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In this section you can find Italian's most loved cured meats and cheeses to immerse yourself in the most famous and delicious products of Italy.
Prosciutto Guanciale, Salami and all the best Italian Cured Meats Wonderful for both special occasions or every day, cold cuts are always present on our tables, whether for a quick sandwich or for a festive lunch.
Symbols of Italian excellence in the world, it is impossible not to associate them with this beautiful country and its traditions.
Speaking of cured meats always evokes a homely atmosphere, brings us back to childhood memories and to the old Italian peasant tradition.
Each part of Italy from North to South has its own variants of cured meats and each one tells a different tradition, bringing back an authentic identity, which has its roots in the common passion for food and true emotions.
The origin of Italian cured meats is very old and even starts from prehistoric times, when pigs began to be raised and consumed, and then developed during the Etruscan era, during which pigs began to be produced for trade.
The Romans later made other advances in the choice and use of the raw material, bringing the ham to their tables as an element of value, the protagonist of parties and banquets.
Italian cold cuts are the expression of a particular tradition to be savored. Each one is a charcuterie work of art and contains within itself all the value of Italianness. Because each cured meat carries with it the scent of the land where it was born, it also contains the story of those who invented, produced, and loved it. Among the raw cured meats we find Prosciutto Crudo, Salame and Speck, but also Guanciale, Pancetta and Salame, the sausage par excellence. These cured meats are preserved thanks to particular processes, such as seasoning and smoking, which give them particular aromas.
Raw Italian cured meats are the flagship of the Italian production of meat products. Their main characteristic is linked to the fact that the meats are not cooked but processed raw, using different preservation techniques.
Considered the "prince" of Italian delicatessen. Prosciutto Crudo is a cured product obtained from selected pork legs, coming from animals weighing between 160 and 180 kg (the so-called "heavy pigs"). The shape is elongated, pear-shaped, while the color inside the ham is pink, uniform, and edged with fat. The scent is fragrant, the flavor is delicate, slightly salty, tasty and aromatic. Some traditional Italian hams have the protection of the European PDO or PGI brands.
How Prosciutto is produced
Pork leg, salt and time: these are the only ingredients used in the processing of prosciutto crudo. Once selected, the thighs (with a weight ranging from 9.5 to 14 kg) are massaged for a long time with salt; then, after a period of rest, they are washed, brushed, dried, checked for any defects and then left to dry at a temperature that must not exceed 15 °C.
Then begins a long and slow seasoning of the thighs, for a period that it lasts from 8 to 16 months, inside suitable and controlled rooms, where the hams are hung on special frames. This process allows the ham to take on those organoleptic characteristics that have made it famous all over the world. During the curing, the "sugnatura" is then carried out, ie the parts of meat around the bone, exposed to the air, are covered with a mixture (generally based on pork fat, salt and ground pepper and other ingredients that vary according to tradition and customs) which prevents the ham from drying out too quickly.
Last but not least, how could we not mention the so-called "King of Prosciutto" or Culatello, obtained from the thigh of pigs reared in the wild, selecting the most valuable part. The most recognized is the Emilian Culatello di Zibello PDO, which has also earned the Slow Food presidium of Emilia Romagna.
Salami has very ancient roots: over the centuries it has evolved into different varieties, to the point of forming its own category of cold cut, with specialties for each region. Italian salami are distinguished from each other by the type of grinding of the meat (which can be fine, medium or coarse), by the spices and ingredients (garlic, chilli, fennel seeds, wine, etc.); that contribute to giving every single type a strong personality.
The meat, fat and any other ground ingredients are bagged and left to mature. And it is precisely towards the end of maturation that each salami acquires its typical aroma. The shape of the salami is generally elongated, varying in size, while inside the slice is bright red with white-pink fat, an intense and appetizing aroma and a well-defined flavor.
There are many Italian salamis, from fine to very fine-grained ones, such as Milano salami, Napoli or Hungarian salami (which is also slightly smoked), to medium or coarse-grained, such as Felino PGI salami, Salame Brianza DDOP, Salame Piacentino DOP, Salame di Varzi DOP or Italian Salamini alla Cacciatora DOP, known for their 'pocket' format. How salami is made Italian salamis can appear very differently from each other, depending on the size, grain, type of spices added to the dough and the length of the seasoning period.
However, there are a number of common elements that define the salami processing cycle: a first phase of grinding the meat and fat of selected pigs; Then there is the mixing with salt, flavorings, spices and the possible addition of other ingredients (such as wine, garlic, chilli, fennel) depending on the recipe of the territory or of the individual producer. We move on to stuffing the dough and then finally to the curing phase, which takes place in special rooms, for a variable period according to the size and characteristics of the salami.
Speck is a typical product of the Italian Northeast, obtained from raw, smoked and cured leg of pork. The one from Alto Adige has received the Community IGP recognition. One of the secrets of a good speck lies in its smoking, an operation that lasts about ten days and which involves the use of non-resinous wood (beech, juniper or ash). The shape of the speck is flattened and elongated, while inside the salami is pinkish in color tending to red, with the fat parts well circumscribed. Speck has a very distinctive, spicy and smoky flavor. From a gastronomic point of view it is extremely versatile. How speck is produced The first step in the production of speck is the preparation of the so-called "baffe": the pork legs are deboned and divided into slices, with the elimination of excess fat and rind. The pieces thus obtained (which must have a balanced distribution of lean and fat parts) are then subjected to salting and flavored with garlic, bay leaves, pepper, juniper berries, nutmeg and other spices and left to rest for about thirty days.
At this point, we move on to smoking, which takes place on iron frames inside large fireplaces powered by maple and beech shavings; a process that lasts about ten days, with temperatures no higher than 20 °. The maturing phase follows, which lasts for at least five months.
Guanciale: the Italian Bacon
Taken from the cheek of a pig, guanciale is a rich, fatty piece of meat that is often cured before being used. Guanciale is found mainly in Italian first courses of central Italy in areas such as Umbria and Lazio and Calabria. Two of the most famous Italian dishes with guanciale are “spaghetti alla carbonara” and “amatriciana”, which both include this cured meat in the sauce. The flavor of the guanciale permeates every bite and gives the sauce a rich and a slightly salty taste.
The use of Guanciale in Italian Kitchen
Since it is a seasoned cured meat, Guanciale can be consumed either raw or cooked. You can try to add the hot pieces to a salad, mixed with eggs, on top of pizza or in any food that could use a punch of pork flavor. When sliced, cooked Guanciale is excellent in a sandwich or also served as a side dish with vegetables and crispy bread.
You can try the Guanciale also cold and thinly sliced on a charcuterie board, sandwich and wrapped around grilled vegetables .
Guanciale can add a lot of flavor to any dish without weighing it down, and because it is high in fat and rich in taste, this is why it is often mixed with pasta and sauces.
OTHER COOKED MEATS
Among the Italian cooked meats, the most famous are Cotechino and Mortadella, which is a cooked sausage made from pork and lard, minced and filled with aromatic notes. Mortadella, with its enveloping aroma and its delicate but not banal taste, is traditionally studded with pistachios.
The most famous of all is the Mortadella di Bologna PGI, widely recognized and loved around the world.
Cotechino is a typical dish of the Italian Christmas holidays: For New Year's Eve, many Italians traditionally eat cotechino with lentils.One of the Italian most popular prepared meats, cotechino is made from boiled pork sausages with a precise combination of ground fat, rind, and pork's head. Like salami, this cured meat is flavored with a range of ingredients that vary by region - from cinnamon, nutmeg and wine to cloves, garlic and thyme.
Another noteworthy salami is the Coppa, obtained from the upper portion of the pork neck and from a part of the shoulder, salted, stuffed and left to mature. With its various interpretations, it takes on different names in our territory: capocollo in Campania, fennel in Siena, ossocollo in Veneto, lombo in Marche and Abruzzo.
There is also Lard and Pancetta, rich and tasty, the first soft and aromatic with its most famous varieties, Lardo di Colonnata PGI and Lardo d'Arnad DOP, and the second, interpreted in many variations, for example smoked, rolled, stewed, salami or coppa. Another respectable cured meat is the Lombard Bresaola, made with raw meat, often beef, stuffed and processed. Low in fat and rich in taste and protein, it is often recommended in diets.
Cheeses include many kinds, ranging from cow, goat, sheep to buffalo cheese, or made with a combination of milks of different species. Fresh cheeses include stracchino, robiola and mascarpone, stretched curd such as mozzarella and provolone, aged such as Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano or even "blue" like Gorgonzola. All Italian cheeses have one thing in common: the highest quality.
In addition to taste, aroma, nutritional equipment, safety, versatility, the quality of the cheeses is intimately linked to the characteristics and healthiness of the raw materials and the skill of our cheesemakers, who have made the Italian dairy tradition the most rich in the world. Thanks to the ability and commitment of our dairy companies, every consumer can find the "right" cheese that satisfies tastes, expectations or needs. As an appetizer, as a condiment, as a main course or as a base for elaborate dishes, many exquisite cheeses have made Italian production famous. There are over 400 varieties, all of which are excellent.
Healthy, natural and nutritious cheeses including the PDO, IGP and STG denominations. Italian cheese is suitable for people of all ages and is able to satisfy all tastes. It is also particularly suitable for the nutrition of children and young people, due to its high content of proteins, calcium and fats.
For those who have dietary concerns or special needs, from the vast family of cheeses on the market today, it is possible to choose the ones that best suit their nutrition in terms of calcium intake, quantity of fat and energy.
The offer of light dairy products, or in any case with a moderate calorie content, is now increasingly wide: thanks to the progress of technological processes, not only "modern" products such as cottage cheese, but also traditional Italian ones, can be found in lighter versions.
Crescenza, gorgonzola, robiola, stracchino, squacquerone, taleggio are just some of the most popular soft cheeses in Italy. Characterized by a high humidity of the dough (between 45 and 70%) which makes them soft or even, these cheeses are often subjected to a short maturation or seasoning, which can last a few days, as in the case of crescenza, a few weeks or two or three months. FRESH CHEESES They have a delicate flavor and aroma, the color is white, the consistency is soft, the fresh cheeses are ready to be consumed immediately after production, without any aging or maturation phase. Mozzarella, mascarpone, burrata, primo sale, cream cheese, tomini are the most common types. For their freshness they are particularly appreciated in summer, when salads and fresh dishes are the most popular in Italy.
Provolone, Caciocavallo, Caciotta, Italico, Emmental Pecorino, Toma and the list goes on, almost indefinitely... Semi-hard cheeses are extremely popular in Italy, they owe their texture and flavor to a maturation phase, which can last up to six months. Semi-hard cheeses have greater consistency than soft cheeses and a more pronounced flavor. The moisture content is between 35 and 45%
Even in hard cheeses, Italy leads the way! It is enough to mention Grana Padano, Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino, to understand that we are talking about the excellence of the Italian tradition. They are cheeses which, due to their particular processing, can be aged for many months (even three years) and which during maturation are enriched with unique flavors and aromas. Appreciated by all great chefs, they are also excellent consumed in chunks, as an aperitif or as an appetizing second course.
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Pecorino Toscano DOP is a soft or semi-hard cheese, produced with whole sheep's milk. It is distinguished in the two types: Tenero (minimum maturation of 20 days) and Stagionato (with maturation of at least four months). Pecorino Toscano PDO has a cylindrical shape with flat sides and a slightly convex side, characterized by a yellow colored crust. The paste has a compact structure, tender when cut and white to slightly straw yellow in color for the “Tenero” type. The flavor is sweet, never savory or spicy, fragrant and accentuated, depending on the particular processing procedures.
Pecorino Toscano can be used as a table or grating cheese, depending on the degree of maturation. If grated, it is excellent on first courses, or to flavor meat-based dishes. Both Tender and Seasoned, pecorino toscano goes well with fresh seasonal vegetables and with jam and honey.
Parmigiano Reggiano has always been one of the best known and appreciated cheeses in the world, with its 900-year history, Parmigiano Reggiano is made in Emilia Romagna, one of the most historic Italian regions.
Parmigiano Reggiano is a 'hard' cheese, characterized by a low water content and a seasoning that can vary from a minimum of 12 months, up to well over 30. It is produced in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Mantua (to the right of the Po river) and Bologna (to the left of the Reno river).
Parmigiano is the result of a very ancient tradition, begun in the Middle Ages by Benedictine and Cistercian monks. Both the quality of its ingredients and the method for its preparation have remained unchanged over time up to the present day, so much so that this specialty is unique and deserves the DOP Denomination which protects its characteristics.
Primo Sale Cheese
The primosale or primo sale, is a cheese produced with sheep's milk, defined by the experts as the father of all Sicilian cheeses. It is currently produced throughout Sicily, an island with a predominantly hilly and mountainous territory. The primosale is today a Typical Agri-food Product (PAT) with an ancient history that represents, in a marked way, the Sicilian gastronomic culture. Excellent if served at the end of a meal, it is ideal if accompanied as an aperitif with olives: an old habit handed down by local farmers throughout history which has remained to this day. We recommend pairing white wines of medium intensity, soft and fresh such as a Soave, a Chardonnay or a Verdicchio.
Caciocavallo is a seasoned cheese (at least 3/4 months) typical of southern Italy. It has a typical pouch shape, oval or truncated cone made with rather fatty milk from Podolian cows with rennet, lactic ferments and salt. Caciocavallo cheese can be spicy or sweet depending on the rennet used. Caciocavallo has become a protected designation of origin (PDO) cheese, its texture is straw yellow in color with a homogeneous consistency with small grains. Caciocavallo Silano DOP It is called Silano as it is produced on the Calabrian highlands of Sila and throughout the South of Italy in the internal areas of the provinces of Crotone, Catanzaro, Cosenza, Isernia, Campobasso, Bari Taranto, Brindisi, Matera, Potenza (Calabria, Basilicata, Campania, Molise and Puglia).
Characteristics of caciocavallo silano DOP: It has an oval or truncated cone shape with the presence of grooves depending on the position of the ties. Its weight varies from 1 kg to 2,500 kg. The rind is thin and smooth with a marked straw yellow color. The paste is compact with slight white or straw-colored holes. It has an aromatic, pleasant flavor, which tends to be delicate and sweet when young, while it becomes spicy with advanced maturation. The presence of fat in the dry matter cannot be less than 38%.
Obviously the most authentic way to taste each of these delicious specialties and others would be the direct experience, visiting the places where these cured meats were born: the villages, the shops, the food laboratories, savoring the history that is contained in them. In any case, if you do not have the time or the way to embark on a real journey to the thousand places in Italy that preserve the charcuterie tradition, you can visit Pinocchio's Pantry, your online Italian grocery shop that lets you be transported by the flavors of the authentic Italian Food. We will take care of bringing all the delicacies you might want straight to your home. Simply search the cured meats & cheese section on pinocchiospantry.com for your favorite product to have it delivered directly to you in no time. Has your mouth watered yet? What are you waiting for, go take a look!