Prosciutto sounds fancy, but really it is just a form of Italian dry-cured ham. It is typically served cold in thin slices and rarely is it used as a main ingredient in a dish. Because prosciutto is extremely salty, include it in recipes that can handle the salt -- such as salads, pastas or as a garnish. Not all grocery stores carry prosciutto, so if you cannot find it, you have a few options.
How About Ham?
Sandwich hams are thinly sliced and offer a taste similar to prosciutto. Your average sandwich ham won’t be as salty as prosciutto, but it's suitable for wrapping vegetables or adding to fresh salads and pastas. Black forest ham or a smoked ham is ideal; use it in equal proportions to prosciutto.
Capicola is an Italian cold cut that comes from a dry-cured pork shoulder or neck. You can find this salami-like cut in your grocery store deli. Most Capicola is cut fresh at the counter, so ask for paper thin slices to get it as close to prosciutto as possible. Avoid sweet-cured Capicolas, because these may add a different flavor profile than what you intended.
Boil Up Lean Bacon
Substitute thinly sliced bacon, which like prosciutto is cured and smoked -- but still raw. Instead of frying the bacon, blanch it in boiling water for a few minutes until the meat becomes tender and translucent. Rinse and drain the bacon before using it in recipes. You can find bacon in many smoked varieties, including maple and apple.
Pancetta is cured with salt and spices -- similar to prosciutto -- so the flavor profile won’t change much if you use it in place of prosciutto. Although it is cured, you must cook it first. For cold dishes, saute the pancetta and let it cool before incorporating it with other ingredients.
Go meatless by replacing prosciutto with other salty ingredients, such as sliced aged Romano cheese or Asiago. These cheeses are naturally salty and add a smoky flavor similar to prosciutto. Beware of meatless sandwich meats and mock bacons, however. These don’t add the same saltiness and may not be good replacements for prosciutto.
Shailynn Krow began writing professionally in 2002. She has contributed articles on food, weddings, travel, human resources/management and parenting to numerous online and offline publications. Krow holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and an Associate of Science in pastry arts from the International Culinary Institute of America.