One of the favourite places our owner Liz and her sister Michael-Ann (the Fishionista!) like to spend time when visiting New York is Di Palo’s, a family run Italian deli that has been around for over 100 years. Lou Di Palo, his brother, Sal, and sister Marie continue to work behind the counter and gladly spend a lot of time with you to ensure you are getting exactly what you want and happily offer tastings of cured meats and cheeses. It’s a fabulous experience!
Now, we love prosciutto at Italian by Night and use it often (Prosciutto di Parma), particularly in our antipasti offerings. We shave the thin slices in-house. It makes for a wonderful accent to a salad, like our current menu’s Insalata Autunno and Insalata Caprese, and to a seafood antipasti like our Capesante.
It also makes for a brilliant highlight to a charcuterie board.
But what cheeses do you pair with it? Thinking of Lou and Di Palo’s got us thinking about this. Prosciutto and cheese…hmmm.
There are various theories on prosciutto and cheese pairings, many similar to the pairing of wines and cheese. Two of these are: 1) like with like and, 2) opposites attract. As with most things however, it will be your taste buds that make the final decision.
If there is any general consensus on what cheeses to pair with prosciutto, the cheese that leads the way is Parmigiano Reggiano. It is a friendly cheese, getting along with almost everyone and everything. The Parmigiano’s saltiness combines with the sweet, buttery flavour of silky prosciutto slices to make for a heavenly pairing, each complementing the other.
Other cheeses to consider pairing with prosciutto are mozzarella di bufala, ricotta, pecorino romano, and Grana Padano.
We’ve also seen other cheeses used with prosciutto not so much in pairings as in combinations with other foods, such as fruits, vegetables and nuts. A few examples are:
- Prosciutto, goat cheese and fig (or fig jam)
- Prosciutto wrapped pears with Saint-Marcellin cheese
- Prosciutto wrapped pears with blue cheese
- Melon, prosciutto, and fresh mozzarella
- Prosciutto, goat cheese, and melon
Remember, prosciutto should be thinly sliced – some say almost transparent. It should also be aged well for a flavour that is more complex and less salty (PDF file) when used in pairing. In this form, the flavour becomes more delicate and doesn’t overpower.
If you are thinking of a charcuterie board, consider the cheeses we’ve mention, but also these:
For a specific recipe, see the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma suggestion for a charcuterie board. Think of several cheeses and several meats, including prosciutto, for your board. Be experimental and adventurous! That is how you have fun, and that is how you discover fascinating combinations you may not have thought would work, but do.
The taste buds will know and as we said above, they’ll make the final decision.
One last thing…Lou Di Palo has a book we absolutely love. It’s called Di Palo’s Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy (including cheeses and prosciutto). It is easy to read and so full of great information, and a genuine love of Italy’s food, you’ll want to read it at least twice. It is well worth picking up.
Do you have a favourite cheese to pair with prosciutto? Let us know in the comments below because we would love to know!