Prosciutto is a sweet, delicate ham intended to be eaten raw. The word 'prosciutto' is the Italian for ham, but is widely used to describe seasoned and cured air-dried ham. True prosciutto comes from Italy, but versions are now produced elsewhere.
'Prosciutto cotto' is cooked and 'prosciutto crudo' is raw (although safe and ready to eat thanks to the curing process). Italian prosciuttos are labeled according to their city or province of origin. The most famous is 'prosciutto di Parma' or Parma ham, which is salted and air-dried for eight to 24 months.
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In supermarkets, prosciutto comes pre-prepared in thin (almost transparent) slices. However, delis will cut fresh slices from the leg at the desired thickness.
Prosciutto is usually eaten raw, but can be added to pasta or risotto. Add it at the last minute as lengthy cooking will toughen it and destroy the delicate flavour.
It also can be grilled briefly to create proscuitto crisps that can be crumbled over salads or pasta dishes.
Keep in the fridge and consume by the use-by date. Once opened, eat within two days.
For a classic, no-fuss Italian starter, drape slices of prosciutto over quarters of juicy melon.
Watch our video for a great dinner party recipe of beef wellington wrapped in prosciutto:
Try pancetta or ham.