How to prepare the best charcuterie board – Italian style!
What could be nicer than sharing a dinner table with your loved ones? Laughter, chatter and smiles accompanied by a mix of cold meats and cheeses. The “tagliere” is the perfect dish for experimenting with combinations of tastes and textures, a real journey through flavours. This is the Italian version of a charcuterie or cheese board
With this little guide you will discover some secrets for tasting salumi and cheeses at their best and for making intriguing combinations… you will amaze all your guests, I assure you!
Cold cuts, mon amour!
Cooked and delicate, seasoned and tasty, there are many varieties. Choose at least five to make your charcuterie board rich and fun. Slice them if you can at home: those with an intense flavour, very mature or very fatty (e.g. prosciutto crudo, bresaola, lard and bacon) should be sliced thinly, while the more delicate and less matured cured meats (e.g. salami and cooked ham) can be sliced thicker.
The tasting should start with the mildest and least seasoned salami and end with the most seasoned or spicy. The sweeter cured meats are best paired with hard, well-aged cheeses: alternating flavours will make your taste buds spark!
For an even more special chopping board you can choose Piedmontese cold cuts, and among the more traditional ones I recommend the typical Zanardi cold cuts. In Suno, a small town in Upper Piedmont, the Zanardi family has been preparing some of the most typical cured meats for two generations. There is no shortage of innovative products such as Golosello: delicately smoked salumi.
All you need to know about cheese
For a rich cheese board, choose at least five types of high-quality cheeses, the more different the better: soft or hard, fresh or mature, cheeses have very different shapes and textures, mix and match and try different nuances.
Cut the cheeses into slices, leaving the rind on, and serve them with a suitable knife so that your guests can serve themselves comfortably.
A bowie knife is essential for cutting soft cheeses, while a knife with a sharp point is more appropriate for hard cheeses.
Arrange the cheeses in a clockwise pattern on the board, starting with the freshest and working up to the most mature and suggest that your guests taste them in that order – we don’t want the delicate flavour of fresh cheese to be cancelled out by the intense aftertaste of mature cheese.
Taste the cheese from the tip of the slice to the rind to taste the different nuances of its maturity. In fact, the part towards the rind tends to be more flavorsome.
Serving temperature is crucial: leave the cheeses at room temperature, out of the fridge (the cold inhibits the flavours), but don’t leave them in the sun or heat for too long, they will spoil!
Compote and honey, such a sweet touch
The savoury notes of sliced meats, but especially of cheeses, go perfectly with fruit compotes and honey. Acacia honey, with its delicate aroma, is perfect with all types of cheese, while chestnut honey, with its aromatic and bitter aftertaste, is ideal with aged cheeses and spicy cheeses.
Choose fruit compotes with these two rules in mind: sweet compotes go well with full-flavoured, savoury cheeses, while citrus compotes, with their acidic notes, contrast well with fresh, soft cheeses.
Let’s spice up your tagliere with some extra ingredients
Fresh fruit gives a fresh, sweet, and colourful touch to your chopping board. Try melon with prosciutto – a great classic – apples with salami, figs, and grapes with either prosciutto or mortadella.
Mustard has an intense flavour, perfect when paired with cooked meats such as prosciutto and porchetta.
Vegetables are very versatile ingredients: you can use them raw (try celery with gorgonzola), grilled (peppers and courgettes are perfect with bacon, cooked ham and mortadella) or pickled. Serve them sliced to make them more convenient to use.
Dried fruit goes well with both cold meats and cheeses, giving the chopping board a rich, crunchy touch: try bacon with walnuts or pistachios with mortadella.
Olives are the best friend of cold cuts and are very tasty!
Last but not least, for your charcuterie board, choose a wooden cutting board because it releases a delicate flavour and makes the cold meats and cheeses moist to the point.
I’m sure your friends can’t wait to be invited back to your place… and they’re right!
– Until next time, With love!