Everything you need to know about the finest Italian cold cuts

Here we will tell you all about Italian cured meats

Italy is famous all over the world for its food excellencies which are appreciated in particular for their quality. Among these are the cured meats which are one of the products always present on the Italian tables. Each Italian region presents its own variations. Italian Traditions will guide you on the discovery of these traditional products telling you about their history. We will also present the most popular meats and the way they are produced.

The history of cured meats

The origin of cured meats goes way back in time, even to prehistory, period in which man started to breed and consume pork. The production of ham is attributable to the Etruscans, although we owe the following advances to the Romans, especially concerning the choice and processing of the meat, bringing it to become a very valuable product.

In the period of the barbarian invasions a diversification of the various types of cured meats took place, and the prized prosciutto, thanks to new methods of preservation and meat treatment, were flanked by many other types more accessible and suitable for daily use.

Since the 14th century the art of meat curing began its development. In this historical period in fact, many of the typical regional meats known today were born. The real triumph of cured meats took place in the Renaissance period when they were widely present on nobility’s tables. In fact, there are many representations that depict sumptuous banquets based on pork. In 1800 the first delicatessens and the first food laboratories were born.

Which are the most well-known cured meats?

There are many different types of cured meats that are produced in Italy today. We can divide them between cooked or raw and between filled casings or not. Also the meat used may be of:

  • Pork
  • Bovine
  • Equine

Among the most popular raw meats are coppa, bresaola, speck and prosciutto crudo. Very appreciated are also bacon, lard and salami that is the cured meat par excellence. These are preserved through special machining processes. This is the seasoning and smoking that give the final product a particular aroma. Among the most famous are zampone, cotechino, cooked ham and mortadella.

How to prepare cured meats?

These food excellencies take shape thanks to traditional production processes that have been handed down through generations. An example of this can be found in the preparation of Bresaola of Valtellina PGI and the Bresaola of Bufala. These owe their intense taste to their processing. The meat is left to rest in brine tanks flavored with laurel, juniper berries and carnation flowers.

The art of filling a casing with meat is very old. Meat should, first of all, be boned and cleaned eliminating all nerves and tendons. Then it is mixed with aromas. An example is the Culatello di Zibello DOP, which is prepared in this way.

To produce uncured meats (for example hams) it is necessary to work the whole part of the animal. This is subjected to cooking, smoking and seasoning. A fundamental aspect of the production of cured meats is the choice of the raw ingredients to be used.


The Italian gastronomic tradition is recognized all over the world as a food excellence. The techniques of processing and preservation of these products have been transmitted through the generations and are still implemented today. If you want to find out more about the topic we recommend reading this article about the difference between salame and soppressata. Now that you know what Italian traditional cured meats are most famous and appreciated in the world all you have to do is taste them if you haven’t done so yet.

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