If you are preparing a classic antipasto platter, there are certain cured meats that are classic and others that are highly recommended!
I mix the traditional and the modern, so whether I’m making my own charcuterie cured meats or buying them. There are a few of special mention that need elaboration!
Whether you are preparing dinner or an appetizer for your next social gathering or family meal, you might be considering constructing an antipasto platter.
This Italian creation is incomplete without delicious cured meats, but which ones belong on it?
What Cured Meats for a Classic Antipasto Platter? When constructing an antipasto platter, you will want to use cured meats including the classic salumi of Italy such as Prosciutto/Parma Ham, Pancetta, Dry Cured Salami, Coppa, Bresaola, among others.
While you can choose many different varieties of cured meat for an antipasto platter, these are the best options to keep it traditional, classic, and simple.
And a charcuterie platter for me isn’t the real deal without some of these whole muscle dry cured meats!
Of course, you can use your own creativity to enhance a more modern antipasto platter, but if you are looking for the best and most classic options, then these will be your best bet. Read on to take a closer look at what these meats will bring to your table.
List of Cured Meat for an Antipasto Platter
Prosciutto and Parma ham are perhaps two of the most popular meats to include on a classic antipasto platter.
While many people assume that these are the same (considering Parma ham is actually called prosciutto di Parma), the two meat varieties each bring a unique flavor to the table prompting immediate inclusion for both types of meat on your platter.
And there other subtle variations across Italy of ‘Prosciutto”.
Prosciutto is a dry cured meat- ham in particular- that can be eaten without being cooked and thus makes an amazingly simple snack to place on your plate.
It is as delicious as it is beautiful as its darker coloration brings about a certain allure for your tastebuds.
However, what most people refer to as just prosciutto is more traditionally speaking called prosciutto di San Daniele. But, since it is more common, it is cut off to be referred to as prosciutto.
It is, in fact, an Italian-based ham that is delightful on any antipasto (Italian) cured meat platter.
Contrarily, Parma ham is more technically speaking called prosciutto di Parma as it is a dry cured pork-based meat from the city of Parma, Italy.
It is a high-quality meat that earns a top spot on any antipasto platter.
This DOP cured meat is delightful for the flavor that it brings alone or paired with cheeses and bread on your platter. Compared to what is known as just prosciutto, it has a bit more of a sweet taste and has a richness that is incomparable with other dry-cured meats.
This is because, during its curation process, it is air-dried in the Emilia–Romagna – this cured meat is perfect for your antipasto platter.
Its salt and pork – but also the craft, the river valley air and the quality of the pig which is strictly adhered to and fed some of the why from the Parma cheese production.
While eating your meal, you can explain to your friends and family members how you are confident that this DOP cured meat meets its mark in terms of authenticity.
However, your friends will not need convincing that Prosciutto or Parma ham both belong on a classic antipasto platter – it’s the alpha cured meat. Trust me I know cured meats!
Pancetta is another beautifully seasoned and prepared cured meat that is perfect for a classic antipasto platter.
While it is often mistaken for prosciutto because of its comparable visual appeal, it comes from the pork belly and is rendered in deliciously marbled fat throughout its thinly sliced (or cubed) presentation.
Pancetta is often wrapped around small vegetables and roasted, but you can also eat it alongside another item on your antipasto platter. For example, you could pair it with a delicious pepper or other cooked or raw vegetable that will bring out its flavor.
This meat, in particular, has a tasty blend of seasonings that are used in its preparation, so you can appreciate all of the natural ingredients and spices.
These include juniper berries, salt, pepper, and even bay leaves, nutmeg, and thyme depending on your recipe.
With this, you can recognize how this flavor would add quite a nice presence when consumed standing alone, but it can add a richness and depth to your meal when you pair it well with other foods.
So, when looking for a cured meat to place on your classic antipasto platter, pancetta is one that you are not going to want to skip out on.
Dry Cured Salami
Dry-cured salami is another cured meat that will make the perfect addition to your antipasto platter.
One unique quality about this meat compared to the above-mentioned meats is that it is sliced in links rather than thinly sliced, so it can add a bit of a variety in the shape and presentation of your platter.
While this might seem trivial to some, the presentation of the antipasto platter is a large part of its appeal.
As we all know, we eat with our eyes
If the same meats were thrown on a plate together and not presented as delicately, it could even seem strange to eat an entire course of protein and other snacks.
Regardless, dry-cured salami is a fan-favorite for a classic antipasto platter because it can come in so many different flavor varieties.
Depending on the region and cultural influence of where this salami was made, there will be different recipes (and spices) that will alter the way in which this meat tastes.
With that, you can rest assured that your antipasto platter will have plenty of variety, and you will be able to come up with a unique set of meat that is delightful for snacking or for your main course.
If you are looking for a few recommendations, begin with dry cured salami that has a nice garlic flavoring as this added flavor can pair well with just about any other item on your antipasto platter.
Coppa (or capocollo) adds another point of interest to any antipasto platter.
Particularly, since this dry-cured meat option comes from the neck and shoulder of the pig, it is going to be much leaner with less fat marbling throughout.
This enhances its deep red coloration and also adds a richness to its flavor considering you are consuming more meat than fat.
Compared to other types of cured meat, coppa is unique in the way that it is prepared. Instead of being ground up (like salami) and cured in this way, coppa is a whole cut of meat that is seasoned and prepared without being ground up. (Whole muscle dry-cured meats, this site shares many of my learnings over 15 years about this – I wrote a helpful post about trying it at home here.)
Typically, the seasonings are added after the meat has had a chance (several weeks to months depending on the recipe and cut of meat) to dry cure.
Because of its rich flavor, it can go well with many different complementary items on your antipasto platter including savory cheeses and olives should those be up your alley.
Most people find that when this meat is thinly sliced, it has a flavor that will pique your interest as it is often seasoned with a hefty amount of pepper (and some people even add hot peppers to create a more spicy variety).
And on another note, since this is one of the more expensive types of dry cured meats, you are sure to wow your guests with the flavor that they might not have experienced on other antipasto platters before.
You are definitely going to want to include this cured meat on your classic antipasto platter.
Finally, bresaola is another beautiful example of a cured meat option for your classic antipasto platter.
Unlike the other options on this list, bresaola is a dry cured beef, so it will add a unique flavor to your antipasto platter compared to the other options that are included.
I make braesola style whole muscle cured meat with Venison, Himalayan Tahr, Beef and wild Cattle Beast Beef!
Plus, this dry-cured meat is a fan favorite- though many people do not realize just how delicious it can be.
Because it is beef, it will be much darker in color than the other meat options that you might have chosen to include, but this can benefit the presentation (and flavor profile) immensely.
Most often, this dry cured meat is prepared with a salt cure, pepper, juniper berries.
When added to an antipasto platter, bresaola is sure to be one of the top choices for most of your friends and family at your dinner party.
Since it has such a unique appearance and more of a bold flavor, you can choose to pair it with some of the classics like cheese and bread, or you can encourage your guests (as well as yourself) to eat this one aside from the other options on your platter.
Braesola should have basically no visual fat and it’s pure protein!
Thanks for dropping by, I’ve been passionate about meat curing for around 20 years now. Having been lucky enough to learn inside fine dining kitchens through to backyard smoking sessions. From doing courses, trial & error and reading extensively – finally, I thought it was time to share my passion online.
My insatiable appetite and passion toward classic Italian dry-cured salumi and all forms of curing and smoking are what drives this website engine. All the best, Tom