Prosciutto crudo, in English often shortened to prosciutto (/prəˈʃt, prˈ-/ prə-SHOO-toh, proh-,[1][2][3][4] Italian: [proʃˈʃutto]),[5] is Italian uncooked, unsmoked, and dry-cured ham. Prosciutto crudo is usually served thinly sliced.

Prosciutto di Parma PDO
Place of originItaly
Similar dishesJamón serrano

Several regions in Italy have their own variations of prosciutto crudo, each with degrees of protected status, but the most prized are Prosciutto di Parma DOP from Emilia-Romagna and Prosciutto di San Daniele DOP from Friuli Venezia Giulia. Unlike speck (Speck Alto Adige PGI) from the South Tyrol region, prosciutto is not smoked.

In Italian, prosciutto means any kind of ham, either dry-cured (prosciutto crudo or simply crudo) or cooked (prosciutto cotto),[6][7] but in English-speaking countries, it usually means either Italian prosciutto crudo or similar hams made elsewhere.[8][9][10] However, the word "prosciutto" itself is not protected; cooked ham may legally be, and in practice is, sold as prosciutto (usually as prosciutto cotto, and from Italy or made in the Italian style) in English-speaking regions.[11][12][13]

Prosciutto di Parma


The word prosciutto derives in turn from Italian asciutto ("dry"), with prefix substitution,[14] or from Vulgar Latin pro (before) + exsuctus (past participle of exsugere "to suck out [the moisture]");[15] the Portuguese presunto has the same etymology. It is similar to the modern Italian verb prosciugare "to dry thoroughly" (from Latin pro + exsucare "to extract the juices from").[16]


Salt being added to a pork leg

Prosciutto is made from either a pig's or a wild boar's hind leg or thigh, and the base term prosciutto specifically refers to this product. Prosciutto may also be made using the hind leg of other animals, in which case the name of the animal is included in the name of the product, for example, "prosciutto cotto d'agnello" ("lamb prosciutto"). The process of making prosciutto can take from nine months to two years, depending on the size of the ham.

A writer on Italian food, Bill Buford, describes talking to an old Italian butcher who says:

When I was young, there was one kind of prosciutto. It was made in the winter, by hand, and aged for two years. It was sweet when you smelled it. A profound perfume. Unmistakable. To age a prosciutto is a subtle business. If it's too warm, the aging process never begins. The meat spoils. If it's too dry, the meat is ruined. It needs to be damp but cool. The summer is too hot. In the winter—that's when you make salumi. Your prosciutto. Your soppressata. Your sausages.[17]

Today, the ham is first cleaned, salted, and left for about two months. During this time, the ham is pressed gradually and carefully to avoid breaking the bone and drain all blood left in the meat. Next, it is washed several times to remove the salt and is hung in a dark, well-ventilated environment. The surrounding air is important to the final quality of the ham; the best results are obtained in a cold climate. The ham is then left until dry. The time this takes varies, depending on the local climate and size of the ham. When the ham is completely dry, it is hung to air, either at room temperature or in a controlled environment, for up to 18 months.

Prosciutto is sometimes cured with nitrites (either sodium or potassium), which are generally used in other hams to produce the desired rosy color and unique flavor, but only sea salt is used in Protected Designation of Origin hams. Such rosy pigmentation is produced by a direct chemical reaction of nitric oxide with myoglobin to form nitrosomyoglobin, followed by concentration of the pigments due to drying. Bacteria convert the added nitrite or nitrate to nitric oxide.


A plate of prosciutto di Parma with melon

Sliced prosciutto crudo in Italian cuisine is often served as an antipasto, wrapped around grissini, or accompanied with melon or figs. It is also eaten as an accompaniment to cooked spring vegetables, such as asparagus or peas. It may be included in a simple pasta sauce made with cream or a Tuscan dish of tagliatelle and vegetables. It is used in stuffings for other meats, such as veal, as a wrap around veal or steak, in a filled bread, or as a pizza topping.

Saltimbocca is an Italian veal dish in which escalopes of veal are topped with a sage leaf before being wrapped in prosciutto and then pan-fried. Prosciutto is often served in sandwiches and panini, sometimes in a variation on the Caprese salad, with basil, tomato and fresh mozzarella.

European Union Protected Designations of Origin

Prosciutto crudo

A plate of prosciutto

Under the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union (EU), certain well-established meat products, including some local prosciutto, are covered by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) – DOP in Italian – and other, less stringent designations of geographical origin for traditional specialties. Various regions have their own PDO, whose specifications do not generally require ham from free-range pigs. The simple Italian description prosciutto, used alone or with crudo or cotto, is not in itself a protected term.

The two famous types of Italian prosciutto crudo are: prosciutto crudo di Parma, from Parma, and prosciutto crudo di San Daniele, from the San Daniele del Friuli area, in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.[18] The prosciutto di Parma has a slightly nutty flavor from the Parmigiano Reggiano whey that is sometimes added to the pigs' diet. The prosciutto di San Daniele is darker, and sweeter in flavor. For both of them, the product regulations allow salt as the only additive to the meat,[19][20] prohibiting additives such as nitrite and nitrate that are often used in unprotected products.

European Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) and Geographical indications and traditional specialities (PGI) apply for several prosciutto varieties in Italy, each slightly different in color, flavor, and texture:[7]



Culatello con cotenna is similar to prosciutto but is made from the filet or loin of the hind leg. It is aged in a beef or hog's bladder as a casing to prevent spoilage and contamination. Culatello di Zibello possesses PDO status. It is commonly served as a starter.

Strolghino is a salame prepared from leftover cuts of culatello.[21]


Antipasto with Prosciutto

In Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia (especially the Karst Plateau and the Vipava Valley), Serbia, and Croatia (Dalmatia, the island of Krk and Istria), pršut is a common form of dry-cured ham. Pršut from Dalmatia, Herzegovina, and Serbia are smoked, unlike the Italian product, while that from Slovenia, Istria, and Krk is not smoked. The mountain village of Njeguši in Montenegro produces the smoked njeguški pršut.

The following types of pršut have a protected status in the European Union and the UK:[22][23]

Pršut with PGI and PDO
CountryGeographical AreaNameGeographical IndicationYear of registration
Croatiapart of DalmatiaDalmatinski pršutPGI2016
CroatiaŠibenik-Knin CountyDrniški pršutPGI2015
Croatia and Sloveniapart of IstriaIstarski pršut / Istrski pršutPDO2015
Sloveniapart of the KrasKraški pršutPGI2012
CroatiaKrkKrčki pršutPGI2015

See also

  • Coppa or capocollo  Italian and Corsican pork cold cut, made in Italy from dry-cured pork shoulder
  • Bresaola  Air-dried and salted beef, made in northern Italy from air-dried beef
  • Lardo  Cured and seasoned strips of pig fat, salted lard made in Italy
  • Salo, salted lard made in Eastern Europe
  • Jinhua ham  Chinese cured ham, a dry-cured ham made in China
  • Country ham  American cured and smoked ham, a method of curing pork originating from the Southern U.S., also widely known as "Virginia ham," cooked either during processing or before eating
  • Bayonne ham, also known as Jambon de Bayonne  French cured ham with protected designation of origin, a dry-cured ham made in France
  • Jamón serrano, a dry-cured ham made in Spain
  • Jamón ibérico  Type of cured pork leg product / Presunto pata negra, a dry-cured ham made in Spain and Portugal
  • Presunto, dry-cured ham made in Portugal
  • Elenski but or ham from Elena, a dry-cured and air-dried ham made traditionally in Bulgaria, Elena region
  • List of hams
  • List of dried foods
  • List of smoked foods
  • Rome § Wildlife, culinary opportunities in Italy's capital and largest city

Notes and references

  1. "PROSCIUTTO". Cambridge English Dictionary. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  2. "prosciutto". Lexico UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 2021-06-05.
  3. "Prosciutto". Collins English Dictionary. HarperCollins. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  4. "prosciutto". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  5. "Prosciutto pronunciation in Italian". Retrieved 4 November 2021.
  6. "Prosciutto recipes". BBC Food. n.d. Retrieved 24 October 2021. Prosciutto means 'ham' in Italian and is a term particularly used to describe ham that has been seasoned, cured and air-dried. 'Prosciutto cotto' is cooked, and 'Prosciutto crudo' is raw, although, because it has been salt-cured, it is ready to eat.
  7. "IBERIAN, YORK AND PARMA HAM DIFFERENCES". Pata Negra Schinken. n.d. Retrieved 24 October 2021.
  8. Fabricant, Florence (2 October 2017). "A New American Prosciutto". New York Times.
  9. "1st Argentinian Prosciutto". Jamón Crudo El Artesano.
  10. "Ακροκώλιον, το καλύτερο ελληνικό προσούτο φτιάχνεται στην Ευρυτανία (βίντεο)" [Acrokolion, the best Greek prosciutto (προσούτο) made in Evritania (video)]. (in Greek). 14 September 2016.
  11. "Prosciutto Cotto - Ingredient - FineCooking". FineCooking. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  12. "Tesco Prosciutto Cotto 100G". Tesco. n.d. Archived from the original on 27 January 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  13. "Naturals Prosciutto Cotto (made in New Jersey, US)". Rovagnati US. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  14. "Prosciutto" (in Italian). Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  15. "Perna e Perexuctus, il Prosciutto nella Storia" (in Italian). Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  16. OED sv. prosciutto, n.; Dizionario etimologico online sv. Prosciutto, Presciutto and Prosciugare; Lewis & Short sv. ex-sūco
  17. Buford, Bill Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany Knopf, 2006 ISBN 1-4000-4120-1
  18. S. Irene Virbila (January 29, 1989). "Fare of the Country; The Sweet Prosciutto Of San Danieli, Italy". The New York Times. Retrieved November 9, 2009.
  19. "Technical Fact Sheet of Parma Ham" (PDF). n.d. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 September 2018. Additives: None. Only the use of salt is allowed (sodium chloride).
  20. "Production guidelines". Consorzio del Prosciutto di San Daniele. Archived from the original on 21 December 2013. Sea salt is used exclusively for salting, as the use of other chemical substances, preservatives and additives is completely prohibited throughout the preparation.
  21. Petrini, Carlo; Padovani, Gigi (2006-10-17). Slow food revolution. p. 78. ISBN 9780847828739.
  22. "Kraški pršut PGI". European Commission. 25 July 2020.
  23. "Dalmatian Pršut Given EU Protection Status". Croatia Week. February 15, 2016.

Further reading

  • McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking (revised). New York, New York: Scribner, 2004. ISBN 0-684-80001-2
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