How to enjoy prosciutto

How to enjoy prosciutto

With such a wide range of dry cured ham available, local experts weigh in and share their favourite pairings

Savoury, sweet and just a little bit nutty, there’s nothing quite like prosciutto for elevating simple homemade dishes, from your basic charcuterie board to pizzas, pastas and sandwiches.

“Prosciutto is an Italian delicacy that is made by salting a pork leg and then air-drying the meat for more than a year,” says Chef Ravi Arumugam of Terroni.

While the name prosciutto simply means ham in Italian, this isn’t your everyday luncheon meat. For starters, there’s the sheer variety.

Four main ingredients, endless options

“‘Are all prosciutti the same?’ is one of my favourite questions,” says Nicole Pinch, salumi and formaggi manager at Eataly Toronto. “On paper, they should be. But there are several differentiating factors. For example, Prosciutto di Parma has four key ingredients—pork, sea salt, air and time—and the diversity of those ingredients affects the final product.

“The result is differences in the flavour, aroma and texture depending on the breeds of pig, the climate of the region the pigs are raised in and the prosciutti are cured in, and the traditions of the different brands or producers involved,” she says.

The good news is, it’s hard to choose wrong, especially if you’re using authentic Prosciutto di Parma marked with a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) seal. 

“The first step to choosing a quality prosciutto is to seek out the DOP [or PDO in English] seal or marker,” Pinch says. “DOP, which means Denominazione d’Origine Protetta, is a certification that ensures your prosciutto is produced, processed and packaged in accordance with protected traditions closely monitored by a consortium.” Prosciutto di Parma is 100 per cent natural with no preservatives, nitrates, nitrites, hormones, additives or gluten. 

Shoppers can also look for the Parma Crown symbol branded on the leg of the ham. This guarantees that the ham was produced according to the highest standards and with commitment to quality.

If you want to learn even more about prosciutto, consult with a Prosciutto di Parma specialist. The Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma, which represents Italian producers whose families have made Prosciutto di Parma for thousands of years, offers specialist programs that recognize chefs and delis who have distinguished themselves in preparing, handling and serving the world’s most famous ham. A specialist program was introduced this year in Canada so local experts from the likes of  Terroni, Capra’s Kitchen and Eataly are now available. A full list of specialists can be found here.

Here are some top tips on how best to enjoy prosciutto at home from three Toronto-based certified Prosciutto di Parma specialists, all trained in the subtleties of prosciutti and the best ways to serve this unique delicacy.

Ravi Arumugam, chef, Terroni

Finding the prosciutto you love most may just be the best part of enjoying what Arumugam calls “the king of cured meats.” 

“Choosing the best prosciutto involves tasting the product—and tasting many of them!” he says. 

Factors such as the length of the aging period or breed of pig can affect prosciutto’s flavour profile. “Prosciutto di Parma, for example, is cured for a minimum of 400 days and adheres to the most traditional and simplest of guidelines,” he says. “Prosciutto di Parma pigs come from three breeds—Landroc, Duroc and large white pigs—and fed a healthy diet, which may include the whey from Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. They’re raised according to the highest standards within the unique microclimate of the Parma region.”

Once you’ve tasted your way through the options and found your favourite prosciutto,  Arumugam recommends pairing it with a glass of Franciacorta or Lambrusco.

Nicole Pinch, salumi and formaggi manager, Eataly Toronto

Make sure to get your prosciutto sliced paper-thin, advises Pinch. “You want your prosciutto to melt in your mouth,” she says. And while prosciutto is a guaranteed star on your charcuterie board year-round, in the transition to cooler fall temperatures, her favourite pairing is a 24-month Prosciutto di Parma PDO sliced “impossibly thin” on Eataly’s focaccia, baked in-house, topped with the house-made stracciatella.

Clara Luz Ferreira, deli department manager and assistant store manager, Grande Cheese

No matter which prosciutto you get, it’s even better with cheese, says Ferreira. 

“Some of my favourite pairings are to slice Prosciutto di Parma and wrap it around bocconcini or bread sticks, specifically the olive-flavoured ones,” she says. “You can also simply add it onto your pizza or pasta. For a quick meal, a sandwich with sliced Prosciutto di Parma alongside our Grande Cheese bocconcini is always a tasty option.”

To learn more about prosciutto, visit Prosciutto di Parma.