Italian cuisine is a source of national pride — mouthwatering pastas, heavenly-tasting pizzas, exceptional cheeses, pesto sauce, and of course, cured Italian meats!
Cured Italian meats defiantly stand out among the other delicacies. Without them, our pizzas wouldn’t be drenched in orange fat, and our charcuterie platters would be terribly boring.
Speaking about charcuterie, prosciutto and capicola are two Italian faves that stand out above the other cured meats. These cold cuts belong to the salumi family, which is a group of premium salt-cured pork meats.
But don’t let their family relations fool you! Capicola and prosciutto are not the same thing, and this article will explain why.
Difference Between Capicola and Prosciutto
The main difference is that prosciutto is made from the pig’s hind legs, whilst capicola comes from the area between the neck and the 4th or 5th rib of the pork shoulder.
Capicola and prosciutto are a type of whole-muscle salumi. In Italy, the word “salumi” means salted meats and is most frequently used to describe curing complete muscles.
Both types of cured beef are widely seen on charcuterie boards and in other delicacies, but they differ significantly in a number of ways, including:
Place of origin: Capicola became popular in the northern Italian city of Piacenza and the southern Italian province of Calabria. Prosciutto originated in northern Italy, in Parma and San Daniele.
Type of pig breed: The pigs used for capicola are grown in southern Italy, one of which is Apulo-Calabrese. They must be at least 8 months old and weigh at least 300 pounds. Prosciutto is made from breeds like Landrace, Large White, and Duroc. They are typically over 9 months old and weigh about 360 pounds.
Curing time: Capicola cures in roughly 6 months. Prosciutto takes significantly longer to cure and prepare – up to two years. Meats that take longer to cure have more intensive flavor and tender mouthfeel.
Curing ingredients: Capicola is cured with sea salt, fennel seeds, black pepper, and chili flakes. The spice blend varies depending on one’s preferences and the region, but these three ingredients are typically always included. Prosciutto, on the other hand, is never cured with anything other than salt, black pepper, and sometimes juniper berries and rosemary.
Flavor: The flavor of Capicola varies from strong to mild and smoky. Red pepper-cured capicola is spicy and hot, while black pepper-cured capicola tends to be sweeter. Prosciutto is delicately sweet and salty, but not spicy. You may also notice a slightly smoky aftertaste.
Texture: Capicola has a tender mouthfeel, and the fat content is evenly distributed. Prosciutto, on the other hand, is fattier, and the excess fat can sometimes result in some chewy pieces. However, if you cut these fatty sections into thin slices, they become buttery and lose much of their chewiness.
Color: Capicola is recognizable for its vivid dark red color and beautiful marbling, whereas cured prosciutto resembles ham, meaning it’s lighter and more pinkish.
Size: Capicola is significantly smaller than prosciutto in terms of size. Large prosciutto is usually sold as a whole leg or in thin, long slices. Capicola chunks are more slender and typically sold in thin rolls like salami.
Price: Since prosciutto’s dry-curing technique takes far longer to finish than capicola’s, prosciutto often costs more.
Capicola vs Prosciutto Comparison Table
|Origin||Northern Italian city of Piacenza and the southern Italian province of Calabria||Northern Italian cities of Parma and San Daniele|
|Pig breed||Apulo-Calabrese||Landrace, Large White, and Duroc|
|Weight & age of pigs||At least 8 months old and weigh around 300lb||Typically over 9 months old and weigh about 350lb|
|Pig cut||Area between the neck and the 4th or 5th rib of the pork shoulder||Pig’s hind legs|
|Curing time||6 months||24 months|
|Curing ingredients||Sea salt, fennel seeds, black pepper, and chili flakes||Curing salt, black pepper, juniper berries, and rosemary|
|Flavor||Smoky, salty, sweet, or peppery||Smoky, salty, and sweet|
|Texture||Delicate and tender||Chewy and buttery|
|Color||Vivid red with marbling throughout||Delicate pink with less marbling|
|Size||Thin, smaller pieces||Thin, bigger pieces|
|Price||Less expensive||More expensive|
Nutritional Content Breakdown: Which One Is Healthier?
Looking at the nutritional table below, we can see that prosciutto has a higher number of calories, more sodium, and fat content, making it a less healthy alternative to capicola.
Nevertheless, prosciutto has higher protein levels and is richer in potassium, iron, and calcium. That means that eating it in moderate amounts will still grant you nutrition without harming your health.
|Vitamins & Minerals|
Can I Substitute Capicola for Prosciutto & Vice Versa?
Yes, prosciutto may be substituted for capicola. These two pork slices are comparable and can be substituted for one another in cooking.
If you want to substitute prosciutto’s sweet flavor with capicola, make sure to find a variety that’s been cured with black peppercorns instead of red pepper because the latter would provide a more spicy flavor to your dish or board.
Capicola’s smaller-sized slices allow them to be eaten in one bite together with some crackers, fruit, and cheese. Capicola is the go-to ingredient in the New Orleans muffuletta sandwich, which consists of Italian bread loaf, mozzarella, mortadella, olive salad, capicola, genoa salami, and provolone cheese.
You can also make capicola-topped pizza with tomato sauce, red onions, and mozzarella. You can even combine this cured meat in breakfast with scrambled eggs or in a grilled cheese sandwich. For dinner, you can serve capicola next to some creamy mashed potatoes or wrap it around veggies and toss them in the oven.
Aside from eating it on its own, how creative can you be when combining prosciutto with other foods? Well, you’d be surprised.
First and foremost, make sure to cut it into paper-thin slices. Layer it on a piece of crusty bread and add a sprinkle of olive oil on top. You can also combine it with cream cheese and a bagel.
In Italy, prosciutto is traditionally served with fruit. A great fruit option for prosciutto is to wrap it around a piece of watermelon. To really enjoy the sweet-salty flavor contrast, allow them to melt on your tongue instead of chewing them.
Make an Italian salad with mixed greens and prosciutto or try your hand at prosciutto pizza, topped with burrata cheese and parmesan.
Making the Perfect Charcuterie Platter
Charcuterie is the art of arranging a meat and cheese plate, and we’ll teach you how to prepare one that will delight everyone.
For starters, you’ll need something to serve your charcuterie on, so you can use either a serving platter, a rimmed baking sheet, or a simple wooden cutting board.
Put out a combination of hard, soft, and spreadable cheeses like Manchego, white Vermont cheddar, goat cheese, mozzarella balls, brie, and triple cream cheese. Make sure to cut up the hard cheeses so they’re easy to grab.
Next, add the cured meats. Our top choice is salami, coppa, prosciutto, and capicola. For a prettier presentation, you want to fold each meat in a different shape and layer them next to a different type of cheese.
The accouterments should go in small platters. You can add green olives, tiny pickles, honey, and fruit spread. You can also layer fruits and nuts to fill up the empty spaces. Some good options are apples, grapes, berries, and pistachios.
Last but not least, the toasts and crackers. You can slice up a toasted baguette and artisan crackers. Also, if some of your loved ones are gluten-intolerant, it’s a nice idea to add a gluten-free cracker on the board as well.
That concludes today’s segment on Italian cured meats!
To summarize, capicola is a high-quality pork meat from the shoulder and neck region. On the other hand, the rear legs are used to make prosciutto. Capicola is darker in color with beautiful marbling. It’s also smooth and soft, whereas prosciutto can be rougher and chewier due to the fat and skin that surrounds it.
Overall, if you merely experienced capicola and prosciutto, you’d be able to tell the difference. If not, now you have the perfect chance to do so — you’ve learned the proper combos for a charcuterie plate!