To Begin the Meal: Affettati Misti

A Platter of Affettati Misti, Mixed Cold Cuts

A Platter of Affettati Misti, Mixed Cold Cuts

In much (but not all) of Italy a festive meal will begin with a variety of appetizers, which are known as antipasti – literally, before the meal. These antipasti vary considerably from place to place, but they will often include a selection of cold cuts, which are known as affettati misti.

In this platter, prepared by the Trattoria il Borgo, a restaurant Franciacorta’s Azienda Villa opened in Monticelli Brusati (not far from Brescia), we have Capocollo, Mortadella, Pancetta, Prosciutto, and Salame.

A Platter of Affettati Mist: Capocollo, or Coppa

A Platter of Affettati Mist: Capocollo, or Coppa

Capocollo, also known as coppa, is cured pork shoulder butt, and like almost all Italian cold cuts, is salted and air-cured with herbs and spices. No heat involved. It’s fairly lean, and delicately flavored.

A Platter of Affettati Mist: Mortadella di Bologna

A Platter of Affettati Mist: Mortadella di Bologna

Mortadella’s full name is Mortadella di Bologna, from whence the name of its American offshoot, Bologna.

It’s a cooked pork sausage made from pork ground fine in a mortar (hence the Italian name, from mortaio) with spices and cubes of fat. Mortadellas range tremendously in size, from little ones for home use to monsters more than a foot in diameter and ten long for delicatessens. There are also variations, for example mortadella with cubes of ham or mortadella with pistachio nuts.

A Platter of Affettati Mist: Pancetta Arrotolata

A Platter of Affettati Mist: Pancetta Arrotolata

Pancetta is made from a cut called pork side, which is what remains after the loin and spare ribs are removed. This is the same cut used to make bacon, though pancetta is simply cured with salt, spices, and herbs — no heat, no smoking, and none of the sugar that often goes into bacon.

You’ll find two kinds of pancetta in Italian delicatessens: flat and arrotolata, or rolled.

Flat is generally more strongly flavored, and is used primarily as a flavoring agent — chopped, sliced or diced, depending upon the recipe. Pancetta arrotolata is often milder, and can be served finely sliced as an antipasto. If well cured it’s quite delicate, with the fattier parts resembling cured lard in flavor and texture.

A Platter of Affettati Mist: Prosciutto

A Platter of Affettati Mist: Prosciutto

People have written books about Northern Italy’s cured raw hams. Broadly speaking, prosciutto can be divided into two categories, dolce (sweet), and salato, casalingo, or Toscano (salty, home made, or Tuscan). The former is more refined and more expensive, and is what we have here.
The most common varieties of prosciutto dolce are Parma, made in Emilia Romagna,  and San Daniele, made in Friui Venezia Giulia. Both should have deep red meat and pure white fat. The former are rounded and rather stubby, while the latter are pressed to give them their characteristic “Stradivarian” shape (by women, according to the Consorzio, as men lack the necessary touch).

Prosciutto salato, on the other hand, is more heavily salted, and is also rubbed with a spice mixture called agliata, made with garlic and pepper. The meat is frequently darker in color, and the fat can be pinkish.

A Platter of Affettati Mist: Prosciutto

A Platter of Affettati Mist: Prosciutto

A Salame (plural salami; cold cuts in general are called salumi, with a u) is a cured sausage generally made by grinding lean pork with pork fat to make a paste, and stuffing the paste into a casing, generally pig’s intestine. The salame is then aged in a cool dark, well ventilated place until it’s ready. Like prosciutto, Italian salami is raw, with the meat being cured by the salt in the spice mix.

The concept sounds simple and is, but within the category there are tremendous variations, both in the grind of the meat and the fat, which result in different textures, and in the spicing mixes used to season the meat.

Because of this, almost every town in Italy has a local salame, and if the town isn’t known for its pork it may be made from another kind of meat, for example asino (ass) or oca (goose – Friuli Venezia Giulia is known for its goose salami and prosciutto, both of which are made under Rabbinical supervision and thus Kosher).

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Categories: Antipasti and Starters, Illustrated Recipes And More

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.

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