- CICCIOLI / CRACKLINGS / SCRATCHINGS
- GUANCIALE / CURED PORK JOWEL
- PROSCIUTTO / HAM / CURED HAM
- WILD BOAR
Agnello – See Lamb
Agnello da latte – See Lamb
Agnellone – See Lamb
Beef (Carne bovina / Manzo / Bovino / Toro / Vacca) (Bos taurus)
Beef is the meat from a castrated male cow between 2 and 4 years old or a female cow between 1.5 and 3 years old which has never given birth. The meat from cows less than 2 years old is called either “vitellone”, for cows between 14 to 22 months old, or veal (vitello) for cows less than 12 months old (See Veal below). Male castrated cow more than 24 months old are called “manzo” and have intensely red, well marbled meat of good quality. Female cows which are between 16 and 22 months old and have not given birth are called “scottona” and have top quality, tender, well-marbled meat. Male cows older than 4 years are called “bue” and female cows over 3 years are called “vacca”. More veal is consumed in Italy than beef. The special breeds of cows for meat include: Chianina, Marchigiana, Piemontese, Maremmana, Podolica, and Romagnola. My favourite breeds are Chianina and Fassone piemontese.
Buy: When purchasing beef, the meat should be moist but not shiny, have a good colour, and should not have an off-putting smell. The packaging should be tear-free. Depending on the cut, the qualities to evaluate beef are the marbling (the fat mixed into the meat), colour, ratio of bone to meat, ratio of fat to meat, and the shape of the cut. The colour of the meat varies from pink to dark red according to the cut, age, breed, and gender of the cow, and whether the beef is fresh or dry aged. Aging beef enhances the flavour of the beef, although it costs more as the meat will have lost some of its water weight which they make up for in the price. Beef should be aged for no less than 2 weeks. The colour of the fat varies from white, if the beef was grain fed, to yellow, if the beef was grass-fed.
Every part of Italy divides the cow up into different cuts with varying names. This creates a lot of confusion as one can imagine. The cuts and names given above are for the nationally named and recognised cuts in Italy.
Here are the nationally defined cuts of beef according to the Associazione Italiana Allevatori:
These are the most prized cuts of beef which are tender and easy to cook:
1 Full Loin (Lombata / Costata) – less tender than the fillet, good for steaks, bistecca fiorentina (Fiorentina steak), rare roast beef, or grilling
2. Fillet (Filetto) – this is the most tender but not most flavourful part of the cow, good for steaks, steak tartar, larding and roasting, or grilling
3. Topside (Fesa) – good for roast beef, grilled steaks, cutlets, and steak tartar
4. Thick flank (Noce) – a prized cut of beef good for escalopes, slices, steaks, and roasting
5. Tri-tip steak (Fianchetto) – a small triangular cut of beef above the thick flank, very tender and flavourful cut, suitable for rare steaks
6. Rump (Scamone) – a cut which needs to be cooked quickly, so it is good for large roasts and steaks or can be larded and braised
7. Top round (Sottofesa) – good for boiling or larded and braised
8. Silverside (Girello / Magatello) – good for steaks, escalopes, roast beef, braising, or carpaccio
9. Leg (Campanello / Pesce) – used for stews, pot roasts, and boiling. The outside part of the cut, once free from connective tissues, can be used as steak.
10. Shin (Muscolo posteriore / Geretto) – rich in connective tissues so is best for slow cooking such as braising (osso buco) and stewing; the knuckle is good for making gelatin
These are the firm and compact cuts:
11. Shank (Muscolo anteriore) – rich in connective tissues so is best for slow cooking, good for braising and stewing; the knuckle is good for making gelatin
12. Blade (Copertina di sotto) – is flavourful and tender, good for steaks and roulades
13. Arm clod (Fesone di spalla)- a large and lean cut good for steaks, roulades, cutlets, and roasts
14. Chuck (Copertina) – a cut with some cartiledge suitable for braising, stewing, and boiling
15. Top clod (Girello di spalla / Fusello) – lean cut of beef which should be larded before cooking; suitable for braising, stewing, roasting, and pan-frying
16. Shoulder (Polpo di spalla) – suitable for slow cooking such as braising or stewing
17. Neck (Collo)- a cut with lots of connective tissue so it needs to be boiled for a long time to be tender and flavourful; suitable for boiling, mincing, and stewing
18. Rib (Costate) – this is a tender and flavourful cut suitable for roast beef, chops, grilling, and pan frying
19. Flank / Middle rib (Pancia / Biancostato)- a flat and elongated cut with good flavour suitable for soup, stocks, boiling, braising, stews, and meatballs
20. Brisket (Petto) – a fatty and flavourful cut suitable for baking, stewing, or boiling (particularly the part towards the neck) although it should not be cooked too long and should remain pink inside
21. Chuck (Sottospalla / Cappello del prete) – suitable for braising and stewing
22. Chuck (Reale) – lean, flavourful meat suited to slow cooking such as boiling and making broth
Store: Beef should be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator at 5˚C on a tray to catch any drips. Meat should be unwrapped and stored, lightly wrapped in parchment paper or aluminium foil in the refrigerator as an airtight container may promote bacterial growth. It should be stored on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so it doesn’t contaminate other food. Cuts of beef should be eaten within 3 to 5 days of purchase and minced beef within a day of purchase. If your time requirement is longer than this then the beef can be frozen at – 18˚C and then thawed in the refrigerator (6 to 7 hours per 450 gms), or in a sealed bag immersed in cold water until thawed. Cuts of beef can be stored, well-sealed in thick freezer bags, in the freezer for 6 to 12 months and minced beef for up to 3 months. If the meat begins to show signs of grey, white or brown patches on the meat, it is developing freezer burn and is dehydrating. It is still edible but it will be dry and not taste nice. Organ meats such as liver, brain, tripe, and sweetbreads are more highly perishable and should be consumed within a week of slaughter or purchased frozen.
Prepare: Remove the packaging, rinse the beef under cold water, dry on paper towels, and prepare according to the recipe. Steaks and roasts are often prepared rare in Italy (so the meat is not completely cooked and is pink). Beef is considered rare (al sangue) at 51˚C and will be very pink inside, medium (a punto) at 60 to 65˚C and will be slightly pink inside, and 70˚C is considered well done (ben cotto) and will have no sign of pink. The meat should be removed 2 to 3 degrees below this temperature however as it will continue to cook after being removed from the heat. Overcooked steaks and roast will turn to leather. Stewed, braised, and boiled beef are always completely cooked.
Eat: Beef can be braised (brasato and arrosto), roasted, grilled (bistecca alla fiorentina), stewed (coda alla vaccinara, garofolato, and stufato), or boiled (bollito misto). It can also be minced and added to sauces (ragù alla bolognese), meatballs, or meatloaves.
Bovino – See Beef
Bresaola (Bresaola / Brisaola)
Bresaola is a cured meat from Lombardia. It can be made from one of five cuts of beef (also horse although quite rare), often the fillet, which has been lighty salted, either dry cured with aromatics or marinated in wine and aromatics, and aged for two to three months.
