Whether walking in a famous city like Milan, or in south Italy, if you stop in some supermarket, you will find a wide variety of cold cuts. However, if you love processed meat and pork in general, you will remain surprised to discover all the different types of Italian cold cuts in Italy. The strong presence of Italian cold cuts in Italy derive from a proverb that says-
“from the meat of the pork, there isn’t nothing to throw away.”
This ancient proverb comes from the old Italian farmers that usually used all the parts of the animals to obtain more food.
The tradition of preserving meat has been implemented in all Italian regions. Nowadays, this process is no longer necessary, but it has given birth to something precious for Italy. The cold cuts. Prosciutto, specks, Mortadella, products that have become popular and appreciated worldwide. To provide an in-depth overview of all the varieties and types of cold cuts in Italy, below you can find a list of the best Italian cold cuts you can taste in Italy.
15 Best cold cuts to try in Italy
Before seeing in more detail all the types of cured meats, you have to know something interesting about the use of cold cuts in the Italian lifestyle.
Though Italians stereotype is usually associated with healthy food in the world, you have to know that Italians primarily consume cold cuts. In the majority of Italian cuisine, every day at lunch or dinner time, there will be some salami or ham.
After introducing you to these interesting facts about cold cuts in Italy, I want to tell you what we will see in the next part of the article.
To give you a complete vision of the different types of cured meat present in Italy, you will see both raw and cooked meat in the list. This is because both types of cold cuts are prevalent, and the consumption of one kind concerning another depends exclusively on the preference of a person.
Our list of the best cold cuts in Italy starts with the most healthy cold cut that you can eat in Italy. The Bresaola. The low quantity of fats and dark color can easily recognize it. The origins of Bresaola come from Valtellina in Lombardy. Bresaola is produced in most of Italy’s region. The meat used to create Bresaola is beef, horse, deer, buffalo, or pork. The best quality of Bresaola that you have to taste if you visit Italy is Bresaola della Valtellina IGP.
The Bresaola Valtellina IGP is produced utilizing beef from European breeds, and the most used cut is the hip tip. Bresaola can be consumed with bread and in some pizza as a topping for a delicious pizza.
Cured Italian meats are very popular worldwide, and it is for a good reason. They are delicious and produced with the best meat and procedures shared from generation to generation. Among the list of the best Italian cured meats, we found Prosciutto Crudo.
For those who don’t consume a lot of cold cuts, you have to know that there are two types of Prosciutto: Crudo and Cotto. The difference is simple: Crudo means raw, while Cotto means cooked. The Crudo version of Ham is considered more prestigious and, in most cases, more expensive than prosciutto Cotto.
Prosciutto Crudo is obtained by dry salting the pork leg. The most renewed and famous varieties of Prosciutto Crudo are Prosciutto Crudo San Daniele DOP and Prosciutto di Parma DOP. Whatever variants of prosciutto Crudo you decide to taste in Italy, you will remain surprised by the intense flavor of this Italian cold cut.
Salame is undoubtedly one of the most consumed cold cuts in Italy. You will find many different variants depending on the region you will visit. It is part of the majority of the Italian territory to prepare dry salami following procedures that will be variable from place to place. Salami is prepared with different spices and meat respecting the local tradition.
Salami derives from the salty process that helps preserve this cold cut. The most commonly used meat is pork, pure or mixed. If you enter an Italian supermarket, the majority of salami names you will find are our Salame Milano, Salame Napoli, Salame Ungherese, and Salame Torino.
If you are in south Italy, more precisely in Calabria, you can taste a different type of salami that is very popular in north Italy too. The soppressata.
Soppressata salami is a type of cold cut exclusively produced in Calabria. For the production is used pork shoulder and under-rib meat are. Then It is flavored with salt and spicy red pepper with the addition of fennel seeds.
If you are looking for cured meat with a smoked taste, Speck must be your priority. Speck is an Italian cold cut that originated in Trentino Alto Adige, a northern region of Italy. You can find Speck in any supermarket in Italy, from north to south. There are two main different ways of cutting and tasting this cured meat. The first and most common is the traditional way, consisting of slim slices cut by a slicer. In comparison, the second way consists of using a knife.
In ancient times, the production of Speck was exclusively limited to the peasant. Only recently, the Speck has become famous in Italy and worldwide. The most famous varieties of Speck produced in Italy are Speck dell’Alto Adige IGP and Speck di Sauris.
