Facts About Antipasti
The word antipasto literally means 'before meal.'
anti - before pasto - meal
1. Different regions of Italy are famous for different types of cured meats and cheeses.
The best quality ham comes from the Emilia-Romagna region. The most well-known type of ham is called il prosciutto crudo - meaning 'raw ham'. The most highly valued prosciutto is called il prosciutto di Parma.
The 'raw ham' is made with the rear legs of the pig - il maiale - and it is cured only with sea salt. Its preparation takes a very long time ranging from 400 days to 3 years! It's definitely worth the wait!
Il prosciutto crudo is served sliced very thinly.
2. La mortadella Bologna dates back to Roman times! It originated in Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region. This cooked pork meat can be prepared with either pistachi or black peppercorns. It's extremely popular both in Italy and around the world with over 37million kilograms sold per year!
La mortadella is served sliced very thinly.
3. Everyone enjoys a spoon or two (or more) of grated Parmigiano - Parmesan cheese - on their pasta but this cheese can also be sliced and eaten as un antipasto. It is produced in the regions of Emilia-Romagna and Lombardia.
The most well-known type of Parmesan cheese il Parmigiano Reggiano. It is made from cow's milk and takes at least one year to mature. The stravecchio (aged) variety is the most prestigious and can take 3 years to mature. A whole Parmesan wheel weighing approximately 40kg can cost around £700 or more depending on how mature it is.
4. In Italy, you can buy cured meats and cheeses pre-sliced in packages but most Italians prefer theirs freshly sliced. If you go into an Italian supermarket you'll find a counter with lots of different cheeses, hams and salami. If it's busy you take a ticket with a number on it and wait your turn. The person serving at the counter uses a special machine called un'affettatrice to slice the product. The slices are always very thin. If it's too thick, it ruins the flavour and the consistency.
They lay out a large sheet of paper and transfer the slices onto it, separating each layer with a plastic sheet so it doesn't stick together. They also have a special electric grater so you can ask to have your Parmigiano grated right away. Che buon servizio! - What good service!
5. In Sardegna - Sardinia, wild boar is very common. It is called il cinghiale and it is used to make both fresh and dry-cured sausages. Traditionally, a hunt - una caccia - is arranged in the summer months to keep the boar population under control.
You might not find it here in the UK but there are some specialist online shops that sell it if you're curious. È buonissimo! It is really good!