Buy: The most well known bresaola are from Valtellina and Valchiavenna in Lombardia. Bresaola can be purchased aged, which is more traditional, or less aged, which is more prevalent.
Store: Store wrapped securely in wax paper in the refrigerator.
Prepare: Slice thinly.
Eat: It is eaten as a starter, dressed with olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, and lemon juice which is left to infuse for an hour before eating. More mature bresaola can be dressed with olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, and thinly sliced onion or spring onion.
Brisaola – See Bresaola
Carne bovina – See Beef
Castrato – See Beef
Cervellata – See Sausages
Cervellatine – See Sausages
Chicken (Pollo) (Gallus gallus)
Both female (gallina) and male (gallo) chickens are used in Italy but the female is more common. Traditional varieties in Italy include: Razza gigante nera d’Italia from Liguria, Pollo combattente di corte padovana and Rustichello della Pedemontana from Veneto, Pollo della razza fidentina and Pollo della razza romagnola from Emilia Romagna, and Pollo del Valdarno from Toscana.
Buy: Chicken are categorised by age:
Broiler (Pollastro) is 3 to 4 months old and weigh 600 to 800 grams
Pollo di Grano is 6 months old and weigh 1 kilo
Roaster (Pollo/Pollastra) is about 16 weeks old and weigh 1 to 1.5 kilos
Capon (Galetto) is male and about 6 months old.
Gallo is a male which is two years old and is tough to eat.
Gallina is female which is old and is only good for its fat and for making soup.
The best category is the broiler chicken. Chicken should have firm, elastic meat. The skin should not be sweaty or sticky. The breast bone and the weight will tell you the age of the chicken. The lower part of the breast bone should be flexible and the rest of it rigid, indicating a relatively young chicken. There should be a reasonable amount of fat that is uniformly distributed. The best chicken is free-range as it will have been allowed to exercise so that the flavour of the meat develops. Frozen chicken will have less flavour than fresh chicken. Check to ensure the chicken does not have freezer burn or chunks of ice, indicating the chicken has been defrosted and then re-frozen.
Store: Chicken can be stored wrapped, in a container to contain any juices on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator at 5˚C for 1 to 2 days. If your time requirement is longer than this then the chicken can be frozen at -18˚C and then thawed when needed. Cuts of chicken can be stored, well-sealed in thick freezer bags, in the freezer for up to 9 months and whole chicken for up to 1 year. If the meat begins to show signs of grey, white or brown patches on the meat, it is developing freezer burn and is dehydrating. It is still edible but will be dry and not taste nice.
Prepare: Chicken can carry salmonella bacteria so chicken must be handled carefully and every surface raw chicken has touched should be washed thoroughly with soap. Never touch raw chicken and then cooked food. Never cut anything which will not be cooked on a cutting board where raw chicken has been handled. Never use the same tray which held raw chicken to then hold the cooked chicken without thoroughly cleaning it first. Frozen chicken should be thawed in the refrigerator. If time does not permit, soak the sealed frozen chicken in cold water, changing the water as the water temperature gets too cold. Keep repeating until the chicken thaws. Never soak a frozen chicken in warm water as this promotes bacterial gowth. Chicken can be eaten whole or cut into various cuts (see above).
Eat: Chicken should be cooked to 75˚C (170˚F) to ensure all the bacteria is killed. I normally cook mine to 65˚C as it is juicier. Remember to remove the chicken from the heat at 72˚C as it will continue to cook after it has been removed from the heat. Chicken can be boiled (better for older chickens), grilled (pollo alla griglia or pollo alla diavola), stuffed, stewed (pollo alla cacciatora), spit-roasted, pan-fried (pollo in padella alla romana, pollo alla Marengo, or pollo alla salvia), and roasted (pollo arrosto or pollo al mattone).
Ciccioli / Cracklings / Scratchings (Ciccioli / Sfrizzoli)
Ciccioli are the crispy, rendered residual pieces of leftover from the butchering of an animal, typically pork or goose, when making lard.
Buy: These are irregular pieces of meat which are hazelnut coloured. They are quite fatty. They are sometimes flavoured with bay leaf, pepper, or cinnamon.
Store: They can be kept for a long time.
Prepare: These are best eaten hot.
Eat: Ciccioli are used in dishes in Emilia, Lazio, and Campania. Goose scratchings are eaten in Lombardia. They can be eaten on their own as a starter or with an aperitif. They can also be used in omelettes, savoury pies, in polenta (polenta e ciccioli), on focaccia and breads (pizza con ciccioli, migliaccio campano, and pane con i cicoli), or in dishes such as cicciolata di Parma.
Cinghiale – See Wild Boar
Cotechino – See Sausages
Cured ham – See Prosciutto
Ducks can be domesticated or wild. Varieties of domesticated ducks in Italy include the muscovy / barbary duck (Anatra muta/Muschiata), domestic duck (Commune/Nostrana), and Peking (Pechino) duck. Of these, the most prized for the strong flavour of the meat is the Muscovy, although the Peking duck is prized for its thin skin. Varieties of Italian wild ducks include the Mallard (Germano reale), Garganey (Marzaiola), Eurasian teal (Alzavola), Northern pintail (Codone), Northern shoveler (Mestolone), Eurasian wigeon (Fischione), Common pochard (Moriglione), and the Tufted duck (Moretta).
Buy: The best quality duck is a fresh, free-range duck. Domesticated female ducks tend to be about 6 days old and weigh 1.3 to 1.4 kilos (without the head or feet). Domesticated male ducks tend to be about 75 days old and weigh about 3 kilos. You can tell the age of a duck by the flexibility of its beak. The young domesticated duck’s beak is can be slightly impressed by your thumbnail and the wild duck’s beak should be very flexible to be considered young enough for cooking purposes. Younger ducks will have more tender meat but be careful that there is enough meat on the carcass. Ducks freeze well as they have a high fat content. For cuts, see Chicken.
Store: Duck can be stored wrapped, in a container, to contain any juices on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator at 5˚C for 1 to 2 days. If your time requirement is longer than this, the duck can be frozen at -18˚C and then thawed when needed. Cuts of duck can be stored, well-sealed in thick freezer bags, in the freezer for up to 9 months and whole duck for up to 1 year. If the meat begins to show signs of grey, white or brown patches on the meat, it is developing freezer burn and is dehydrating. It is still edible but will be dry and not taste nice.
Prepare: When preparing duck, the liver, heart and gizzard can be retained and used in another dish. Some preparations for roast duck call for the duck skin to be pricked with a fork beforehand so the duck fat can drain out (save this fat to roast potatoes). Duck legs and thighs need to be cooked longer than the breasts which can be cooked rare (still pink in the centre) so sometimes they are cooked separately.
Eat: Duck is roasted (anatra arrosto), baked, in casserole (anatra con le lenticchie), braised (anatra brasato and anatra all’arancia), stewed (anatra in salmi), grilled, stuffed (anara col pien), pan-fried, spit-roasted, or in pasta sauce (bigoli con anatra). Young ducks can be dry cooked: roasted, grilled, pan-fried, or spit-roasted but older ducks and all wild ducks, except the very young, cannot and must be cooked in liquid. Duck pairs well with oranges, onions, prunes, morello cherries, peas, green olives, and red wine.
Finocchiona Toscana – See Salami
Goose (Oca) (Anser anser, Cygnopsis cygnoides)
Goose in Italy is eaten for its meat, particularly on festive occasions and can be made into prosciutto and salami. The liver is very highly prized in France. Goose can be either wild or domesticated. It can either be from a large breed such as the Tolosa and Embden or from the medium sized races such as Piacentina, di Romagna, and Padovana. The large race geese weigh 10 to 11 kilos while the medium race geese weigh 4 to 6 kilos.
Buy: See Chicken for cuts. The meat is very dark but delicate. The goose has lots of fat, which melts when you cook it. Look for a goose with a pliable breastbone, an indication that the meat will be juicy. The skin should be creamy with a pale apricot-coloured tinge. It should not have any hues of blue or brown. The goose should have been plucked and hung for a few days before it was gutted. The younger the goose, the more tender and delicate the meat. Goslings/green goose, are less than 3 months old and weigh up to 2 kilos. A goose older than 8 months old becomes much fatter and the meat tougher, both of which increase with age. If buying frozen goose, avoid any goose with chunks of ice between the goose and the packaging as this is an indication of freezer burn.
Store: If you have purchased chilled goose, unwrap it and rewrap it lightly in foil or greaseproof paper so the air can circulate and store on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator at 4˚C (away from cooked food) for up to 2 days. Frozen goose can be kept in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Prepare: If the goose is frozen, thaw thoroughly in the refrigerator before cooking. Check the interior of the bird to ensure that there are no giblets inside. If the goose is to be roasted, prick the skin all over with a fork or knife tip. Then pour a kettleful of boiling water over the skin or steam it, tipping the bird to pour off any fat which has accumulated in the body cavity. Reserve the water with the fat and cool it to separate the fat and reserve it for cooking. Goose fat is an excellent cooking fat, particularly for potatoes. Goose, apart from the breast, must be cooked through. The older the goose, the longer it needs to be cooked to make the meat tender. It should be served hot.
Eat: Goose is eaten roasted (oca arrosto, oca con le castagne and oca in onto), baked (oca alle verdure), smoked (falso arsuto and oca affumicata), stuffed (oca ripiena), preserved in fat (batù d’oca and oca conservata nel grasso), stewed, or made into salami or proscuitto. The liver can be seared or made into pâté or terrine (fegato grasso in terrina). Goose pairs well with chestnuts, apples, or an acidic fruit like oranges.
Guanciale / Cured pork jowel (Guanciale)
Substitutions: pancetta, streaky bacon, salt pork
Buy: Guanciale is a pig’s cheek or jowel cured in salt and aged. It is similar to pancetta which it also resembles in appearance and taste, but is coated in ground black pepper or ground chilli, is richer in flavour, and has a softer texture. It is triangular in shape and is aged for a minimum of 3 months. It has one or two streaks of meat across the fat. Smoked guanciale will have darker coloured meat.
Guanciale amatriciano is flavoured with pepper and chilli and then smoked and aged for 60 days. It it originates from Lazio and Abruzzo and was a staple in the diet of the shepherds there.
Store: Keep wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator for up to a few weeks. Otherwise it can be kept, wrapped in an air-tight bag in the freezer for several months.
Prepare: Guanciale can be cubed or finely sliced before cooking.
Eat: Guanciale is an essential ingredient in some pasta dishes (alla carbonara, alla gricia, and alla amitriciana).
Ham – See Prosciutto
Insaccati – See Salami
Lamb (Agnello / Abbacchio / Agnellone / Pecora/ Castrato) (Ovis aries)
Substitutions: kid goat
Lamb is popular in the springtime in northern and central Italy and year-round in the south of Italy. Lamb is particularly important to the cuisine in mountainous areas and islands. Mutton, however, is relatively uncommon.
Buy: Lamb is sold fresh and frozen. The quality of the lamb is determined by three considerations: the race, its feed, and the age. As a consumer, the only part of the selection process which is controllable is the age. While baby lamb is the most prized, it is seasonal and not widely available. Lamb (agnello) is the most consumed category. There is “ pre-sale” (salt marsh lamb) which is also highly prized, and requires lambs to be let to graze near the sea. Lamb should have a decent amount of meat on the bones. Look for rosy flesh which is firm and not soft (unless it is baby lamb). Except for baby lamb, look for meat which does not have much fat. The fat should be white or slightly pink, not crumbly or discoloured.
Milk-fed lamb / Baby lamb / Hothouse lamb (Agnello di latte / Abbacchio) is a milk-fed lamb (before it has eaten solid food) that is 3 to 4 weeks old. It weighs about 4 to 5 kilos when sold and is sold whole, halved, or quartered. It is very tender and delicately flavoured so should be cooked with other mild flavours.
Spring lamb (Agnello) is 8 to 10 weeks old and weighs up to 8 kilos when sold. It should have predominantly been fed milk. Look for lamb which has lot of meat on the back, has firm meat on the thighs, and has a lot of firm, white to pale pink kidney fat. It can be cut into a rack or chops, leg, shoulder, chump, and loin. The neck, fore shank, and breast are minced or chopped. It is also tender and suitable for spit-roasting.
Lamb (Agnellone) is usually a 6-10 month old lamb, but is definitely less than 1 year old. It should weigh less than 10 kilos and it should have predominantly been fed milk. Look for lamb which has lot of meat on the back, has firm meat on the thighs, and has a lot of firm, white to pale pink kidney fat. It can be cut into rack or chops, leg, shoulder, and loin. The neck, fore shank, and breast are minced or chopped. It has a slightly gamey flavour and is good for braising in stews or for pasta sauce.
Hogget / Mutton (Pecora / Castrato) is a sheep older than 1 year old. A hogget is between 1-2 years of age while mutton is older than this. It has dark meat with a stronger taste. There should not be too much fat. If the sheep is not too old it can still be used for cooking but will have a strong flavour. Castrato is a castrated and fattened male sheep. It has a papery white membrane covering the meat, called a “fell”, which needs to be removed as it is not digestible. To remove the fell, cut into it and slide your knife blade along the fell to separate it from the meat. Mutton is not often eaten in Italy.
Parts of the Spalla / Spallotto:
1. Scrag end of neck and middle neck (Collo)- good for stewing, broth, and braising
2. Shoulder and fore shank (Spalla)- The shoulder is good for roasting and stewing, but fattier than the leg (also juicier), though it can be harder to carve. It can also be minced. The fore shank is tough so needs to be slowly braised.
Parts of the Lombata / Carré:
3. Upper rib and rack of lamb / Loin / Saddle (Carré)- good for roasting, frying, or grilling; can be sold on or off the bone, in a rack or in chops; the upper rib is also called carré or rack of lamb; both sides of the loin may be left attached and then is called sella (Guard of Honour)
4. Breast (Petto)- is a thin, fatty cut which is good for stews or other slow cooking methods. The bony parts can be made into small ribs to barbecue.
Parts of the Coscia / Coscio / Cosciotto:
5. Chump (Sella)- good for roasting
6. Leg / Gigot (Cosciotto / Coscio / Coscia)- good for roasting or grilling; can be sold boned or with the bone. It can be rolled or cooked flat. If the legs are left attached with the chump, this cut is called a barone (baron of lamb).
Store: Meat should be removed from the packaging it was sold in as an airtight container may promote bacterial growth. Lamb should be stored, lightly wrapped in parchment paper or aluminium foil in the refrigerator at 5˚C on a tray to catch any drips. It should be stored on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so it doesn’t contaminate other food. Lamb mince can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 day. Lamb joints and chops can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.
If your time requirement is longer than this then the lamb can be frozen in thick air-tight freezer bags at – 18˚C and then thawed in the refrigerator (6 to 7 hours per 450 gms), or in a sealed bag immersed in cold water when needed. Lamb mince can be kept in the freezer for 3 to 4 months. Lamb joints and chops can be kept in the freezer for 6 to 9 months. If the meat begins to show signs of grey, white or brown patches on the meat, it is developing freezer burn and is dehydrating. It is still edible but will be dry and not taste nice. Organ meats are more highly perishable and should be consumed within a week of slaughter or purchased frozen.
Prepare: In preparing mutton, it is often covered by a impenetrable white membrane which needs to be removed before cooking. Use a knife to pierce the membrane and then hold the membrane firmly in your hand and run your knife along the membrane to sever it from the meat.
Eat: Whole lamb can be spit-roasted (abbacchio) or roasted (agnello alla carbonara). The lamb shoulder is best stewed (agnello aglassato), stuffed (agnello abbottonato), or braised. The leg is relatively lean so can be larded before roasting. The leg is best roasted (cosciotto d’agnello arrosto), spit-roasted or stewed (agnello in fricassee, agnello al calderotto, and agnello cac’e ova). The breast can be stuffed, rolled, and roasted. The rack is best roasted, grilled (agnello a scottaditto), fried, or deep-fried. Lamb should be served while it is still pink the centre to remain juicy.
|Leg, saddle, loin||190˚C for 20 minutes per 450 grams|
|Shoulder, rolled breast||180˚C for 25 minutes per 450 grams|
|Leg, shoulder||160˚C for 2 hours|
|Leg, shoulder||160˚C for 1.5 hours|
|Cooking temperatures*:||Rare||Medium||Well done|
* Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the joint of meat but do not touch any bones. Remove the meat 5˚C below the temperature you are trying to achieve as when you remove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes, the temperature will continue to increase.
Lardo is cured, hard pork fat closest to the skin from the back or back of a pig’s neck, not to be confused with lard (strutto) which is the soft fat beneath this closest to the meat.
Buy: It is sold in rectangular blocks which are at least 3 cm thick. The outside is coated in pepper and other aromatics. The inside is pure white and soft with some light pink or brown. It has a rich perfume and delicate, fresh flavour. If lardo is smoked it is called lardone.
Lardo bono is bacon or pork fat used to lard joints of meat.
Lardo di Arnad is a prized lardo made in Valle d’Aosta. It is made by curing pork fat in glass, wood or ceramic containers with salt and brine water flavoured with achillea, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, juniper berries, nutmeg, pepper, and rosemary. It can be cured for up to a year. Longer cures will also use white wine.
Lardo di Colonnata is a prized lardo from Toscana. It is fresh pork back fat which is layered with salt, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, garlic, oregano, rosemary, sage, and star anise and preserved in salt brine in marble troughs for a minimum of 6 months.
Lardo di Montefeltro is a prized lardo from the Marche. It is made from the fat from the hindquarters and is salted and weighted for weeks and then dry aged for 3-4 months. It is then cut into pieces and pickled in a concentrated salt and water solution in earthenware pots. They were traditionally also wrapped in hay and stored in wooden chests in well-ventilated storage areas.
Lardo di rosmarino is a lardo which is dry cured with salt and herbs, particularly rosemary, from Piemonte and Liguria. While curing, it is kept cool and massaged every few days for 3 months.
Store: Wrap in a slightly damp cloth, in the bottom of the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or wrap in a plastic bag and freeze for 1-2 months.
Prepare: If the lardo is too salty, it can be blanched by placing it in a pan and covering it with cold water. Bring the water to a boil and cook for 5-10 minutes, let cool, and drain. To cut lardo with a knife, you can heat the knife on a flame first to cut more cleanly through the lardo. Lardo can be pounded to a cream or finely chopped with garlic and herbs (lardo battuto) to be used as a condiment, brush on bread, add to stews and broths, or to use in stuffings. It can be finely sliced and served as is or cut into strips (lardelli / bastoncini) to lard joints of meat.
Eat: It can be served sliced finely and served as a starter or is used chopped or sliced as an ingredient in dishes.
Lucanica – See Sausage
Luganega lombarda – See Sausage
Luganega trevisana – See Sausage
Maiale – See Pork
Mucca – See Beef
Substitutions: streaky bacon / American bacon
Pancetta is cured pork belly characterised by alternating layers of pork fat and meat. It is same cut as streaky bacon, also known as American bacon, but it is cured differently. It can be brined or dry-salted and sometimes smoked.
Buy: Pancetta is available with or without the rind, natural, aged, or smoked. The most common is the flat pancetta (pancetta tesa).
Flat pancetta (Pancetta tesa) is flat like American streaky bacon. It is cured for between three weeks to two months. In Alto-Adige, Friuli, and Valle d’Aosta it is sometimes smoked (pancetta affumicata). Prized varieties include the rectangular pancetta di Calabria PDO, sometimes coated in powdered chilli, and pancetta tesa lucana from Basilicata.
Rolled pancetta (Pancetta arrotolata) is rolled and made from the leaner parts of the pork belly. It is flavoured with pepper and cloves. Prized types include pancetta piacentina from Emilia and Lombardia and pancetta arrotolata dei Monti Nebrodi from Sicilia.
Lean pancetta (Pancetta linea / Rigatino) is a lean pancetta from Toscana.
Store: Pancetta can be kept in the refrigerator in an unopened package for two weeks or in an opened but sealed package for one week. It can also be frozen for up to a month.
Prepare: If the pancetta has a rind, you may want to cut this off. Otherwise, no special preparation is necessary aside from slicing or chopping it according to the recipe.
Eat: Pancetta tesa is used in soffritto or battuto (a mixture of chopped pancetta, onion, carrot, and celery which is used as the base of many dishes), pasta sauces (carbonara), kebabs (spiedini). It is also pounded or chopped with garlic and herbs and pan-fried to form a base for some dishes or to flavour soups or stews. Pancetta arrotolata is used in stuffings or served uncooked with other cured meats. There is also pancetta coppata where the pancetta is wrapped around the pig’s cervical muscle and flavoured with spices.
Pecora – See Lamb
Pollo – See Chicken
Pork (Maiale / Suino) (Sus domesticus)
In Italy, domesticated pork and wild boar (cinghiale – See Wild Boar) are eaten. It is the most used meat in making salami, sausages, prosciutto and other cured meat products. No part of the pig goes unused. The skin is made into pork rinds (cotenne / cotiche). The blood (sangue) is used in sanguinaccio and migliaccio and can be fried. The head (testa) is made into coppa di testa and the cheek made into guanciale. The belly is made into pancetta. The fat is used as lard (strutto) and lardo, while what is leftover after making the lard is made into pork scratchings (ciccioli) – see Pork Scratchings below.
Native breeds of pig in Italy include cinta senese (Toscana), suino di razza mora romagnola (Emilia-Romagna), suino pesante (Emilia-Romagna), razza casertana (Campania), and maiale nero (Calabria).
Buy: Pigs raised for their meat are normally more than 8 weeks old and can weigh up to 150 kilos. There is also suckling pig (maialino), which is four to eight weeks old. Look for meat which has a good proportion of lean meat to fat. The meat should be pale in colour (not deep rose coloured) and have pliable bones with a soft skin. Brittle bones and rough skin are a sign that the pig was too old. The meat should be free of brown or yellow stains on the skin. It should be damp but not wet or slippery. If there is any smell to the pork, it is past its prime. Free-range pork has a better texture and flavour. When selecting a suckling pig, choose one which is 5 to 6 kilos in weight as it will have developed some flesh but will still be tender.
1. Upper loin fillet (filetto / lonza / lombo)- good for roasting
2. Chump and leg (cosciotto)- good for making ham and prosciutto, needs to be slow cooked to remain juicy
3. Hock or foot (piedini / zampetto)- good for boiling or frying
4. Lower loin (puntine costine)- good for roasting, stewing or braising
5. Belly or flank (pancetta / pancia)- good for forcemeats or larding, can be roasted, grilled, fried, or braised
6. Lower blade- middle forerib / pork rib (filetto, puntine di petto, costine di petto, lombo)- good for roasting or grilling
7. Upper spare rib and blade (carre, costoletta, or costina braciola puntine)- good for roasting, grilling, frying, minced for meatballs, made into chops or cutlets
8. Upper hand / Lower blade / shoulder (spalla)- good for roasting, simmering, and stewing, needs to be slow cooked to remain juicy
9. Head and chine / neck (testa e capicollo / coppa)- good for boiling
10. Pork cheek (guanciale)- good for curing or braising
Store: Pork should be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator at 5˚C on a tray to catch any drips. Meat should be unwrapped and stored, lightly wrapped in parchment paper or aluminium foil in the refrigerator as an airtight container may promote bacterial growth. It should be stored on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so it doesn’t contaminate other food. Pork mince and sausages can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. Pork joints and chops can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.
If your time requirement is longer than this then the pork can be frozen in thick airtight freezer bags at – 18˚C and then thawed in the refrigerator (6 to 7 hours per 450 gms) or in a sealed bag immersed in cold water when needed. Pork mince can be kept in the freezer for 3 to 4 months. Pork sausages can be kept in the freezer for 1 to 2 months. Pork joints and chops can be kept in the freezer for 4 to 6 months. If the meat begins to show signs of grey, white or brown patches on the meat, it is developing freezer burn and is dehydrating. It is still edible but will be dry and not taste nice. Organ meats are more highly perishable and should be consumed within a week of slaughter or purchased frozen.
Prepare: Pork should be cooked medium to 60˚C so that the meat is not pink but still juicy. Pork is finished cooking if the juices run clear. Do not allow the fat to come out of the meat (the fat is white and coagulates). If pork is overcooked, it becomes dry and tough. If it is undercooked, there is a risk of contracting trichinosis, a parasite. To roast pork, heat the oven to 180˚C, score the skin to the fat and roast for 25 minutes per 450 grams. To braise pork, simmer with aromatics over medium heat or cover and bake at 170˚C in the oven. To roast or spit-roast a 5-6 kilo suckling pig, prick the skin before and during roasting and cook for 20 minutes per 450 grams at 180˚C.
Eat: Pork can be roasted (arista, maiale arrosto all’ acqua, maiale arrosto all’uso di Reggio-Emilia), grilled, poached (maiale al latte) and pan-fried. The fattier cuts of pork are good for slow cooking like stewing (maiale ‘briaco), braising (maiale brasato alla Genovese), or making into a meat sauce. Suckling pig (maialino) is normally cooked whole (porchetta, porcheddu). The legs are made into zampone and cotechino (See Sausages). Pork pairs well with chestnuts, potatoes, beans, lentils, and dried beans which absorb the fat and aromatics such as sage, rosemary, myrtle, bay leaves, onion, black pepper, thyme, truffles, and fennel. Good accompaniments include carrots, leeks, cabbage, spinach, peas, and artichokes.
Pork scratchings – See Ciccioli
Prosciutto / Ham / Cured ham (Prosciutto / Prosciutto cotto / Prosciutto crudo)
Substitutes: coppa (for cooking), culatello (for eating raw)
Prosciutto can be made from the legs of wild boar (prosciutto di cinghiale), deer (prosciutto di cervo), chamoise (mocetta), goat (prosciutto di capra / violini di Chiavenna), buffalo, goose (prosciutto crudo d’oca), and turkey but typically refers to the hind thigh of a pig. There are two types of prosciutto: proscuitto crudo (cured ham) which is cured or raw and prosciutto cotto (ham) which is baked, steamed, or boiled. To make prosciutto crudo, the pig’s leg is kept refrigerated, then pressed and cleaned, excess fat is moved, it is shaped, then salted for 8 to 18 months (sometimes with seasonings), brushed, cleaned, rested, and then aged. This process requires some skill in order to use an appropriate amount of salt so that the prosciutto is preserved but not so much as to compromise the sweet flavour of the meat. The proscuitto loses 30% of its weight during the process. To make prosciutto cotto, the thigh of a pig is pickled in salt, saltpetre, nitrates, monosodium glutamate, sugar, black pepper, and other seasonings before then being baked, steamed, or boiled. Prosciutto cotto can also be smoked or made from the shoulder of the pig (prosciutto cotto di spalla).
Buy: Ideally purchase prosciutto which has been freshly sliced as its texture deteriorates once cut. Another benefit of purchasing freshly sliced prosciutto is that it can be tasted before purchasing. Pre-packaged prosciutto is fine for cooking but for eating raw, it is vastly inferior in texture. Buying a whole leg requires an industrial meat slicer at home in order to achieve the desired paper-thin slices. There are many types of prosciutto but two most famous types are prosciutto di Parma (the most well-known and sold abroad) and prosciutto di San Daniele (small production but considered the finest).
Prosciutto di Bosses / Jambon de Bosses / Valle d’Aosta jambon de Bosses PDO is a raw ham from Saint-Rheymy-en-Bosses in the Valle d’Aosta and is truly excellent. It is dry-cured with sea salt, garlic, sage, rosemary, and local berries and aged for a minimum of 12 months.
Prosciutto di Carpegna crudo PDO is a ham produced in Carpegna in the Marche.
Prosciutto di Norcia PGI is a raw ham produced in the province of Perugia in Umbria. If it is industrially produced, it is cured twice with sea salt and black pepper and aged for a year. Artisan hams are cured with kitchen salt, washed, rubbed with pepper, hung, lightly smoked, and aged for 22 months. It has an intense and rich flavour.
Prosciutto di Parma PDO is a raw ham from Parma in Emilia-Romagna which is made from Large White, Landrace, or Duroc pigs. It is salted, hung dry, and aged for 10 to 12 months. True prosciutto di Parma will carry the seal of the local producers’ consortium which will state, “corona ducale a 5 punte”. To read how prosciutto di Parma is made, click here.
Prosciutto di San Daniele PDO is a raw ham from San Daniele in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. It is cured in salt, massaged, pressed into a guitar shape, and aged in chambers for a minimum of 12 months. It is the finest of all the prosciutto with a delicate, slightly sweet flavour. It should be served raw to preserve its fine texture and taste.
Prosciutto di Sauris is a ham from Sauris in Friuli-Venezia Giulia which is salted and smoked for a month over a fire made from local resinous trees.
Prosciutto toscano PDO is a raw ham from Toscana. It is cured with salt and pepper, washed and aged for 10 to 12 months. It has a slightly chewier texture and saltier in flavour than the types of prosciutto listed above and while tasty, is considered inferior.
Speck dell’Alto Adige PGI is a cured smoked ham from Trentino Alto Adige. It is dry-brined with salt, pepper, pimento, garlic, juniper berries, and sugar, smoked for two to three weeks and aged for up to 24 days.
Store: Prosciutto can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days well sealed or frozen for 4 to 6 months.
Prepare: If the prosciutto was purchased pre-packaged or freshly sliced, there is no special preparation required. A whole leg or unsliced chunk of prosciutto will require an industrial meat slicer to slice it paper thin.
Eat: Prosciutto can be eaten raw on its own or accompanied by other cold cuts, melon, figs, mozzarella cheese, salad, on top of a pizza, and with bread (gnocco, piadina). It is also cooked and used in stuffed pasta, to wrap veal (saltimbocca), wrapped around sea bass, stuffings, in sauces, and used to flavour vegetables (piselli al prosciutto).
Prosciutto cotto – See Prosciutto
Prosciutto crudo – See Prosciutto
Salame – See Salami
Salami (Salame / Insaccati)
Salami is a cured sausage made of minced or chopped meat (typically pork or pork mixed with beef- which is less desirable), flavourings, nitrates, salt, and black pepper held together by a natural (intestines, bladder, or neck) or artificial casing and dry-aged. The aging process allows the meat to mature and dry so that the flavour and texture both develops and mellows, causing the salami to lose about a third of its weight. There are also raw, pre-cooked or smoked salamis. Other types of meats used include goose, wild boar, mutton, veal, and horse. Historically families produced their own salami. Today salami is rarely made at home and since each area produces its own salami, there are hundreds of types of salamis in all sorts of shapes (cylindrical, elongated, flat, and curved), sizes, textures, and flavours.
Buy: It is best to buy whole salami and have the shop slice it if it is to be consumed within a few days. Otherwise buy it whole and slice it at home. Pre-sliced salami will have an inferior texture but the flavour should be fine. If the salami is slimy or smells off do not buy it as it has not been stored properly. It does not matter if the skin has marks or discolouration, these can easily be wiped off.
Finocchiona Toscana is a large pork salami from Florence and Siena regions in Toscana. It is made with finely minced pork shoulder, loin, prosciutto, and pancetta, salt, black or green pepper, red wine, garlic, and wild fennel seeds. It is cased in bladder and aged for 60-90 days.
Salam d’la doja / Salame sotto grasso is a soft salami from the Vercelli and Novara provinces in Piemonte. It is made from medium ground pork leg, head, leg, lardo or pancetta fat, salt pepper, garlic, and Barbera red wine and cased in a cow or veal’s small intestines. It is aged from three months to a year and preserved in earthenware jars (doja), covered with lard. It has a pleasant, delicate flavour.
Salame d’Oca is from Piemonte, Veneto, Lombardia, and Friuli. It is made from minced goose meat, and seasonings, sometimes with Marsala wine. It is stuffed in the goose’s neck and is a traditional food of Italian Jews. There are cooked or raw versions. Types of goose salami include salame d’oca di Mortora PGI, salame d’oca ecumenico, salame d’oca friulano, and salame d’oca giudeo.
Salame di Fabriano is an ancient salami from the Fabriano region in the Marche made between October to March. It is one of the best salamis in central Italy. It is made from coarsely minced leg and shoulder pork with diced lardo and flavoured with black pepper and garlic. It is dried (but not smoked) near a fire.
Salame di Varzi PDO is from Lombardia, Piemonte, and Emilia-Romagna. It is delicate in flavour and made with coarsely minced pork cheek, shoulder, and culatello trimmings, black peppercorns, and garlic steeped in red wine. It is aged for a minimum of 45 days and up to six months or more.
Salame Felino / Salame di Felino is from near Parma in Emilia-Romagna. It is very delicate in flavour and made from the same pigs which prosciutto di Parma is made. It is made of finely minced pork, ham and pancetta. It has 20% fat content and is flavoured with garlic and white wine.
Salame gentile from Parma in Emilia-Romagna. It is made of minced pork loin and shoulder, diced lardo, salt, black pepper, garlic, and wine and aged for three months. It is cased in large intestines (budello gentile) from which it derives its name, “gentile”, which means “gentle” describing the soft, fatty texture of the large intestines.
Salame Milano is an industrially produced salami from Milano and Brianza areas in Lombardia. It is the most widely consumed salami in Italy. It is delicate in flavour and made with finely minced lean pork, 25% beef, and 25% pork fat and cured with salt and black pepper, and sometimes white wine and garlic (sometimes also pig’s blood). It is characterized by its finely ground fat. It is cased in intestines and aged for 10-15 days, although there are artisanal versions aged for three to six months.
Salame Napoli is an industrial produced salami from Campania. It is made with coarsely minced pork and has a maximum fat content of 25%. It is seasoned with salt and black and white pepper, cased in veal or pig’s intestines and fire-dried which lends a slightly smoky flavour. It is aged for a minimum of 30 days.
Salame Toscano is an industrially produced pork salami from Toscana. It is intensely flavoured and made with finely minced pork meat, cubed pork fat, red wine, and garlic. It is aged for a minimum of 20 days and up to a year.
Store: Keep salami at 10˚C in a well-ventilated location. If this is not possible, keep it in the drawer of the refrigerator wrapped in butcher paper so it does not dry out. Uncut salami can be kept indefinitely if stored properly. Once the salami is cut, cover it with cling film and an elastic band and eat it as fresh as possible. Slices of salami can be kept sealed in a plastic bag and should be eaten within a few days. If the cut end of the salami becomes discoloured, just slice off this piece and discard; the rest of the salami can still be eaten. If the skin of the salami becomes discoloured, this is not an issue.
Prepare: Using a meat slicer or a long knife, slice the salami thinly (1 to 2 mm), except for finocchiona and salame d’oca which can be sliced thicker (3 to 4 mm). Score the side of the skin and peel away and discard it.
Eat: Salami can be served as a cold cut alongside other cured meats or in sandwiches (panini). Raw salamis can be cooked and served with polenta (salame cotto)
Salsiccia – See Sausage
Substitute: Can add minced pork with aromatics of choice- rosemary, sage, fennel seed, chilli, garlic, etc.
