Literally “pork belly rolled up”, this week’s distinctively attractive special is made in Emilia Romagna. We often have Carlo Pieri’s pancetta arrotolata, which follows the Tuscan style in being crusted with strongly flavoured fennel and herbs. By contrast, the famous products of Emilia Romagna – including parmesan, parma ham and Culatello di Zibello – are noted for their short ingredients lists, often adding only salt to make their salumi. Our culatello producers, the Magnani family, also make a pancetta arrotolata according to this tradition.
Alfredo Magnani and his two sons belong to a consortium of only fifteen producers of Culatello di Zibello, who work in the humid area of the bassa parmense. The elder son Fabrizio is a vet and selects the pigs, which are raised in Emilia Romagna according to strict guidelines that ensure the wellbeing and slow maturation of the animals. The pigs are all local breeds, and fed on a diet that includes whey from the production of parmesan.
His brother Amedeo controls production in the family’s shop in Roccabianca, right next to the Po river. The particularly humid climate here facilitates the slow ageing of the pork belly, which sits in salt and spices for two weeks before being rolled and hung. It is important that it is tied tightly to prevent air from entering, then the layers of fat and the damp air allow the pancetta arrotolata to be aged for up to two years without drying out. The heat in summer, which can reach 25C in the Magnanis’ cellars, further causes a ‘thermophilic’ fermentation that contributes to the particularly sweet and somewhat lactic flavour of the resulting salume.