What Is Soppressata? Your Guide to This Italian Delicacy

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Krishia Modified: August 16, 2022
What Is Soppressata? Your Guide to This Italian Delicacy
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If you love Italian cuisine, you’re probably familiar with soppressata. This Italian dry salami is one of the staples for cold cuts when you make a charcuterie board or a hearty sandwich. But there is so much more to know about this incredible food without booking a flight to Italy. So, read on and acquaint yourself with this Italian wonder. Find out its varieties, how it’s different from your usual salami and pepperoni, and tips on how you can best enjoy it!

What Is Soppressata?

dry salami on a wooden board surrounded by walnuts

Soppressata is an Italian dry salami (dry fermented sausage), a culinary specialty of Calabria, Southwestern Italy. It is one of the staple types of salami that has different variations specific to each region. In Northern Italy, it is called “sopressa”. Some of the common varieties of soppressata (all located in the Southern region of Italy) that you might be familiar with include: 

  • Soppressata di Calabrese – spicy, dry variation from the Calabrian region.
  • Soppressata di Basilicata – made from coarsely ground fillet, from Lagronegro, Cancellara, and Vaglio.
  • Sopressa Veneta – from Veneto (Northern Italy), a variety where the ground pork mixture also has lard.
  • Soppressata di Puglia – from Martina Franca, consists of 10 percent fat.
  • Soppressata di Toscana – from Tuscany, made from leftover meat parts like skin and tongue.

Each region has contributed to the culinary rise of soppressata — giving its own style and approach to creating this meaty treat. But what sets the varieties apart is the parts of pork that salumists use. Most salumists make soppressata using rich fatty shoulder parts of pork and lean cuts of ham. Others use a mixture of loins and minced meat.

What Does Soppressata Taste Like?

Soppressata’s flavor varies in each region. Some taste sweeter while others taste more savory, almost like pepperoni. The different flavor profile depends on the spices used to season it. And you may wonder, is soppressata spicy? Yes. In fact, most tend to have a slight but bearable spicy kick.

However, soppressata and sopressa have different flavor profiles – the former is spicier while the latter is more peppery. This is because salumists season the southern salami with dry chili flakes and the northern sopressa with more black peppercorns. That said, there are other varieties that might just be suited to your palette:

  • Sweet soppressata – aside from the ground pork and spices, other salumist also adds wine that somehow intensifies the underlying sweetness of this sweet treat.
  • White soppressata – a variety known for its strong aromatic taste but a well-balanced flavor overall.
  • Spicy soppressata – another flavor available. This hot version is spiced with dry chili flakes and peppers.

Soppressata vs Salami vs Pepperoni

sliced salami with a knife on a cutting board

Soppressata and pepperoni are both types of salami. Salami is derived from the Italian word “salume” which refers to types of salted meat. However, while soppressata is from Italy, pepperoni is a product of both American and Italian cuisine.

Another major difference between the three is the type of meat used. If soppressata is mainly made of pork parts, other types of salami use various meat products like venison, poultry, and beef that are sometimes mixed with the fatty parts of pork. That is why these other types of salami have a greasier texture compared to soppressata and pepperoni. Pepperoni, on the other hand, uses a combination of two meat types: pork and beef.

Lastly, these three cold cuts have different seasonings as well. Soppressata’s overall savory flavor is from dry chili flakes, salt, and assortments of pepper used to season it. On the other hand, the most common salami variants are usually seasoned with salt, vinegar, and garlic. That is why its taste is more garlicky. In contrast, pepperoni has an overall smokey and spicy flavor, thanks to paprika and other aromatic spices like cloves and peppers. This is why we consider pepperoni spicier than other salami types.

How To Eat Soppressata

charcuterie board with a selection of cheese, salami, and soppressata

Now that you know where it is from and what it tastes like, let’s find out what goes well with this Italian wonder. The most popular way of eating it is by adding it to your charcuterie board and enjoying it with other spreads and cheese. There are 23 different types of cheeses, so which to pair with soppressata? Well, you can never go wrong with Havarti. Its nutty and buttery taste complements the complex spice and savory taste that this cured meat brings. 

If you’re wondering if it’s safe to eat soppressata raw, the answer is yes. Just slice it (not too thick and not too thin) then let your guests remove the peel while eating. You can also enjoy it as a topping for your pizza or mix it with your roasted green bean and potato salad for a healthier treat. 

How To Make Soppressata

Salumists encourage the use of high-quality pork meat like the shoulder part and pork haunch in making this Italian treat. However, others prefer to add some fatty meat cuts like the back fat. This is because it contributes to its overall flavor and taste. Salt, dried chilis, peppercorns, and wine are the basic seasoning among all varieties of this cured sausage. Other families’ recipe includes fennel seeds and chili paste. 

This seasoned ground meat is packed inside a thick intestine that serves as its casing, then tied using a natural string. After that, they are pressed between a couple of weights for a few days before being hanged for 2 to 6 months. Its usual size is 7 inches to 10 inches long with a diameter of 3 inches. 

Did You Know?

  • Some Italians believe that soppressata got its name from the Italian word "sopressare," which means "to press." However, others believe that it is from the Calabrese dialect "susu," meaning "above," and "mpizzare," which means "hang."

Where To Buy Soppressata

soppressata on a market display

It is always best to visit Italy to eat and experience soppressata. If you don’t have the time for that, groceries and supermarkets now have international delicatessen or deli where you can purchase soppressata as well as other varieties of cured meat like capicola, prosciutto, or even pancettas.  It is now easier to find a dry-cured meat and sausages shop near you. 

How to Properly Store

Ensuring proper storage is vital to keeping your cured sausages fresh and safe to eat. If you purchase yours in a grocery or supermarket, you’ll usually find it in a vacuum-sealed pack. It is safe to consume for until three months as long as it is inside your refrigerator, tightly sealed. However, if it is already sliced, wrap it in parchment paper or a plastic wrap before refrigerating it. This way, it will last for three to four more weeks.

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KC is a writer, an artist, a theatre enthusiast, and a food lover. She believes in the saying, “a jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” That is why she has myriads of interests—from photography, cooking, designing, journaling, and the list still goes on. She dreams of traveling the whole country on her own someday to satiate her eyes, her curiosity, and of course, her stomach.