The etiquette rules on how to serve and eat prosciutto. Tips to be the ideal host or the perfect guest and avoid any embarrassment.

What prosciutto etiquette is

Prosciutto etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve and eat prosciutto. Such rules help avoid behaviors that can disrespect your hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow the etiquette to serve prosciutto to your guests appropriately.

As a guest, respect the etiquette rules to properly eat prosciutto at the dining table and avoid offending your hosts or embarrassing yourself.

how to serve and eat prosciutto

What you should know about prosciutto

Prosciutto is a type of Italian cured ham made from the hind leg of a pig.

Prosciutto has a distinct pinkish-red color with a marbled appearance of fat running through the meat. It has a delicate, silky, and smooth texture with a sweet and savory flavor.

Etiquette rules to serve and eat prosciutto

1) How to store prosciutto

Prosciutto should be stored at a cool temperature between 35-45°F (2-7°C). In the pantry, you should keep it in a dry and dark place, tightly wrapped in paper or cloth. In the fridge, store it in the meat drawer or wrap it in a damp paper towel and place it in a plastic bag. To store prosciutto in the freezer, wrap it in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.

The whole prosciutto can last for up to six months in the pantry. Sliced prosciutto can last for up to three weeks in the fridge and six months in the freezer.

Store cooked prosciutto in an airtight container in the fridge and consume it within three to four days.

2) How to clean prosciutto

To clean the whole prosciutto, simply use a dry paper towel or a soft cloth to wipe away any dust or dirt. Usually, sliced prosciutto does not need cleaning. There are no major risks associated with cleaning prosciutto. Avoid using water to clean it, as this can affect its flavor and texture.

Signs that prosciutto has turned bad include a sour smell, slimy or discolored appearance, and an off taste.

3) How to prepare & cook prosciutto

Prosciutto can be eaten both raw and cooked. When cooking, it can be grilled, pan-fried, or baked. To prepare prosciutto for cooking, simply slice it thinly and cook it as desired. Utensils such as a sharp knife, griddle pan, or oven can be used to prepare and cook prosciutto. The most common ways to cook prosciutto include wrapping it around vegetables or meats, topping it on pizzas, or incorporating it into pasta dishes.

Popular dishes with prosciutto include pizza, pasta carbonara, and prosciutto-wrapped melon or asparagus.

Prosciutto is a popular ingredient in salads and sandwiches. Prosciutto is not suitable for vegan, keto, or paleo diets due to its high fat and sodium content. Furthermore, some guests may not eat prosciutto due to religious dietary restrictions.

4) How to serve & present prosciutto

Prosciutto is appropriate for a variety of occasions, including formal and informal meals, breakfast, brunch, and snack time. It is typically served as an appetizer or side dish but can also be incorporated into main courses.

Prosciutto should be served at room temperature or slightly chilled. You can present it on a wooden board or a platter. Serve it with a sharp knife for slicing.

You can accompany prosciutto with a variety of foods, such as bread, olives, figs, and nuts. Common seasonings include black pepper, balsamic vinegar, or honey.

5) Food and wine to pair prosciutto with

Prosciutto pairs well with vegetables such as asparagus, artichokes, and roasted peppers. It also pairs well with fruits such as melon, figs, and grapes. Avoid pairing it with acidic fruits such as citrus.

Prosciutto pairs well with a variety of cheeses, including Parmigiano, Gorgonzola, Ricotta, and Mozzarella or Mozzarella di Bufala. You can also pair it with dairy products such as butter or cream. Avoid pairing it with overly strong or pungent cheeses.

Prosciutto pairs well with meats such as chicken, beef, and lamb. It does not typically pair well with fish.

Prosciutto pairs well with both red and white wines. For red wines, look for medium-bodied wines with moderate tannins, such as Chianti or Pinot Noir. Avoid full-bodied or oaked red wines as they may overpower the delicate flavor of the prosciutto. For white wines, look for crisp and acidic wines such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. Avoid oaked or sweet white wines as they may clash with the saltiness of the prosciutto. Rosé wine, sparkling wine, and dry sherry are also good options. Prosciutto can also be paired with beer, particularly light lagers or wheat beers, as well as spirits such as gin or vodka.

6) How to eat prosciutto

The most polite way to eat prosciutto is to use a fork and knife, particularly if it is served as part of a meal. However, it is also acceptable to eat prosciutto with your fingers when served as an appetizer or snack. When eating with your fingers, take small pieces and eat them in one bite.

You should eat also the fat of prosciutto, as discarding it is not polite. If you cannot eat the fat, separate it from the meat with a fork and knife. The rind or skin of the prosciutto should be discarded and not eaten.

Prosciutto etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. Read more about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the most common prosciutto etiquette mistakes:

  • 7/10. Cutting the prosciutto too thick or too thin.
  • 6/10. Using a dull knife to cut prosciutto.
  • 5/10. Serving prosciutto at the wrong temperature.
  • 5/10. Serving prosciutto with inappropriate accompaniments.

Additional information for properly serving prosciutto

How many calories per serving?

Counting calories is important to stay healthy and correctly plan a menu.

Prosciutto contains around 280 calories per 100 grams.

How to buy the best prosciutto

A crucial factor in prosciutto etiquette is serving your guests the best product possible.

Season and availability 

Prosciutto is available year-round.

Choose the best

Prosciutto is commonly available in commerce in both fresh and dried forms. Fresh prosciutto can be found at specialty butcher shops and delis, while dried prosciutto is more widely available and can be found in supermarkets, gourmet food stores, and online.

The most popular varieties of prosciutto in commerce are Prosciutto di Parma, Prosciutto di San Daniele, and Prosciutto di Modena. Prosciutto di Parma is considered the most prized, as it is made from pigs raised in the Parma region of Italy and is aged for at least 12 months.

When buying prosciutto, look for slices that are thinly sliced and have a deep pinkish-red color with marbled fat. Avoid prosciutto that looks too dry or has a yellowish tint. It is also important to check the label for the specific type of prosciutto and its origin.

Alternatives to prosciutto

Some common alternatives to prosciutto include other cured meats such as pancetta, speck, bacon, or ham. Vegetarian options such as tofu or seitan can also be used as substitutes.