All About Sopressa And Sopressata
Similar to salami, sopresse and sopressate have their own taste, history and tradition. While most cured meats are distinct to a region in Italy, all are delicious.
Traditional Italian Salumi
You don’t have to be an expert on Italian cured meats or even a foodie to love the many varieties of salumi. From the snappy texture to the robust flavors, salumi is practically irresistible.
Whether you’ve nibbled from an artfully curated charcuterie plate or simply snacked like a superstar on movie night, chances are that you’ve tried a wide range of Italian cured meats. But we’re here to talk about sopressata and sopressa, of course. Both sopresse and sopressate (plural forms) are similar to the classic salami you know and love, but each has their own particular taste, story and tradition.
Sopressa (singular form) is round and, compared to typical salami, quite large. It is pressed by hand—“pressare” means “to press”—at the very beginning of production in order to eliminate any pockets of air. Sopressa is produced in the Northeast Italy—in Veneto and Frioul, to be exact. The most famous type is Sopressa Vicentina (D.O.P).
Sopressa Vicentina and the other high-quality sopresse from Northern Italy are made using the best cuts of pork. The ideal proportion of lean meat to fat for sopresse is 65% and 35%, respectively. The pork is ground and blended with spices like cinnamon, cloves and rosemary, along with other ingredients depending on local traditions. It is encased in a natural outer skin, tied and hung up to dry for less than a week. After the initial drying, the aging or curing process (stagionatura) begins: a minimum of 60 days for the smaller sopresse and up to 120 days for the larger ones. By the way, this whole process takes place in specially monitored rooms, where temperature and humidity are carefully controlled.
The resulting sopressa is absolutely stunning with a smooth texture and beautifully bold flavor. Some variations of sopressa include the addition of Amarone red wine from Veneto. The taste is unparalleled. Sopressa like salame is eaten just as it is with local fresh bread—often as a morning snack. It can also be grilled and served with polenta. Many Northern Italian chefs today use sopressa for new innovative dishes using borlotti beans, lentils, radicchio, broccoli, truffles and other local produce from the Veneto region.
The southern regions of Italy—including Abruzzo, Molise, Puglia, Basilicata, and Calabria—make their own specialty called sopressata. Because of how it is made, this variation owns a distinctive oblong shape, because of the way it is made. Where sopressa is pressed by hand, sopressata is pressed between two sheets of linen with the weight of wooden planks and stones on top. This pressing takes about one week.
Sopressata is the pride of many southern villages and regions and comes in many shapes and flavors, aromas and spices which make this salume (air-cured meat) so special. There is an enormous diversity in the choice of cuts of pork meat, the choice of spices and even in the way its ground—for instance, sometimes the meat is only cut manually with a knife.
Though there are many amazing sopressate, only the Sopressata di Calabria boasts the esteemed D.O.P. label (Denomination of Protected Origin). This certification ensures that the strictest standards of production are followed and that the product is made only in specific geographical areas. In this case, Sopressata di Calabria (D.O.P.) must be produced in Calabria, and it can only be made with pork coming from locally raised, free-range hogs. When you taste a slice of Sopressata di Calabria, the presence of hot pepper (of which Calabria is the top producer in Italy) is evident. Cumin and black pepper are also added.
Other excellent examples of small artisanal sopressata production include Gioj in Puglia, where a totally handmade sopressata is done using very lean pork meat with a piece of lard placed in the center. When sliced, it has a particularly elegant look and its taste is sublime. In the Molise region—in Jelsi, Montenero Val Cocchiara and Rionero Sannitico and many other villages—lean and unique sopressate are produced for a few lucky ones. Rarely are these specialities available elsewhere. One such example is a particularly succulent variety made in Basilicata near Rivello, where soperzata, as it’s called locally, is made with top-choice lean cuts of pork to which cubes of lard, salt and pepper are added. This particular sopressata is very small, weighing less than half a pound. Many associations, primarily Slow Food, are trying their best to maintain local traditions such as these, which are at risk of being lost.
Throughout Southern Italy, all kinds of sopressata are proudly offered on special occasions and family reunions. It is a truly unique creation, made since the time of Greek presence in the area—thousands of years ago. It’s a testimony to the Italians’ innate respect and understanding of culinary arts that the men and women of Southern Italy are devoted to keeping these skills and knowledge alive.
Ideas & Recipes for Sopressata
Recipe: Antipasto Sheet Pan Pizza
Keep it simple with Charcuterie for Two.