Italian Charcuterie Board
I am a huge fan of Italian Charcuterie Boards! Throw in some cheese and I’m even happier. Add a refreshing glass of Italian sparkling wine, and I’m in heaven. To me this is my perfect summer dinner enjoyed outside.
Of course, I’d much prefer to be enjoying my salumi in Italy! You will find regional salumis throughout the country, and although many of the best salumis are food products of Emilia-Romagna, known as Italy’s food valley, you will be able to find a delicious selection in Rome as well.
Italian cold cuts are all in the category referred to as salumi. Salumi is the equivalent of the French word charcuterie, it sounds a lot like salami, but it includes so much more as should your Italian Charcuterie Board!
When considering what meats to include on your Italian Charcuterie Board, think about creating a platter of varying textures, shapes, tastes, sizes, and color. Just as you would for a cheese board.
And speaking of cheese, should an Italian Charcuterie Board include cheese? Technically, speaking, charcuterie is just meat, however, I’m NEVER going to say no to cheese! And then you can call it a meal! Throw in a couple of Aperol Spritz, and no one will argue with you!
Meat choices for an Italian Charcuterie Board
1. Culatello di Zibello tastes better than the best prosciutto you’ve ever had. Similarly, it reigns from the area around Parma. More specifically, the foggy flatland near the Po river which provides the perfect foggy climate to age this prized ham and impart the distinctive fragrances and flavors that make culatello unique. Made only from the thigh of the hind legs of special pigs of this region, the meat is very tender, lean, and rich in flavor. Cured with salt, pepper, garlic, and white wine, and aged for at least 11 months, if you have culatello available to you, include it on your Italian Charcuterie Board!
2. Prosciutto di Parma and Prosciutto di San Daniele are the next best cured ham choice to culatello, and I would recommend having one or the other on your salumi platter. More widely available than culatello (especially outside of Italy), prosciutto has a delicious flavor, deep red color, and soft texture. It pairs well with cheeses and is quite tasty on bread or a cracker.
3. Salami is a 3-4 inch wide sausage. Traditionally made with seasoned ground pork (garlic, salt, wine, and spices) and cubes of fat, and stuffed into the pig's large intestine for casing. Salamis Smaller salamis called salamino, have a similar filling and are just 1-inch thick. Today there are many types of salami and salamino, and you can even include more than one on a charcuterie board. Again, shoot for variety like Finocchinoa, with is slightly fennel flavor, or a truffle or spicy salami such as pepperoni.
4. Soppressata similar to salami, primarily uses leftover cuts of pork and is pressed into a sausage. Although it originated in the south of Italy, you can find it country-wide, and the seasonings vary from region to region. It is coarsely ground and has larger chunks of pork and fat than salami.
5. Nduja makes a great addition to an Italian Cheese Board! Pronounced “en-doo-ya”, nduja is a spicy pork spread that easily takes care of the variety factor for texture, color, shape, taste, and size! And it’s delicious!
6. Coppa, aka Capicola, is made from the neck or shoulder of a pig and is usually combined with herbs, spices and wine. It is usually sliced thin like prosciutto, but the slice is more round and marbled, and distinct enough so that both can be served on the same board. Coppas also have regional flavors and the ones from Calabria offer a nice spicy kick.
7. Bresaola has a deep the red, almost purple color because it is made of beef that is air-dried, salted and aged. It tends to be dry, and because of this, for a charcuterie board, I usually prefer prosciutto, but bresaola served with olive oil or cheese, can be a nice change.
8. Mortadella is not the bologna of your childhood although its origins are from Bologna, Italy. The recipe for Mortadella di Bologna of finely ground pork sausage mixed with nutmeg, pepper, and pistachios dates back to the 1600s. For it to survive that long says something, right?
Creating an Italian Charcuterie Board
Selecting the meats: Do not try to include all of the above on your Italian Charcuterie Board, a selection of 3-5 is usually sufficient. Try to have different sizes, shapes, colors, and textures. A safe trio: prosciutto, coppa, and a salami like finocchiona will taste delicious and be visually appealing.
Selecting the cheese (if you are including): My number one rule is choose what you like. 2-3 selections will usually suffice, and again, vary the size, texture, shape and color if possible. If you want something Italian, go with Burrata and something harder like Asiago or Parmigiano Reggiano. Or if you want to venture out, and want more information on selecting cheeses, please check out my post on cheese boards.
Adding accompaniments will enhance your board. Try to pair flavors that will compliment your selection. Pickled vegetable, marinated artichokes, roasted red peppers, and Castelvetrano Olives are a few of my favorites.
Finishers like mustard, jam, and honey add depth of flavor and color to your presentation. Truffle honey is my must-have absolute favorite finisher—especially if there will be cheese on your Italian Charcuterie Board!
Bread and/or crackers can be part of your board, or put in a bowl or basket.
Fruit and veggies can also be used as crackers for the keto crowd, and the colors easily perk up a platter. They are not mandatory, by no means.
Nuts and garnishes in piles or sprinkles on the platter will help fill in the gaps. Also, not mandatory.