo that you buy in the States is produced here. Many chefs make their own. If you travel to Italy, it would be worth your time to taste lardo in its country of origin, particularly that produced in two small zones whose lardo is extraordinary and inimitable. The more famous of the two is in Colonnata, a mountain town in Tuscany, adjacent to Carrara and its historic quarries of white marble.

Colonnata cures its lardo in small, sarcophagus-like tubs made from locally quarried marble. The internal surfaces of the tub are rubbed with garlic. Slabs of lard are rubbed with salt and tightly packed inside the tub, each slab resting on a mixture of salt, black pepper, rosemary, and garlic, and occasionally, depending on the producer, one or two other less traditional herbs. A solid marble lid is lowered onto the tub, sealing it tightly. Inside, the lardo cures for six months to a year. A two-year curing period is not unknown, but it has become rare. The salt draws out moisture, submerging the lard in a protective brine that keeps it from spoiling. The fine grain of the marble of the curing tubs creates a unique aging environment wherein the scents released by the herbs and spices gently infiltrate the lardo.

The itinerary of your trip to Italy may not include the Valle d’Aosta, an Alpine region on the border with France, but it is worth a detour for its landscape, its dishes, its ethereal wines, and its special lardo, Lardo d’Arnad. The fat comes from the shoulders of pigs that have never eaten grain, but only chestnuts and local greens. The curing brine with which the slabs of lard are covered is seasoned with sea salt, rosemary, bay leaves, sage, nutmeg, juniper berries, cloves, and garlic. The traditional curing container, called a doil, was, until recently, handmade of chestnut wood. It is being replaced by glass boxes in which Lardo d’Arnad ages for twelve months to two years. If the producer chooses to age it two years, he will make the brine with white wine. The finely aromatic flavor of Lardo d’Arnad is more intense than Lardo di Colonnata, yet delicate withal.

The universal way of enjoying lardo is to slice it very thin—the effortless passage of a sharp blade going through lardo is itself a tactile pleasure—and then lay it, with a light grinding of black pepper, on still-hot grilled bread. When it meets the heat of the bread, the lardo immediately begins to dissolve.

Other delicious uses abound for lardo: draped over a lamb chop as you turn it over on a grill; accompanying warm butter beans; as a wrap when grilling shelled lobster tails or large shrimp that you have previously marinated with salt, lemon juice, bread crumbs, and olive oil; with a ripe pear; over roasting potatoes. Sliced or thickly diced, you can command the soft touch and lightly spiced scent of lardo to delight you in infinite combinations with meat, seafood, crusty breads, pizza, pasta e fagioli, fresh cheeses, and fried eggs.

Cunza, Crema di Lardo

In the countryside kitchens of Emilia-Romagna, women make a scone-like salty biscuit called tigella, which they slice open and stuff with a cream of whipped lardo known as cunza. The other components, beside lardo (some cooks use pancetta instead of lardo), are salt, pepper, rosemary, and garlic. Very little garlic. The narrowest hole of a meat grinder is the best tool through which to grind all the ingredients, but if you don’t have a meat grinder, patiently mince the rosemary leaves and garlic very, very fine using a sharp chef’s knife or a mezzaluna, then whip everything up together with the lardo (or pancetta) in a food processor. Spoon the cream on bruschetta or on meat on the grill or on a roast loin of pork. When stuffing it into tigelle, Bolognese cooks add a grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano.