Probably the most popular cured meat we enjoy on our bike tours and ski holidays in the Veneto is the ubiquitous Soprèssa Vicentina. Somewhat similar to the soppressa found elsewhere in Italy, in the Veneto, where the local dialect hates double letters, it is soprèssa, and has gained EU PDO (Protected Designation of Origin, in Italian DOP) status to ensure the final quality and origin of these traditional salumi.
The Soprèssa Vicentino dates back to the thirteenth century, when the Scaligari family ruled Verona. The choicest parts of the pig – shoulder, loin, pancetta, and throat fat are minced and mixed with spices and sometimes a generous amount of chopped garlic and then enclosed in cow intestines and hung for drying. The specifics of the Soprèssa Vicentino DOP production guidelines are numerous, and include the allowed breeds, their diet, production techniques and aging. All steps must take place in the Veneto region.
Soprèssa Vicenta is mainly produced in 1.5 to 4 kg. pieces, even as large as 7-8 kg. It is aged for 60 – 120 days, today in special rooms that ensure the ideal temperature, humidity, and ventilation. The large size means that top-quality soprèssa is still good at the start of the next production cycle. The large diameter produces a double fermentation which results in its unique flavor; delicate, slightly sweet, and peppery or garlicky. When cut, the meat is compact yet tender, with a medium-coarse grain; pinkish-red in color, a spicy aroma with the fragrance of herbs.
We see soprèssa used in so many dishes in these regions: as the centerpiece of an antipasti platter of cured meats and cheeses, in fritattas, pasta sauces, and soups; wrapped around lean cuts of meats before roasting. The time-honored method of testing the seasoning of your soprèssa is to use a bit of the minced and spiced meat to flavor a risotto prior to enclosing the remainder in the intestines. Soprèssa is often paired with polenta, and served with mushrooms or sautéed wild chicory or dandelion greens.
We make polenta often in my cooking classes, a very simple peasant dish. Here are 5 tips to making perfect polenta from a previous post. I am often asked what to do with any leftovers, and here’s a very easy use for them – allow the leftover polenta to cool and harden, cut into squares and brushed with olive oil, then grill. Grill some soprèssa slices, and serve the warm grilled polenta and soprèssa with a salad of wild chicory, dandelion greens, or radicchio and arugula.
Polenta alla Griglia con Soprèssa Vicentino
4 cups cooked polenta (my 5 tips for Best Polenta are here)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 head radicchio, cut into quarters
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
8 thick slices of Soprèssa Vicentino, or other great salumi
Mixed bitter greens, wild chicory, dandelion, or arugula
Place warm polenta in a square or rectangular pan or plastic container. Allow to cool and harden. Turn out onto a cutting board and cut into 8 pieces. Brush both sides with olive oil.
Brush radicchio quarters with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Turn on grill. Place polenta squares on grill, and cook until heated through and the outside displays nice grill marks on both sides. Grill radicchio until softened and just beginning to brown. Just as the polenta is finishing up, place the slices of soprèssa on the grill to heat. Remove polenta, radicchio and soprèssa from grill.
Place the greens in a medium bowl. Cut the radicchio into coarse pieces and add to the bowl with the greens. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Divide the greens and radicchio between 4 plates, top each with two pieces of polenta and two pieces of soprèssa. Serve.