Prosciutto is an Italian ham that has been around for centuries. It is made from pork leg and is often called the “king of hams.” Prosciutto has a delicate flavor and a slightly salty taste. It is best eaten thinly sliced and served as an appetizer or main course. In this blog post, we will discuss what prosciutto is made from, how it is made, what it tastes like, the best way to eat prosciutto, and where to find the best prosciutto in Rome.
Table of Contents:
- What Is Prosciutto?
- How Is Prosciutto Made?
- What is the Best Way to Eat Prosciutto?
- Where to Get Prosciutto in Rome
What Is Prosciutto?
Prosciutto is an Italian dry-cured ham that is made from pork leg. Prosciutto comes from the Latin word prosciugare, which means “to dry.” It also directly translates from Italian to “ham.”
Don’t be confused, though; prosciutto is not the typical deli ham you are used to seeing at grocery stores and delis. Italians take prosciutto seriously, and it’s now a staple in Italian cuisine. While some use it as an appetizer, prosciutto is a popular main course also.
You’ll typically see two versions of prosciutto:
- prosciutto crudo
- prosciutto cotto
Prosciutto crudo is raw, cured ham and absolutely delicious. Crudo is Italian for “raw,” so this version of prosciutto is never cooked.
Prosciutto crudo has a deep red color and is marbled with streaks of flavorful fat. It is typically sliced paper thin and almost becomes transparent when holding a single piece to the light.
Each ultra-thin slice is delicately sweet yet intensely flavorful. As you place a slice in your mouth, the fat melts on your tongue and leaves behind a unique texture, while the lean portion is equal parts sweet and salty.
How to Serve It:
Prosciutto crudo is typically served as an appetizer with a drizzle of olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Another popular way to enjoy prosciutto is to roll it up with some fresh mozzarella, a slice of cantaloupe, and a sprig of basil.
You can also enjoy prosciutto crudo as a main course. Try pairing it with a fresh salad and some crusty bread.
Prosciutto cotto is cooked ham that is typically made from pork shoulder. Cotto means “cooked” in Italian, so this version of prosciutto is pre-cooked.
Prosciutto cotto is milder in flavor than prosciutto crudo and has a softer texture. It ranges in color from pink to light brown and is often sliced thicker than prosciutto crudo.
How to Serve It:
Prosciutto cotto is typically served as a main course. It pairs well with roasted vegetables, grilled chicken, or fish.
You can also enjoy prosciutto cotto as an appetizer. Try pairing it with some fresh fruit or a light salad.
Types of Prosciutto
There are two primary varieties of prosciutto: Prosciutto di Parma and Prosciutto Toscano.
Prosciutto di Parma is made from the hind leg of a pig that is raised in the region of Parma, Italy. The ham is then dry-cured with salt for at least 12 months. The resulting flavor is sweet, nutty, and slightly salty.
Prosciutto Toscano is made from the hind leg of a pig that is raised in Tuscany, Italy. The ham is then dry-cured with salt and spices for at least 3 months. The resulting flavor is spicy, smoky, and slightly salty.
How Is Prosciutto Made?
Now that we know what prosciutto is and the different types available let’s take a closer look at how it’s made.
The first step in making prosciutto is to select the perfect pork leg. The leg must be from a healthy pig that has been raised without antibiotics or hormones.
Once the pork leg is selected, it is then washed and trimmed of any excess fat. The leg is then rubbed with a mixture of salt, spices, and curing agents. The most common curing agents used are sodium nitrite.
The leg is then placed in a climate-controlled room to dry for several months. The temperature and humidity are carefully monitored to ensure the perfect curing environment.
Once the prosciutto is fully cured, it is then sliced and enjoyed.
What is the Best Way to Eat Prosciutto?
Now that we know all about prosciutto, let’s take a look at the best way to eat it.
Prosciutto is typically served as an appetizer or main course. It can be enjoyed on its own or paired with other foods.
