Prosciutto is the pig’s hind thigh or ham that has been salted and air-dried. The salt draws off the meat’s excess water, thus curing and preserving it. A true prosciutto is never smoked. When served it should always be thinly sliced and used as soon as possible. If you are not consuming it immediately then each slice or every single layer of slices must be covered with greaseproof paper or clingfilm then wrapped in aluminium foil. Prosciutto is delicious eaten as it is or cooked on pizzas. It can be quite salty so do not add extra salt unless needed.
Pancetta is from the pig’s belly and is the Italian equivalent of bacon. Can be bought sliced or cubed and is more tender and considerably less salty than prosciutto. It can also be eaten raw or cooked. Pancetta is rarely ever smoked except in a few areas of northern Italy.
Salami is the generic term for cured and fermented meat (usually pork or beef) that is typically flavoured with spices such as black pepper, fennel, chilli or paprika. The meat mixture is ground and stuffed into casings then hung to dry, either in the hot or cool air, until the sausages have reduced in weight by at least half. Some salamis or cured sausages will additionally be smoked. Examples of common salamis and cured sausages are Napoli, Milano, Genoa, chorizo and pepperoni.
Mortadella can be used sliced or diced on pizzas. It is made from the lean shoulder and neck meat from carefully selected pigs and is then studded with the creamy fat from other parts of the pig. Mortadella is often flavoured with a blend of spices and condiments that vanes from producer to producer.
Bresaola is very thinly sliced, cured and air-dried lean beef. It is gently spiced to develop its rich and aromatic flavour.