Whether piled high on a charcuterie board or scattered over a pizza, cured meat is much loved for its rich, savoury flavour.
Taste varies based on the meat, seasoning and drying period – some are salty, while others are sweet. If you're making up a sharing platter, aim for a few varieties to sample the breadth and flavour.
Once you've opened your pack of cured meat, store any leftover slices in an airtight container in the fridge. This will prevent the delicate meat from drying out.
As it has gone through a curing and drying process, most cured meat requires no cooking (check pack for info). Although some varieties, such as chorizo, make a flavoursome addition to hot dishes.
Made from the hind leg of a pig, prosciutto is a delicate Italian ham that has been seasoned, cured, air-dried and thinly sliced. It's best enjoyed straight from the pack, when it's most tender, as its texture toughens when heated. For a quick canapé, try it wrapped around breadsticks with a drizzle of balsamic glaze.
A type of pork sausage, Milano salami is aged for at least 55 days to attain a dark colour, dense texture and intensely rich flavour. When sliced, Milano salami has a deep red interior speckled with white fat. Serve at room temperature with fresh bread, olives and mozzarella.
Pimento and chilli give this type of salami its orange-red colour and fiery flavour. Popular in Spanish and Mexican recipes, chorizo produces a garlicky fat when cooked, which forms a great base for sauces. Try gently frying in a pan with butter beans and sliced new potatoes for a quick supper.
Similar to prosciutto, but of Spanish origin, serrano is a finely sliced salted and cured ham, aged anywhere between 6-18 months. It has a strong and nutty flavour, and is perfect for an antipasti board. Serve at room temperature to appreciate its full taste and aroma.
A topside of beef that has been salted and air-dried for up to three months, bresaola is lean and dark with a light marbling of fat. Rich, full-bodied and flavoursome, it's great tossed in a quick salad with romaine lettuce, radishes and a garlic and Dijon mustard dressing.
Meet the expert: Valeria Beretta, Tesco cured meat supplier
How long has your company been producing cured meats?
My company, Beretta, was established in 1812 by my great-great grandfather, and more than 200 years on we're still going. We have 19 sites across Italy producing meat from specific regions with protected designation of origin (PDO) status. And for the last 20 years, we've worked exclusively with Tesco in the UK.
What's the secret to great-tasting cured meat?
Expertise is key. Our recipes have been passed down from generation to generation. We are also passionate about what we do, and ensure excellent welfare for our animals. The best ingredients for quality meat are excellent raw materials, know-how and time taken for the curing process.
How is cured meat different?
Curing is a traditional method of preserving meat with salt being the key ingredient. This draws out the water and prevents it from spoiling. Some varieties are also smoked, which changes the colour, texture and flavour.
Do you have a favourite variety?
Bresaola is absolutely delicious with a drizzle of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and some Parmesan shavings. It's a very quick dish that never fails to impress. Milano salami, from my home region in Italy, is amazing, too. I often had it as a snack growing up, so it brings back many happy childhood memories.
Prosciutto is particularly delcious when paired with fresh asparagus and a creamy, cheesy sauce, and baked until golden – find the recipe here.
As featured in Tesco Magazine April 2016.