What Is Prosciuttini? Is It The Same As Prosciutto?

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If you’ve ever had (or made) a charcuterie board you are likely familiar with prosciutto, but I’d bet you’ve never heard of its peppery alternative, prosciuttini. In the world of cured meats, prosciutto is the go-to Italian dry-cured ham, loved by many. But, a lesser-known option, the prosciuttini, is a hidden gem that deserves a spot on your next charcuterie selection.

Prosciuttini vs. Prosciutto: What’s the difference between prosciutto and prosciuttini?

Both prosciuttini and prosciutto hail from Italy and share their origins in the pig’s hind leg, but the preparation process is what sets them apart. Traditional prosciutto relies on salt and a meticulous aging process, while prosciuttini follows a similar path with the added twist of black pepper seasoning. 

Just like your eyebrows, Prosciuttini and Prosciutto are more of a ‘sisters, not twins’ situation.  While they share many similarities, a significant difference stands out: Prosciuttini is essentially a spicier variation of Prosciutto, typically seasoned with black pepper or similar ingredients for added spice. However, their differences shine through in their taste, texture, and price.

SeasoningSalt only or with herbsBlack pepper and other spices
FlavorRich, salty, savorySpicy
ColorDarker redBright pink
PriceMore expensiveLess expensive
CutPork legPork leg
Dry-Curing Process14 to 36 months~6 months

The best way to understand what makes these two hams different is to learn more about each one.

What Is Prosciutto?

You’re likely familiar with Prosciutto, the epitome of Italian culinary finesse. If you haven’t picked this gem up for a charcuterie board or ordered an Italian dish that included it (maybe a Prosciutto Arugula Pizza?), I’ll let you in on the delicious world of Prosciutto. 

Prosciutto a dry-cured, salted ham, renowned for its thin, luscious slices and the unmistakable hint of saltiness. This delicacy undergoes extensive aging, lasting anywhere from 14 to 36 months. Such meticulous craftsmanship is governed by regional rules, particularly in Parma and San Daniele, Italy.

Detail of a slice of proscuitinni showing how thinly it's sliced.

Prosciutto: The Iconic Italian Ham

Translated from Italian, prosciutto literally means “ham.” The heart of prosciutto’s allure is the unhurried process (really an art form) of salting and aging. As the meat rests, salt draws out excess moisture, effectively thwarting the intrusion of bacteria and creating the meat’s distinct flavor profile.

The final step involves seasoning and aging in a controlled environment, where air, salt, and time harmonize to create the signature taste of prosciutto. 

Contrasting with prosciuttini’s spiciness, prosciutto presents a sweeter and saltier taste, marked by its brownish-red hue and marbled fat streaks. Depending on the source, prosciutto may incorporate herbs like rosemary, garlic, juniper, or even black pepper, intensifying in flavor with extended aging.

What Is Prosciuttini?

Prosciuttini (pronounced like pro-sciut-ti-ni) is essentially peppered cured ham. It’s lesser known than prosciutto but stands out with its polished appearance. It’s often adorned in a coat of black pepper, conveying a distinct flavor profile. The seasoning makes prosciuttini a spicier alternative to its counterpart.

Detail view of six slices of Prosciuttini.

Where To Buy Prosciuttini

Unlike prosciutto, which is globally recognized, prosciuttini ham remains somewhat of a specialty, usually requiring a visit to Italian deli or other specialty stores. (But it’s so worth the hunt.)

  • Many larger grocery store chains might carry prosciuttini in their deli or charcuterie sections. Look for pre-packaged slices or ask at the deli counter if they offer sliced prosciuttini. 
  • Smaller, locally-owned butcher shops can be hit or miss but if they have prosciuttini available, they may even slice it to your preferred thickness.
  • Specialty or gourmet food stores are more likely to carry prosciuttini, especially if they have a wide selection of cured meats and cheeses. 
  • Italian delis are the best places to find prosciuttini, as they often have a variety of Italian-cured meats and cheeses.

When purchasing prosciuttini, it’s a good idea to check the product’s packaging date and ensure it’s stored properly to maintain freshness. Additionally, you can ask for recommendations from store staff or butchers on the best options they have available.

Piles of Prosciuttini and prosciutto on a plate with cubed cheese in the background.

Prosciuttini’s Signature Flavor

The defining characteristic of prosciuttini lies in its spice. During its curing process, prosciuttini is generously rolled in ground black pepper, infusing the meat with a fiery and peppery essence. 

This peppery vibes of prosciuttini often earns it names such as “peppered ham” or “black pepper ham.” It also boasts a vibrant pink hue, setting it apart from the deeper red tones of prosciutto.

The Prosciuttini Journey

Prosciuttini, with its black pepper notes, is a favorite option in Italian delis and specialty shops. Similar to prosciutto, prosciuttini begins its life as a boneless, uncured ham sourced from the pig’s hind leg. 

The curing process includes salt and sodium nitrates, extracting moisture, and repelling bacteria. After the initial curing, prosciuttini is massaged with salt, generously coated in black pepper, and subjected to an additional week of curing. 

Then it is stored in a humid environment for two to three months before transitioning to dry aging for up to three years, all while preserving the essence of prosciutto with the black pepper infusion.

Detail view of slices of Prosciuttini.

Why Are There Cooked And Uncooked Prosciuttini Variations?

