Ingredient of the Week: Prosciutto

Prosciutto arugula mozzarella pizza.JPG
Photo by John Suh
I dream of prosciutto pizza.
What is it?

Pronounced "proh-SHOOT-oh," prosciutto is a thinly sliced Italian dry-cured ham. The uncooked version highlighted today is called prosciutto crudo (the cooked kind is prosciutto cotto). The most revered cuts of prosciutto come from the northern and central regions of Italy (hence the famous mildly nutty prosciutto di Parma and the sweeter prosciutto di San Daniele), but most regions in Italy make a local prosciutto. The word prosciutto is derived from the Latin word to mean "to dry thoroughly." It is made from a pig or wild boar's hind leg or thigh (ham) and takes anywhere from nine months to two years to cure.

After cleaning, the ham is salted and gradually pressed for two months to drain all the blood. Then it is thoroughly cleaned to remove the salt and hung in a cool and well-ventilated room. After the ham has completely dried, it is then moved to hang at either room temperature or a climate-controlled environment to air for several months.

How do I use it?

Serve it as part of an antipasto dish with cheese; fruit (honeydew, persimmon or fig); or grissini (breadsticks). Combine it with other Italian deli meats such as salami or pastrami for an Italian sandwich. Or toss it into a creamy pasta sauce with some spring vegetables.

Due to its sticky and delicate nature, prosciutto is difficult to cut with precision. If smaller pieces are needed, just hand-shred them -- the imperfection is part of its beauty.

Where can I find it?

On a charcuterie plate or in the fancier deli section of most grocery stores.

Recipes

Prosciutto Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese
I had these lovely hors d'oeuvres at a dinner party once, and the symphony of flavors was spectacular. It's easy to make and will surely impress your guests at upcoming holiday parties.

Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza
Inspired by a pizza I had at Delfina Pizzeria in San Francisco, I used this recipe to make the pizza dough and then added my own toppings: pizza sauce, fresh mozzarella, arugula, and of course, prosciutto. After rolling out the dough, bake the crust for five to ten minutes till lightly golden. Then add only the sauce and cheese, and bake until done. Top with prosciutto and arugula before serving--this keeps the prosciutto moist and the arugula from wilting. You can stick the pie back in the oven for two minutes or so just to heat the prosciutto and arugula if desired. Or even easier, just buy already-made pizza crusts and top them with the prosciutto, arugula, mozzarella, and sauce prior to baking. Buon appetito!

What do you do with your prosciutto?



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5 comments
tinyhands
tinyhands

Pronouncing the "o" at the end is optional.

Bill
Bill

Smear slice of prosciutto with herbed soft cheese, wrap around a few (blanched) asparagus spears, grill.

Pound thin a chicken breast, line with prosciutto, spread artichoke dip or other filling on top of prosciutto, roll up, bake, slice, pretty.

Matthew
Matthew

i always took prosciutto cotto to be cooked ham similar to our sandwich meat ham, not a cooked version of dry-cured prosciutto.

Alfonso C.
Alfonso C.

I'm all for piling the prosciutto onto a pizza with mozzarella for a love fest Italian style - topping it with Parmigiano-Reggiano however is considered an American affliction - the salty, harsh acidity of the hard cheese fights with the soft suppleness of the creamy mozzarella - definitely not a threesome you will find in Italy

Corey
Corey

Obviously you've been to Italy, kudos. Simple is the order of the day, and complementary. Don't even get me started on sauces, condiemente not gloopy giant blobs of sauce, or worse in North Eastern speak gravy... 

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