Prosciutto Toscano DOP

Earthy and intense, prosciutto Toscano from Gruppo Parmacotto is a porcine wonder.

Proscuitto is most often associated with Parma, the city in Italy's Emilia-Romagna region. But the dry-cured ham is made all over central and northern Italy; San Daniele, in Friuli, is lauded for it, and I've seen meaty pig's legs dangling by the dozens from butcher shop ceilings in Umbria. Recently, one of my favorite chefs, Cesare Casella, of the Salumeria Rosi restaurants in Manhattan, Paris, and Parma, turned me onto the ham of his home region, Tuscany. Cured in salt and mixture of Tuscan aromatics (pepper, garlic, juniper, among others) for a whopping 107 to 127 days and then aged for 12 to 16 months, prosciutto Toscano, which Gruppo Parmacotto has just recently introduced to the U.S., has a flavor of almost jarring intensity, more saline but also more sweet and porcine than its cousin from Parma. In Tuscany, it's often eaten sliced onto unsalted bread, but I find it a proscuitto that's wonderful for cooking. Its robust flavor mellows a bit in the heat and takes on an earthiness that enhances mild dishes. I like to pan fry and julienne it to lavish fried eggs. And its even great swapped for pancetta for a less smoky, but equally flavorful carbonara.

Prosciutto Toscano DOP, $28/pound at King's, Wegman's, Balducci's, and other specialty markets