Sausage is aromatised and/or seasoned minced meat placed in a natural or artificial casing. They are typically purchased raw (salsicce fresche) and usually served cooked. Although some sausages that have been cured and aged can be eaten raw. There are also smoked sausages. Sausage is typically made out of pork but can also be made with beef, wild boar, veal, lamb, horse, donkey, venison or pork liver. Usually inferior cuts are used to make sausages such as meat from the neck and belly. In northern Italy, most sausages are raw and served cooked. They are typically flavoured with black pepper, cinnamon, white wine, and/or garlic. In southern Italy the sausages are flavoured with fennel seeds, garlic, chilli, sundried tomato, orange peel, apples, and/or caciocavallo cheese. In central Italy there are many types of dried sausages, which are eaten raw. Each area in Italy has its own type of sausage so the varieties are endless.
Buy: The best fresh sausages will be made by a butcher that you trust. Otherwise buy packaged sausages checking the consistency is correct (firm and finely ground or coarsely ground) for their intended use.
Cervellata is a finely ground sausage from Calabria and Puglia with many variations. In Calabria it is made with pork and flavoured with chilli and white wine. In Puglia it is made with beef, kid goat, and lamb and flavoured with garlic, parsley or basil, pecorino cheese, and pepper. In Martina Franca in Puglia it is made with pork or pork and beef and flavoured with fennel seeds, pepper, and red wine.
Cervellatine is a thin pork sausage from Napoli in Campania. It is served with broccoli rabe or used in stuffings.
Cotechino is a boiling pork sausage made with up to 30% pork rind, neck and head pork, and lardo or golato from Piemonte, Valle d’Aosta, Lombardia, and Emilia-Romagna. The most important varieties are cotechino cremonese from Cremona and Bergamo in Lombardia and Emilia-Romagna (flavoured with Barbera red wine, pepper, spices, and sugar), cotechino Modena PGI from Lombardia, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna (flavoured with spices, aromatic herbs, and sugar), and cotechino piemontese used in bollito misto in Piemonte (flavoured with cinnamon, cloves, and pepper and cased in calf’s intestines which were marinated in white wine).
Lucanica / Salsiccia lucana is a traditional “U” shaped sausage sometimes flavoured with chilli, fennel seeds, and pepper and cased in pig’s intestines. It is dried for 15 to 20 days and can be preserved in lard. An important variety is the salsiccia di Cancellara.
Luganega lombarda is the most classic thin Italian pork sausage from Lombardia, which is made with finely ground 70% lean meat and 30% fat. The name comes from “lucanica” a reference to Lucanicans, inhabitants of Basilicata, from whom the northern Italians learned the art of sausage making. It is typically stewed and served with vegetables such as cabbage or spinach. An important variety of Luganega is the luganiga di Monza which is flavoured with Grana Padano cheese, chicken or beef broth, and Marsala wine.
Luganega trevisana is a type of luganega sausage from Veneto. It is a cured pork and chicken sausage flavoured with cinnamon, cloves, coriander, mace and pepper.
Salsiccia di fegato is an ancient, highly-spiced pig’s liver sausage from Lazio, Abruzzo and Molise. Typically flavoured with wild fennel, orange zest and pepper, it can be grilled, broiled or aged for a month and eaten raw. It is sometimes preserved in oil.
Salamitt di verz / Salsicciotti da verzata is a finely ground sausage. It is typically stewed and served with vegetables such as cabbage or spinach.
Salsiccia alla Milanese antica is a well-spiced sausage from Lombardia flavoured with cloves, cinnamon, saffron, pepper, mace, rose wine, pine nuts, raisins, sugar and Granone Lodigiano cheese. It is cooked in soup (minestrone) or with cabbage.
Salsiccia della Val Comino is made from pig offals (heart, lungs and liver), and flavoured with chilli, garlic, orange zest and apples.
Salsiccia di Bra is a finely ground veal and pork fat sausage from Piemonte which is flavoured with cinnamon, fennel, leeks, mace, nutmeg, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Robiola or Toma cheese and wine.
Salsiccia di Calabria PDO is a pork sausage flavoured with spices and herbs and cased in pig intestines. It is aged for a minimum of 30 days.
Salsiccia di Napoli / Punta ‘e curtiello is a coarsely hand chopped pork, beef, lamb or mutton sausage from Napoli in Campania. Sometimes pieces of Provola or Mozzarella cheese are added. It is typically smoked and eaten sliced. It can be flavoured with chilli or fennel seeds.
Salsiccia Toscana is a coarsely ground pork sausage from Toscana. It is made with finer cuts of pork such as the shoulder and leg and can be flavoured with rosemary and/or sage. It is typically grilled or pan-roasted with broccoli or turnip tops. It is sometimes aged.
Zampone Modena PGI is ground pork flavoured with wine, spices, and herbs and cased in the boned hind trotter of a pig from Lombardia, Veneto or Emilia-Romagna. It is dried and sold fresh or cooked. To prepare zampone alla modenese, prick it all over with a needle and nick the base, soak it in water for 10 hours, and simmer for up to four hours. It is served sliced with buttered spinach, stewed beans and lentils, and pureed potatoes. In Modena, they also serve with zabaglione made with balsamic vinegar.
Store: Store sausages sealed in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. They can be stored well-sealed in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Prepare: Cut the sausage casings in between the sausages to separate them. Prick the sausage casing every 2 to 3 cm with a pin (do not use a fork) to allow the fat to escape while cooking and cook slowly to ensure that the sausage does not burst. If the sausage will not be grilled, then marinate it a few minutes in the cooking liquid (water, white wine or broth). Cut into one of the sausages to ensure it is cooked through, it should be only slightly pink in the centre.
Eat: Sausages are normally pan-roasted, fried, baked, grilled, or stewed and occasionally boiled. They are also eaten raw, spread on bread. Sausages which are finely minced such as luganiga or salamitt di verz are usually stewed and served with vegetables such as cabbage or spinach. Sausages which are coarsely ground with simple flavourings such as salsicce toscane or punta ‘e curtiello are best grilled or pan roasted with vegetables such as broccoli and turnip tops. They can be cooked alone, as part of a more complex dish (casoeûla) or with other ingredients such as broccoli, turnip tops, chilli, wine, garlic, vinegar (salsiccie all’aceto). They can be served whole with polenta or browned, then stewed and broken into pieces to sprinkle over risotto in northern Italy or pasta in southern Italy.
Speck – See Prosciutto
Suino – See Pork
Toro – See Beef
Vaca – See Beef
Veal (Vitello) (Bos taurus)
Veal is the milk-fed young cow, less than one year old. Veal is much more common (and prized) in Italy than beef, the meat from a cow over 2 years old (See Beef above). The meat from cows which have begun to graze, between 8 to 24 months old, is called “vitellone”. Vitellone is redder in colour than veal, firmer, and has more flavour. A notable variety is the vitellone bianco dell’Appennino centrale from Chianina, Marchigiana and Romagnola cattle.