Prosciutto possesses a rich history that’s held in very high regard. Specific types of Prosciutto like Prosciutto di Parma and others even earning the esteemed status of Denominazione di origine protetta (protected designation of origin) meeting strict geographic and technique criteria. Think of them as the champagne of hams.

However, the terms “prosciutto” and “prosciuttini” lack any similar regulations. They simply mean “ham” and “little ham.” (If you’re considering a new nickname for your bf, I’d love to submit prosciuttini as an amazing option.) 

Because of the lack of regulations, prosciutto may assume some unexpected forms, occasionally even appearing as “prosciutto cotto” or cooked ham. This distinction serves as a reminder to really check labels to avoid mistaking prosciuttini for other ham variations, such as peppered, oven-roasted, or even more basic deli-style options.

Close view of seven rolled up slices of proscuittini lay side by side on a white platter

Prosciutto Alternatives: Savoring the Variety

While prosciuttini and prosciutto share similarities, they’re not the only options to explore. If you are in a pinch and need alternatives, consider these options:

  • Ham: Regular ham, a nutritious choice abundant in calcium, iron, and phosphorus, closely resembles prosciutto and shines when thinly sliced for sandwiches, salads, or pasta dishes.
  • Pancetta: This Italian bacon, crafted from pork belly, mirrors prosciutto’s flavor, characterized by its thin slices and nutty undertones, enhancing various dishes.
  • Capicola: Although less salty, capicola, or “capocollo,” offers a tender and flavorful companion to sandwiches and charcuterie boards, reminiscent of prosciutto.
  • Lean Bacon: A viable prosciutto substitute with a distinct smoky essence and higher fat content, lean bacon can work as a raw option or as an ingredient in more diverse creations.
  • Coppa: Also known as capicola, coppa is an Italian and Corsican cold cut made from pork shoulder or neck. It’s cured and aged, creating a rich, marbled texture and a slightly spicy flavor.
  • Speck: Speck is a smoked and dry-cured ham from the South Tyrol region of Italy. It has a smoky flavor, is typically sliced thin and served like prosciutto.
  • Turkey or Chicken Prosciutto: A leaner choice, made by thinly slicing and air-drying turkey or chicken breast. While it won’t have the exact flavor of a true prosciutto, it’s a good alternative for anyone avoiding pork.
  • Plant-Based Alternatives: Made from ingredients like tofu, tempeh, or seitan, these options mimic the texture and flavor of traditional prosciutto.

Prosciutto and Prosciuttini Recipe Ideas

The versatility of prosciuttini allows it to seamlessly replace prosciutto in recipes where a black pepper kick enhances the experience. However, its potent peppery aroma can dominate delicate flavors, so consider the intensity before incorporating it into something like a melon pairing. 

Piles of Prosciuttini and cheeses on a plate with sliced avocado and cherry tomatoes.

Prosciutto and Prosciuttini don’t have to be limited to a traditional charcuterie board. They elevate creative dishes that celebrate their distinctive tastes. Try out some of these recipe ideas:

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Bundles

  1. Wrap bundles of fresh asparagus with thin slices of prosciutto.
  2. Drizzle with olive oil and season with black pepper.
  3. Roast in the oven until the asparagus is tender and the prosciutto is crispy.

Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken

  1. Butterfly chicken breasts and stuff them with slices of fresh mozzarella and prosciutto.
  2. Secure with toothpicks, then pan-fry in a cast iron skillet (or bake) until the chicken is cooked through.

Prosciutto and Fig Flatbread

  1. Top a flatbread with a thin layer of olive oil and minced garlic.
  2. Add thinly sliced prosciutto, fresh figs, arugula, and crumbled goat cheese.
  3. Bake until the crust is crispy and the toppings are heated through.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Bundles

Prosciuttini and Arugula Salad

  1. Toss prosciuttini slices with fresh arugula, cherry tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese.
  2. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette.

Prosciuttini-Wrapped Shrimp Skewers

  1. Wrap shrimp in slices of prosciuttini.
  2. Thread the prosciuttini-wrapped shrimp on skewers.
  3. Grill until the shrimp are fully cooked and the prosciuttini becomes crispy.
  4. Serve with a dipping sauce like garlic aioli.

Prosciuttini and Egg Breakfast Sandwich

  1. Layer prosciuttini on a breakfast sandwich with scrambled eggs and cheese
  2. Add your favorite condiments.
  3. Serve on a toasted English muffin or bagel.
top view of a shallow bowl of proscuittini and arugula salad.

Of course, savoring a handful of prosciuttini with a glass of red wine makes for an easy weeknight girl dinner. And it feels more impressive than saying you ate a fistful of lunch meat while looking for something to watch on Netflix.

Prosciutto and Prosciuttini

While prosciutto and prosciuttini share a rich heritage, each boasts its own distinct flavors. Whether you prefer the fiery charm of prosciuttini or the sweet-savory allure of prosciutto, these hams offer a variety of possibilities. 

About Author

Tia Goodnight

Hey! I'm Tia, and I started this site to bring you the best information on all things kitchen so you can enjoy and elevate your everyday life.

I love trying new techniques and tools, living for the thrill of pulling off a new skill. On weekends you'll find me at the local farmer's markets or hosting friends and family for an evening of yard or card games and delicious food.

If you're looking for honest, real-world advice on all things kitchen and cooking, you're in the right place!

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