Italian people love prosciutto, and the foreigners coming to our country can’t resist to its sex-appeal.
Prosciutto is one of the most iconic Italian foods, with a rich past and a bright future.
There’s a street in Roma called Via Panisperna. It is famous for the Physics Institute, at the University of Rome La Sapienza, where Enrico Fermi and his brilliant team of young scientists wrote the theory of the nuclear reactors, which lead to the construction of the atomic bomb.
The name of the street Panisperna, which is mostly overlooked by the modern romani passing by it every day, comes from the Latin words for bread (panis) and ham (perna sicca) “dried leg”: it means bread and ham, the prosciutto. Whenever you eat a simple panino al prosciutto in Italy, remember you are tasting a piece of Italian history, probably more ancient than most of the monuments you are visiting.
The Romans, Etruscan and Celtic northern Italians all knew how to preserve meat from decay using salt and spices. The Italian dry and well ventilated climate was perfect for draining the moist of the meat. Hence the name prosciutto, the past participle of the verb prosciugare, to dry up, nowadays in modern Italian “prosciugato”.
The picture above is the grave of a Roman butcher, found in the city of Aquileja, in the northern region of Friuli. Needless to say, he wanted to be remembered for his great prosciutto. The place is not far from the area where the Prosciutto di San Daniele is produced, among the most delicious versions of the Italian raw ham, just where the Romans and the Celtic populations blended together many centuries ago, sharing language, culture, dna and probably their personal recipes of cured pork meat.
The most famous Italian prosciutto is of course the Parma, which is arguably the capital city of Italian food, one of the symbols of the Italian cuisine. The Prosciutto di Parma is a fantastic ambassador of the Italian “slow food” in the world and Italian people just love it. For all the Italian children the panino al prosciutto is the perfect snack and it will be for the rest of their lives, unless they will turn vegetarian.
But Italians know that prosciutto di Parma is not the only one available on the market. We are well aware of the rich choice of different types of ham that our ancestors have created in centuries of experiments, failure and success, pursuing the “perfect prosciutto”. The Italian and European food authorities, guarantee that the different prosciutto’s are prepared in safety and always follow the traditional process. It is worth mentioning some less famous but equally delicious types of Italian prosciutto, all guaranteed as DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta), the top Italian certification of traditional food.
- Prosciutto Veneto Berico-Euganeo is made in the area between Padua and Vicenza
- Prosciutto di Carpegna is produced in the area of Pesaro-Urbino, in the Marche region
- Prosciutto di Cuneo from the city in Piedmont, also famous for chestnuts
- Prosciutto di Modena near Parma, capital of the balsamico vinegar
- Prosciutto di Norcia in Umbria, also famous for the salame
- Prosciutto di cinta senese made of a particular Tuscan breed of pig
Less famous abroad but equally loved by the Italians is the prosciutto cotto, cooked with steam and eaten in a short time frame. As opposed to the process of ageing of the prosciutto crudo, the prosciutto cotto is good when it’s just cut and eaten the very same day. In terms of quality there are many famous prosciutto cotto, but we want to mention the cotto triestino form the city of Trieste, cooked in steam, then wrapped in a layer of dough and spices and cooked again in the oven.
Italian people love prosciutto because we grow up eating it. As it happens to fashion, Italian prosciutto is copied and sold with pseudo-Italian names, but the real thing is here in Italy. Come to Italy and taste a piece of history!