If you’re enjoying prosciutto as an appetizer, the best way to eat it is to pair it with some fresh fruit or a light salad. For the main course, try pairing prosciutto with roasted vegetables, grilled chicken, or fish.
Is It Okay to Eat Prosciutto Raw?
Prosciutto is a cured meat, which means it has been treated with salt and other curing agents to prevent spoiling. Cured meats are safe to eat without cooking, and that’s why you’ll commonly see people eat it right from the package.
Should Prosciutto Be Cooked?
While prosciutto is safe to eat without cooking, some people prefer to cook it before eating. Cooking prosciutto will give it a different flavor and texture than eating it raw. If you decide to cook prosciutto, the best way is to pan-fry it lightly.
To pan-fry prosciutto, simply heat a skillet over medium heat and add a thin layer of oil to the pan. Add the prosciutto slices to the pan in a single layer and cook for 1-2 minutes per side or until the prosciutto is crisp.
Remove the prosciutto from the pan and enjoy as is or with your favorite toppings.
Do You Have to Cook Prosciutto?
No, you do not have to cook prosciutto. This uncooked form is known as prosciutto crudo. It is safe to eat without cooking because the curing process, which involves salting and air-drying for an extended period, preserves the meat and eliminates the need for cooking. It’s perfectly safe to be eaten raw, and most prefer the raw prosciutto taste.
Which Cheese Goes Best With Prosciutto?
Many different types of cheese go well with prosciutto. Some of our favorites include:
Try pairing your prosciutto with one of these cheeses for a delicious and easy appetizer.
Why Do People Eat Prosciutto With Melon?
Prosciutto and melon is a classic Italian pairing. The sweetness of the melon pairs perfectly with the salty prosciutto.
Although prosciutto didn’t exist yet, historically speaking, this pairing comes from ancient Roman times. The Romans mixed cold and moist foods with hot and dry ones as a common health practice. Eating cured meat with fruit was believed to boost the immune system.
It later gained popularity around the 1960s and stayed in Italian kitchens since.
If you’re looking for a simple and elegant way to serve prosciutto, try pairing it with a fresh melon.
What Condiment Goes Well With Prosciutto?
While most eat prosciutto without any condiments, if you’re looking for a little something extra to add to your prosciutto, try one of these:
- Balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil
Each of them heightens the already complex flavors of this delicate meat.
Is Prosciutto Healthier Than Bacon?
While both prosciutto and bacon are high in fat and sodium, prosciutto contains fewer calories and fat than bacon. Prosciutto is also a good source of protein and vitamin B12.
So, if you’re looking for a healthier option, prosciutto is the way to go. Just be sure to eat it in moderation, as it is still a high-fat food.
Prosciutto & Aperitivo: Yes, Please!
Learn all about the Italian tradition of pre-dinner drinks!
Where to Get Prosciutto in Rome
If you’re ever in Rome, be sure to check out one of these famous restaurants that offer prosciutto:
– Da Danilo: Trattoria Da Danilo is a little out of the way, with the closest sight being the Colosseum. This restaurant is known for its delicious prosciutto dishes served with melon. It is the least touristy, and we ran into a bunch of locals while visiting.
– Pane e Salame: Don’t be fooled by the name. They sell salami, but they specialize in prosciutto. It’s within walking distance of Trevi Fountain, so make sure you grab a snack on your way to visit one of the most beloved sights in Rome.
– Prosciutteria Cantina dei Papi: There are two locations with the same name. They offer the same dishes, but I think the one in Trastevere is slightly better. They offer a variety of traditional and creative dishes that come in small, medium, or large plates.
No matter what type of prosciutto you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it in Rome. So what are you waiting for? Go check out one of these restaurants and enjoy some delicious prosciutto!
Prosciutto is a delicious, versatile, and healthy meat that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Whether you enjoy it as an appetizer or main course, Prosciutto is sure to delight your taste buds. So what are you waiting for? Go try some prosciutto and let us know your favorites in the comments below!