Speck can be served during aperitivo, among other cold cuts in the famous “Tagliere” that you can taste in most bars in Italy. As topping in pizza, as ingredients for flavoring dishes such as risotto speck and mushroom, or pasta with Speck and zucchini. Speck is undoubtedly one of Italy’s most famous and tasty cold cuts. If you are visiting Italy, especially Trentino Alto Adige, it is undoubtedly worth giving a try to Speck.
Proceeding with my list of the best Italian cold cuts, we found Culatello. This cured meat is less famous than the first four we just saw, but it is worth mentioning in the list. Culatello is a cured meat produced in Emilia Romagna. It is said as one of the most prestigious cured meats in Italy. Culatello is considered the most prestigious cured meat because of the part of the pork that is used to produce it.
For the production of Culatello, the pig bladder is used and considered the softest and most valuable part of the thigh of adult pigs reared in the wild. The most famous Culatello produced in Italy is Culatello di Zibello (DOP). He was rewarded with a protected designated origin.
Culatello di Zibello’s (DOP) shape is similar to a pear. And it is left to mature in the typical local cellars for a minimum of 10 months. Another curiosity of Culatello di Zibello regards the period of production. It is only produced between October and February. Culatello di Zibello is produced during these months because of the temperature and fog conditions in the Parma zone. Considered ideal for creating a prestigious final product.
One of the most different Italian cured meats is Lardo. I am curious to know how many of you have heard about that. So here is what you need to know for those who have never heard about this Italian cold cut. Lardo is a cured meat produced by utilizing pork meat. More precisely, it uses the subcutaneous fat of the neck, back, and sides of the pork. Therefore, Lardo is highly loaded with saturated fat. But despite this, it is one of Italy’s most consumed cold cuts.
There are different varieties of Lardo produced in Italy. The most famous are Lardo di Colonnata IGP and Lardo di Arnad DOP. The name Lardo di Colonnata derives from the places where it is produced. A small town Colonnata near Carrara in Emilia Romagna. At the same time, the Lardo di Arnad Dop is produced in Valle d’Aosta, following a slightly different procedure.
The Lardo texture is soft, and the inside part of it is white. The fragrant scent is derived from the mixture of spices used for production. If you spend your holidays in the area nearby Carrara, you will find Lardo di Colonnata in almost every restaurant. It is considered a prestigious cold cut, so be prepared to spend more than other cold cuts.
Another cured meat that you should try is Pancetta. A very high-in-fat cured meat made by using the fat from the belly of the pork. Also, in this case, Pancetta can be found in most of Italy’s region, and the taste and aspect will vary depending on the production methodology used. Pancetta can be found in two different variants: smoked and dry.
Italians utilize Pancetta for preparing different dishes. The most famous recipe that utilizes Pancetta is carbonara. Anyway it is worth mentioning that, in Rome, where carbonara originated, is used exclusively Guanciale, the use of Pancetta for carbonara is used in other parts of Italy. Different ways of utilizing Pancetta are during appetizers or just consumed raw with bread or Focaccia. The two most famous and renewed producers of Pancetta in Italy are two. Pancetta piacentina, Pancetta di Calabria.
Capocollo, also named coppa, is another important cured meat produced in Italy. The names, as well as the preparation method for producing Capocollo, are different in Italy. Capocollo can be also named Finocchiata, in Siena, Ossocollo in Veneto, and lonza in Lazio region. As you might notice, the terms are other, but the part of the pork used for the production is not. In fact, for producing Capocollo is used the upper portion of the pig’s neck and leg of the shoulder are.
After selecting the meats for production, they are salted, stuffed into natural casings, and finally left to age. The final products that will dictate the taste of capocollo will depend on the region and spices added during the final process. For example, you might find more spice variations in south Italy compared to the capocollo version of northern Italy.
I cannot proceed with the best Italian cold cuts list by mentioning the most used one. I am speaking about Prosciutto Cotto, cooked ham.
Prosciutto Cotto is obtained after the pork leg’s salty and cooling procedure. In Italy, you can find three main types of cooked ham. The high-quality cooked ham, the selected ham, and cooked ham.
Together with prosciutto Crudo, which we already saw above, prosciutto Cotto is very widespread in Italian cuisine. However, it is a versatile cold cut, and it can be used during aperitifs, for enriching some pasta, as we saw in my food guide of Calabria, and still, as topping in pizza or for preparing delicious sandwiches.
