Italy's grand assortment of cured deli meats are just one of many of the country's great contributions to the culinary world. Where would we be without these delicious meats on our sandwiches, charcuterie boards, or pizzas? Luckily, we'll never have to find out. Here's everything you need to know about all the classic Italian deli meats.
Even if you're not a connoisseur of Italian deli meats, you've probably had a salami sandwich. What many people don't realize is that salami is not just a singular meat, but rather a category of meats. Salamis are cured sausages that can be made with a wide variety of ingredients as long as either pork or beef is the base. The most common types of salamis are Genoa salami, soppressata, pepperoni, peppered salami, nduja, and cotto salami.
Pairs with: eggs, pasta, goat cheese
You've probably seen prosciutto at the grocery store and probably thought "why is this so expensive?" Trust us when we say that this cured meat is worth the splurge. Prosciutto is essentially ham...but better. Derived from the hind leg of a pig, this Italian meat is thinly sliced and satisfyingly salty. You can have it as part of a charcuterie plate or wrap it around
Pairs with: chicken breast, pizza, cantaloupe
Mortadella blends pork, spices, and pistachios to make a cured meat that's everything that American bologna wishes it was. It's delicious plain, fried, or on a muffaletta sandwich.
Pairs with: gorgonzola cheese, olives, raspberries
Whether you call it capicola, capocolla, or coppa, this Italian meat is one that should be on your radar. Capicola is made from the muscle that runs from the neck to the fourth or fifth rib of a pig. It's pretty similar to prosciutto because they are both derived from pork and have similar uses. One of the key differences between the two meats is that capicola is not brined like prosciutto is. It is also a bit spicier than other meats because it is rubbed down with paprika during the curing process.
Pairs with: sharp cheese, mustard
Pancetta is basically Italian bacon. It's made from pork belly and then seasoned and dried to cure. The key difference between pancetta and bacon is that bacon is smoked after it is cured. Though Italians don't typically fry up pancetta, like you would with bacon, it still used to enhance the flavor of vegetables, meats, soups, and pastas...and it does a darn good job of it.
Pairs with: asparagus, carbonara
Bresaola is one of the few Italian deli meats that is solely derived from beef instead of pork. Similar to capicola, bresaola is thinly sliced and dry cured after being rubbed down in spices. The meat is then aged for a few months, which is how it develops its signature lean flavor and purplish-red color.
Pairs with: olive oil, artichokes, Robiola cheese
Speck and prosciutto are very similar. Both meats come from the hind leg of the pig. The key difference here is that speck is smoked during the final step of the curing process, while prosciutto is not. Speck's smoky flavor gives a similar taste to bacon and can be used in similar way you would use pancetta.
Pairs with: sweet potatoes
Lardo isn't just a mean name schoolyard bullies call their victims - it's a type of Italian meat that is made by curing strips of a pig's fatback with herbs and spices. It's a lot like bacon, but just the fat part. Though lardo hasn't traditionally been that common in the United States, the decadent meat is gaining popularity thanks to the rise in high-fat, low-carb diet trends.
Pairs with: dates, pizza, toast
Soppressata is a dry-cured Italian deli meat made from coarsely ground pork sausage. There are two distinct forms of soppressata: Soppressata di Basilicata and Soppressata Toscana. Soppressata di Basilicata is made using only fillet and thigh meat, while Soppressata Toscana is made with ham, pork shoulder, and tongue with a ton of added spices ranging from nutmeg and cinnamon to orange peel and lemon zest.
Pairs with: chicken, vegetables
Guanciale isn't as commonly known as some of the other meats on this list, but it definitely should not be ignored! This cut of meat comes from the pork's cheek and is rubbed with salt, sugar, and spices and cured until it loses about 30% of its original weight. Guanciale has an intensely strong flavor and can be used as a substitute for Pancetta or bacon.
Pairs with: carbonara