Ingredient of the Week: Prosciutto

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.


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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