Before being placed on the market, the cooked ham must follow a seasoning period. So it will be different from Prosciutto Crudo, which is marked with a label for the period. After cooking and cooling, it is left to season for a smaller period.
Mortadella takes the first position on my list of best Italian cold cuts. The reason? It is delicious, and the scent of this cured meat is irresistible. Mortadella is made with pig meat obtained by utilizing the best part of the pork. Mortadella’s origins date back to the I century, in the area between Lazio and Emiglia Romagna.
The best Mortadella that you can taste is in Bologna. Mortadella Bologna has been recognized with IGP awards. The standard version of Mortadella Bologna contains pistachios; anyway, you might find some alternative arrangements of it without.
Mortadella Bologna is used for preparing a lot of different dishes. The most traditional ways predict consumption with Mortadella and a special bread called “Ciabatta.” If you can spot a pizza with Mortadella and pistachios, I suggest trying it. It is something incredible, and most importantly will provide you with the chance to savor the authentic flavor of this cured meat present in the list.
Proceeding with the list of the best Italian cold cuts, we found a slightly different cured meat—the Cotechino. From the picture above, Cotechino might not look like the best thing to try in the world, but before giving your final verdict, it is essential to know more about it.
Cotechino is part of the traditional dishes consumed by Italians during the Christmas period. More precisely, Cotechino is eaten together with lentils as a symbol of luck between the night of 31 December and 1 January.
The origin of Cotechino is ancient. The first apparition in Italy is dated to 1510 in the Modena areas. The most famous Cotechino is the Cotechino of Modena, awarded with the designated origin product stamp. The tradition of eating Cotechino with lentils during the celebration of New Year is widespread in Italy. It is more present in 4 regions of Italy: Emilia Romagna, Lombardia, Molise, Trentino, and Veneto.
Even if Ciccioli is not considered cold meat, and you will not find it on sale in the grocery store, supermarket, or butcher’s, the history behind it makes me decided to insert it. Ciccioli is small slices of pork fat. Low-income families primarily consumed Ciccioli because of the high calories and energy transmitted.
Nowadays, you might find Ciccioli sold as snacks in some street foods. They are excellent snacks to eat as appetizers or as ingredients to enrich the taste of dishes.
When you speak about Carbonara with some Italian, you must remember that the only ingredient you have to mention is Guanciale. This cured meat is not the same as the Pancetta, also known as Bacon. Instead, Guanciale is produced utilizing the cheek of the pork.
Traditional methods are utilized for the production of Guanciale. The tradition wants that after salting, the Guanciale is covered with ground black pepper or directly hung for the entire seasoning. Therefore, you will have the possibility to find Guanciale in every part of Italy. As for other cold cuts that we saw on the list, the flavor will depend on the region.
If you are walking through some street food in Rome or the center of Italy, you will likely find a food truck that sells “Panino with Porchetta.” Porchetta is part of the best and most consumed cold cuts in Italy.
The origin of this cured meat needs to be documented more perfectly. Anyway, in most of the resources, you can find the origin of Pancetta is denominated in Ariccia, a city in the Lazio region.
Porchetta is composed of a whole pig, emptied and boned, seasoned and flavored with many aromas and spices, which blend during prolonged cooking. If you are a meat lover and want to taste the best Italian cold cuts, you can not miss this specialty of the center of Italy.
Salama da sugo
I ended up with my list of the best Italian cold cuts with a not famous cured meat—Salama da Sugo. I am not surprised if you have never heard about that. This cold cut is famous only in Ferrara. It has a rounded shape similar to a melon with a dark red color. Also, this particular Italian cold cut received the nomination, entering the list of IGP products. It is generally consumed after being cooked. If you are near the zone of Ferrara, you can find it in some traditional trattoria of Ferrara.
We reached the end of this complete list of the best Italian cold cuts. With this list of cured meat, I am confident that now you have a better overview of which cured meat to try in Italy and what to expect. These 15 Italian cold cuts are part of the tradition of Italian cuisine.
Hey, I’m Giovanni, an Italian that lives in Italy and the author of this website! I started this website because I like to travel, discover new places and share my knowledge about Italy with more people worldwide. I love writing about everything regarding Italy, its culture, history, and lifestyle. I hope you found value in whatever article you read, and if you have any remaining questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!