Veal is much lighter in colour (a pale pink) and is tender and juicy. The taste is more delicate than beef. The bones make a very gelatinous stock. Veal is more popular in northern Italy, particularly in Piemonte and Lombardia. Special varieties include Sanato from Piemonte and Veneto where the calf’s diet is supplemented with pasta and eggs.
Buy: When buying milk-fed veal, the meat should be a rosy pink, firm and moist with pinkish translucent bones, but not wet. If it is greyish or brownish the meat is too old. The fat should be pure white without any pink. If you can see a lot of fat in the meat then the calf has been overfed, buy veal with little visible fat. Veal which is darker or has pink fat has been fed grain or grass and is classified as Vitellone.
Buy meat from a reputable store which can guarantee the quality of its transport. Here is a chart of the cuts:
1. Upper rump (Codone /Codoncino)- good for roasting, cutlets, chops, roulades
2. Rump (Sottofesa)- good for roasting, grilling, sliced, roulades, cutlets
3. Topside (Girello / Magatello)- good for roasting, sliced, cutlets, vitello tonnato
4. Lower rump (Fesa / Fesa Francese)- good for grilling, slicing, roulades, cutlets
5. Silverside (Noce)- good for roasting, chops, sliced, cutlets, bollito misto
6. Leg (Pesce or Piccione)-good for boiling, stewing, broth, bollito misto, polpettone, and ossobuco
7. Breast nearest tail (Spinacino)- good for meatloaf, stuffed rolls, pockets
8. Upper loin (Nodini / Lombata)- good for grilling, pan frying
9. Loin nearest tail (Scamone)- good for roasting, cutlets
10. Breast nearest tail (Pancetta)- good for stuffed pockets
11. Breast nearest middle (Punta di petto / Punta di mezzo / Petto)- good for roasting, stuffed pockets
12. Lower shoulder (Geretto)- good for boiling, chops with bone marrow, osso buco, broth
13. Middle neck/ Upper shoulder (Fesa di spalla)- good for slices, stuffed rolls, stew
14. Best end/Cutlet (Costolette)- good for grilling, chops, escalopes
15. Breast nearest head (Fiocco)- best for stewing, braising, bollito misto
16. Upper middle neck (Reale / Sottospalla)- good for meatballs, meatloaves, boiling, stewing, braising
17. Scrag end (Collo)- good for boiling, stewing
18. Middle neck closest head (Fusello)- good for roasting, braising, boiling, stews, meatloaves, and slicing
19. Middle neck (Cappello del Prete)- good for boiling, stewing, and braising
20. Lower middle neck (Brione)- good for boiling, stewing, braising
Store: Veal should be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator at 5˚C on a tray to catch any drips. Meat should be unwrapped and stored, lightly wrapped in parchment paper or aluminium foil in the refrigerator as an airtight container may promote bacterial growth. It should be stored on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so it doesn’t contaminate other food. Veal steaks, chops, joints and mince can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 day. If your time requirement is longer than this then the veal can be frozen in thick airtight freezer bags at – 18˚C and then thawed in the refrigerator (6 to 7 hours per 450 gms) or in a sealed bag immersed in cold water when needed. Veal chops, steaks, joints and mince can be kept in the freezer for 4 to 8 months. If the meat begins to show signs of grey, white or brown patches on the meat, it is developing freezer burn and is dehydrating. It is still edible but will be dry and not taste nice. Organ meats such as liver, brain, tripe, and sweetbreads are more highly perishable and should be consumed within a week of slaughter or purchased frozen.
Prepare: Rinse the meat with water and dry thoroughly. Prepare according to the recipe.
Eat: Because the veal has little fat, other fats need to be added when cooking to ensure that it doesn’t dry out. Veal can be fried (straccetti di vitello), roasted (vitello arrosto all’uso brianzolo), braised (ossobuco, vitello al latte, rostòn), poached or stewed (vitello in umido con cipolline). Veal can be thinly cut and cooked (vitello tonnato, vitello all’ucellato, saltimbocca alla romana, costoletta milanese), rolled or stuffed (vitello ripieno, tomaxelle). Vitellone is suitable for grilling (bistecca alla fiorentina). The veal liver (fegato alla veneziana), sweetbreads, brains and intestines (la pajata) are also eaten.
Vitello – See Veal
Wild Boar (Cinghiale) (Sus scrofa)
Substitute: wild boar under one year old can be substituted with pork; fillet and upper rib of cinghialotto can be substituted with roe deer or chamois
Wild boar is a type of wild pig that roams wild still in northern and central Italy, and Sardegna. There is also a crossbred between pig and wild boar (meticcio). Wild boar can be wild or semi-wild (live within fenced-in areas). It is particularly prized in Toscana and Lazio.
Buy: The ideal age to buy wild boar is under six months of age as it will be juicier and more succulent. It is best to purchase wild boar displayed with the skin attached so it is easier to ascertain its age. It should be hung for 3 days for cinghialotto and 8 days for adulto after killing. Wild boar is sold fresh or frozen. If purchasing frozen wild boar, then it should only be braised or stewed. See Pork for cuts. The tongue is also eaten.
Porcastro milk-fed baby
Cinghialotto / Cinghialetto is between three to six months of age and has clear horizontal stripes in the fur. The meat is tender and delicate. Butchers often leave a layer of fat on after skinning the wild boar. It can be cooked using any method, even roasted. It does not need to be marinated. The upper spare rib, blade, chump and leg can be roasted, grilled or pan-fried. The shoulder and other cuts should be braised or stewed with light seasonings.
Giovane is between six months to one year old and the fur is tawny coloured. The meat is tender and has a slightly strong flavour. Butchers often leave a layer of fat on after skinning the wild boar. It should be lightly marinated. The fillet, upper spare rib and blade can be roasted. The other cuts can be braised or stewed.
Maturo is between one and two years old and has darker fur. The meat is excellent and has a gamy but pleasant flavour. It needs to be marinated for a long period of time. The blade (should be sliced), upper rib and fillet can be roasted. The rest of the cuts should be braised or stewed.
Adulto is older than two years of age and has almost black fur. It is tough with a strong gamy flavour. If it is less than six years old then it should be marinated for up to 48 hours and then braised, stewed, or stewed in wine (in salmì). Wild boar older than six years of age are unpleasant to eat.
Store: See Pork
Prepare: See Pork and specific categories above
Eat: Wild boar is pan-fried (costolette di cinghialetto), roasted (cosciotto di cinghialetto), braised (cinghiale al civé), spit-roasted (cinghiale all’Aspromonte), stewed (cinghiale alla cacciatora, cinghiale alla maremmana, cinchiale alle erbe, cinghiale in umido, spezzatino di cinghiale) and made into meat sauce to dress pasta (pappardelle al ragù di cinghiale). It is also made into sausages (salsiccia di cinghiale), coppa, prosciutto (prosciutto di cinghiale) or salami (salame di cinghiale). Older wild boar needs to be flavoured with strong aromatics and stewed (cinghiale in agrodolce, scottiglie di cinghiale). It pairs well with fennel, juniper, myrtle, chestnut, blueberries, currants and mushrooms.