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Bresaola - About Bresaola - Italian Air-Cured Beef

User Rating 4.5 Star Rating (4 Reviews)


Bresaola, the air-cured beef of the Valtellina, is now available in the US! About it, and serving suggestions.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes


  • Bresaola


A couple of years ago, the US agriculture people finally decided to allow the importing of mortadella, the Bologna's glorious signature cold cut. Seems they've decided to allow the importing of Bresaola too. For those not familiar with it, it's beef rubbed with spices and air-cured in the Valtellina, a long Alpine valley in Lombardia that's also one of the few places outside of Piemonte where the Nebbiolo grape produces great wines.

Quoting from an article by Rozanne Gold that Kaye Noble was kind enough to send me: "[Italian Bresaola] is moist and delicate, and completely unlike the salty and slightly leathery domestic versions, or the dryish Swiss bündnerfleisch that Americans have had to make do with for so long.... It has an intriguing, musty bouquet. And unlike prosciutto, bresaola is utterly lean, with no discernible striations of fat. When sliced paper-thin, it is almost translucent."

It turns out that, because of a US ban on Italian beef stemming from the European mad cow disease outbreaks of the past few years, the bresaola being exported to the US is made in the Valtellina, from cattle raised and slaughtered in South America. I would have thought that the differences in forage would have resulted in flavor differences in the meat, but the Consorzio that oversees production and conducts taste tests has given the South-American-Raised bresaola its Seal of Authenticity. So they consider it the genuine article, and it is certainly closer to what you'd get in Italy than anything else might be. In case you were wondering, the Consorzio that oversees the production of prosciutto di Parma, Parma's salted, air-cured hams, also allows the use of imported meats.

Ms. Gold doesn't mention it, but bresaola can also be made from horsemeat. With respect to beef bresaola, horsemeat bresaola is darker, almost black in color, and a little sweeter.

Ms. Gold says that Italian bresaola made by Rigamonti and Negroni are both identified as Bresaola della Valtellina, and that in New York City they're available at DiPalo's Fine Foods, Todaro Brothers, Agata & Valentina, Fairway and Balducci's markets.

Bresaola may strike you as expensive, and it is, but a little goes a long way -- it should be served sliced paper thin, and an ounce will cover a 10-inch plate, which is about right for a single serving. Ms. Gold says purists prefer it as is, to be eaten with Italian bread, but Elisabetta and I prefer it drizzled with a little bit of olive oil and some lemon juice (mixed together prior to drizzling). Very good, and if you want you can also crumble very thin slices of Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano over it, or add some thinly sliced white truffles. Bresaola also appears in elegant pizzerie, primarily as a focaccia (a word whose meaning varies depending upon context; in this case a pizza dough rolled out and baked as is) topping: upon removing the focaccia from the oven, drape it with thinly sliced bresaola, cover it with shredded radicchio, and serve with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Want something a little more elaborate? Try Bresaola Al Carpaccio
  • 6 ounces (150 g) Italian bresaola, sliced paper-thin
  • 24 small prepared marinated mushrooms or wild mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
  • A 3-ounce (75 g) piece of Grana Padano or Parmigiano cheese, finely slivered using a potato peeler
  • 4 or more tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges
Lay the bresaola slices out on a platter, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle the mushrooms over the bresaola, and then the parsley. Arrange the slivers of cheese over the bresaola, drizzle all with olive oil, and sprinkle with black pepper. Serve with lemon wedges. Will serve 6. This is a bit more elaborate than I'd usually make, but will in any case be good. Don't have bresaola in a nearby store? Though the people of Valtellina have done their best to keep the recipe secret, there are versions of it on the net. The best I've found is from the Artisan, at http://www.theartisan.net/bresaola.htm.

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