It’s among the most regal cured meat of our traditional pork butchery: raw ham, with its elegance, demands pairings that can maximize it.
The main rule to observe is to choose excellent raw materials which can rub shoulders with the protagonist: in a piadina (flatbread) or a sandwich, in a starter or a salad, the raw ham must be exalted for what it is, meaning a great product.
Let’s not forget that with the word “raw”, we describe many different types of ham, from the very sweet Parma to the savory Toscano.
Raw Ham and Vegetables: freshness and color.
Raw or cooked, vegetables are exceptional accompanying sides for raw ham. But which ones? The right choice falls on the ones with a delicate flavor that does not overshadow that of the meat, with detailed attention, as always, to the seasonality.
Feel free with the salads. Above all lettuce, zucchini, grilled or sautéed, even fried; to potatoes, cooked in every way possible, and carrots. Excellent with spinach, boiled or fried with butter, and with artichokes. The taste of raw ham is magnified with the spring flavor of fresh peas and broad beans.
Indeed, you can dare with more robust flavors, like that of cabbage, bell pepper, or pumpkin.
Want more ideas? Caramelized red onions and Prosciutto di Parma (ham from Parma), tomatoes from Pachino, and Prosciutto Toscano (Ham from Tuscany), chickpeas balls with a San Daniele. Try the Jamon Iberico with white asparagus au gratin for an international touch.
Bread and Raw ham: a marriage made in heaven
It’s easy to say ham and bread. But the correct type of bread is not quite an obvious choice, and it can determine the successful outcome of a dish. First, the bread must taste good. Then, it must be able to exalt in full the taste and consistency of the slices.
Among the most classic types of bread, we have the michetta, baguette, and the simple francesino. Elaborated paninis are also perfect, like the ones with milk, soft and slightly sweet. Raw ham served with breadstick is a classic, deliciously crunchy.
The piadina is also an irresistible, ideal companion to the ham from Parma or Carpegna. But it’s not enough: salted croissants, sandwich bread (the good one!), oil bread, tigelle: many types of bread and similar products that you can propose with the crude.
Also, keep in mind the marital bliss between the Tuscan Ham and the Tuscan Bread: a union that is not just by soil, but by flavor too; in which the taste of the meat dilutes into the characteristic lack of salt of the “silly” bread.
Cheese and Raw ham: an amazing variety
We could say that any type of cheese, if it tastes good, goes perfectly with raw ham. Creating the perfect pairing is not such a difficult mission to accomplish: you can opt for affinity (sweet with sweet, tasty with tasty) or, on the contrary, for contrast.
You can look into the products’ region of origin, and you can trust your instinct. Some pairings are paradigmatic: the classic raw ham and mozzarella or raw ham and Grana.
But raw ham loves the sweetness of the robiola like the tingling feeling of the gorgonzola, the roundness of the Fontina, the delicate taste of the burrata, the intensity of the pecorino, and the veiled acidic taste of a fresh caprino.
Again, you cannot leave out the Montasio, provolone, scamorza, and the Taleggio, from the types of cheese to place side by side with raw ham on an ideal platter. Only an Italian selection? Of course, you can try products from the other side of the Alps, starting from Emmenthaler and Brie.
Pairing Sauces with Raw ham: a gluttonous experience
Soften without choking: this is the role of sauces. And with raw ham, you must be very careful to not cover up the taste of the meat with that of the sauce. In a few words, you must measure it correctly, without excesses, then choose it.
Among the classic “sandwich” ones, the first position is definitely occupied by the mayonnaise, better if it’s homemade, followed by the pink sauce, the Bernese, and the tartara. They are all solid pairings, perfect for enriching focaccias and stuffed sandwiches.
Alternatively, you can look into our tradition and pair a green sauce with raw ham; for example, the classic bagnètt vert with a parsley base, perhaps prepared without overusing garlic. Additionally, you can make a perfect match with the mustard made with Mantuan apples: sweet and peculiar.
Do you want a warm sauce? A besciamella with cheese is exactly what you need. If, instead, you want an oriental touch, why don’t you try with exotic mango chutney?
Pairing Raw ham with Fruits: sweet and a bit salty
When we think of the pairing between raw ham and fruit, you can’t picture a platter of ham and melon, or ham and figs: strong pillars in our cuisine, perfect solution for a quick lunch or an appetizer.
But the chances to play with flavors does not end here. In summer, you can propose aromatic peaches, while you can choose either apples or pears in autumn and winter.
Try it with grapes, blueberries, and strawberries. Or with exotic fruits: first of the list are mangoes and papayas. Also, remember that with fruits, we don’t just mean dried fruits; raw ham finds perfect companions even in nuts and hazelnuts, in addition to dates, dried figs, and dried apricots.
Let’s not forget about jams: the juxtaposition of raw ham and fig jam is irresistible: the one with apricot jam is delicate and refined.
Wines to pair: the pursuit of perfection
The first pairing is dictated by instinct: raw ham and “red” bubbles. Lambrusco, Bonarda, Sangue di Giuda, just to be clear. But raw ham can make a perfect spouse for white, still or sparkling, and young red wines.
To be more specific, you can confide in the soil by proposing, for example, a Giutturnio with the Parma, a Prosecco with the San Daniele, a Chianti with Tuscan Ham, a Timarasso with raw ham from Cuneo, a Sangiovese with ham from Carpegna, and so and so forth. And with a Pata Negra, you must have a glass of Cava.
A jolly idea? A Classic Methos Sparkling Wine or Champagne, perhaps rosé, will always be a good choice when it comes to highlighting the richness of raw ham, by underlining its elegance and making a case for the nobility of this jewel of pork butchery.
Don’t forget that you can enjoy raw ham with a pint of beer, better it’s artisanal, definitely of excellent quality, preferably the amber one, if you wish.
Conclusion on what to do with raw ham
The ideas that we have proposed are just ways you can correctly pair raw ham. As always, there are many more pairings to discover: by playing with flavors, with aromas, colors, experimenting using the guide of good taste and imagination. Always keep in mind that quality makes the difference.