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Cured Meats and Sausages

Aging Meat

Italians are masters of salting and curing meat, which they call salame (literally 'salted meat'), or plural salumi) with literally millennia of experience––some say they learned the art from the pork-loving Celts. But they also cure beef, wild boar, venison, horse and donkey meat. Every region has its traditions, methods, and of course names spelled a dozen ways in various dialects to bedevil the earnest eater.

Although we might call them all cold cuts, the Italians subdivide salumi into three categories, although even these aren't very neat.

Salumi (as a subcategory) are cured meats from a whole cut of an animal, such as prosciutto, capocolla/coppa, pancetta and bresaola.

Salami (sing. salame) are meats that have been chopped, seasoned, generally but not always stuffed into a casing, then air dried, smoked or salted and left to age. Some of the most renowned come from Emilia-Romagna, including the king of salami, culatello, made from the offcuts of Parma ham, as well as strolghino and Calabria's spicy 'nduja and soppressata are examples. In Umbria, the town of Norcia has been famous for meats since Roman times.

Salsiccia is sausage, which generally means the meat is finely ground before being encased. Sometimes it needs to be cooked. This includes Emilia-Romagna's cotechino.

The difference between a salame and a salsiccia isn't always very clear. If you're confused and it's in a casing, you can just call it an insaccato.

Many of these demonstrate, historically at any rate, no part of the animal ever went to waste. See teteun for an extreme example.

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: Scott Brenner