As a lover of all things Italian, I’m always eager to try new Italian deli meats. There’s something about the combination of fat and spice that hits the spot like nothing else can. And while Americans are big fans of their cold cuts (like corned beef), they pale in comparison to their Italian counterparts when it comes down to flavor and complexity. That said, there are so many different kinds of Italian cold cuts that it can be hard knowing what you’re getting when you buy one at the deli counter. So I’ve put together this handy primer on different kinds of Italian cold cuts for your reference:
Salami is a type of cured sausage, most commonly made from pork, but also sometimes beef. It can be spicy or mild and usually has a salty flavor. Salami is typically sliced thin and eaten cold as an antipasto or snack food with bread and wine.
You may have heard of finocchiona, but you might not know exactly what it is. The word finocchiona comes from the Italian words for fennel seeds and pork, so you can guess that finocchionas are made with fennel seeds. But what makes this salami different from other types? Finocchionas aren’t as spicy as some other kinds of salami because they don’t use any chile peppers or hot spices in their curing process. They also tend to be less salty than other types of cured meats; instead of being cured with salt alone (like prosciutto), they’re often cured with both salt and sugar–a combination called “half-cured.” This means they have a softer texture than many other kinds of dry sausages like pepperoni or jalapeno poppers–you can slice them into thin slices without worrying about them falling apart when exposed too long at room temperature! The most common type of finocchiona uses pork shoulder along with veal thigh meat; however there are also versions made entirely out of one type or another depending on where in Italy it was produced originally.
Soppressata is a dry cured, smoked sausage. The name Soppressata comes from the Italian word sopprimere, which means to suppress or repress. It’s made with ground pork and fat (usually belly), as well as salt, pepper, garlic and other spices depending on the region. This type of salami has been around since Roman times and was popularized by southern Italian immigrants who brought their recipes with them when they immigrated to America. You’ll find them at most delis today!
Salsiccia is a pork sausage that can be eaten raw and/or cooked, but it’s most commonly used in Italian cuisine. It’s made with meat from the pig’s head and neck, as well as fat trimmings from other parts of the animal. Salsiccia has a rich flavor similar to pepperoni or chorizo; this is because they’re all cured meats that contain similar ingredients, such as salt, garlic powder and paprika (which gives them their red color). The word “salsiccia” comes from Latin salsus meaning “salted.”
Guanciale is the cured meat of pork jowl or cheeks. It’s made by salting, drying and smoking the meat. Guanciale can be sliced thinly or chopped into cubes and added to pasta dishes like carbonara or pappardelle in cream sauce. It has a rich flavor but less fat than pancetta because it doesn’t have as much skin attached to it. Guanciale is also saltier than other types of Italian cold cuts due to its curing process which involves rubbing with salt several times before being hung up to dry for one week at least (or longer depending on your preference).
Lardo is a type of cured pork fat, typically made from the back fat of a pig. It’s usually sliced very thin and served as part of an antipasto (an appetizer). Lardo can also be used to flavor pasta sauces; or you can eat it on its own with some nice bread and wine.
Breasola is a dry salami made from the shoulder of the pig. It’s similar to sopressata, but with less fat and more spice. Breasola is often served as an antipasto or as a sandwich filling. In Italy, there are many different types of cold cuts–and they don’t all taste the same! If you’re new to Italian deli meats, this primer will help you learn about some common varieties so that next time you’re at the deli counter with your friend who knows her way around prosciutto like it’s her job (or maybe yours), everyone can get what they want!
Capocollo, also known as coppa or capicola, is a sweet and spicy Italian cold cut made from pork shoulder. The name comes from the Italian word for “head,” because it’s similar to a ham in shape and size. The meat is cured with salt and herbs like garlic, pepper flakes, oregano and rosemary before being smoked over oak wood for several hours. Capocollo can be sliced thin or thick–the latter being called “capocollata”–and served on its own as an appetizer or tossed into pasta dishes like carbonara (a traditional dish made with bacon bits). You’ll find capocollo at most supermarkets these days; if you want a higher-quality product without having to spend too much money on it (and who doesn’t?), look for brands like Nino’s Artisan Cotto Salumi or Acunto Brothers Artisan Meats at specialty shops like Eataly instead of relying solely on supermarket chains’ offerings
Coppa is a type of cured meat that originated in Italy. It’s made from the pig’s cheek, which gives it its distinctive shape. Coppa can be used in sandwiches and salads as well as pastas, but it’s best known for its versatility: you can slice off slices from the whole chunk as needed or eat it straight out of the container like deli meat (though we recommend washing your hands before you do).
Pancetta is a type of Italian bacon, which is made from pork belly. It’s cured and cooked, then sliced into medallions that can be used in pasta dishes or sandwiches. Like other types of cold cuts, pancetta has been around since Roman times–it was originally called “lardo di Colonnata”, after the town in Tuscany where it originated. Pancetta comes in two varieties: ‘classica’ (classic) and ‘bianca’. The former is seasoned with only salt and pepper; the latter has additional spices like nutmeg or cinnamon added during its preparation process. Pancetta can be eaten raw but should always be cooked before eating as raw pork products can contain harmful bacteria like E-coli
We hope you enjoyed learning about the many varieties of Italian cold cuts. We know they can be a bit overwhelming at first, but don’t worry–it only takes a little practice. The next time you’re at an Italian deli or grocery store, try picking up one of these delicious products and experimenting with it!