The Italian Cellar: “la cantina”

Some time ago I went out for dinner with some relatives in Italy. We went to a local “agriturismo” which is a farm house resort with a restaurant  which will only serve food that has been mainly made on the premises. By Italian law an agriturismo will serve foods prepared from raw materials produced on the farm or at least locally.

We enjoyed the food very much and afterwards we asked to visit their cantina, which is the cellar where they keep their salami, hams and wines to serve to their customers. They will slaughter a pig every week so all the meat they serve will be very fresh. Fresh cured meat tastes different to one that’s slightly older. Both are very nice but they have a different texture altogether. The fresh one will just melt in your mouth.

The Italian cellar

The classic Italian cantina is just like this one. In rural areas there are still many farmers who would rear a pig, slaughter it and make cured meats to store in their cellar which is a cool and dark place where you hang up the meat so that it will keep well for a long time.

The Italian cellar


salami and ham hanging in the cellar

What you see here hanging up below is the Italian pancetta  known as “Italian bacon” which originates from the belly portion of the pig but unlike bacon it is not smoked but cured using various spices, salt and pepper. There are different types of pancetta and they differ from region to region. Pancetta is cured just enough to allow for some moisture to remain then it is hang up to rest for up to two weeks in a cool cantina.

One of the most popular pasta sauces made with pancetta is the Carbonara . So tasty!

pancetta in the cellar

Italian pancetta

Salami is made from mince, fat, spices, salt and pepper. Freshly made salami can be cooked with vinegar and this is a very popular dish in Friuli Venezia Giulia.

Fresh salami in the cellar

Freshly made salami anyone?

Fresh salami in the cellar

And this is soppressa  which is similar to a salame, traditionally made in Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia;  it uses the shoulder and the leg of the pork and red wine to flavour it (along with spices, salt and pepper). It is also aged for longer, up to a year.

Soppressa in the cellar

The soppressa

So would you like to come and visit a cantina? Italians will often give you a taste of the meat along with a generous glass of red wine.. 🙂 Definitely worth it!

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12 Responses to The Italian Cellar: “la cantina”

  1. Mich Piece of Cake

    Thanks for sharing, this is very interesting.

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  4. Alida

    Si e’ un profumo unico. Quelli che trovi nei supermercati gia’ affettati non hanno nessun sapore in confronto. Ciao cara Rita.

  5. Paul camilleri Maltese

    Hi and thanks for your ideas . I am building a cella at the moment and your set up is amazing . Looks great and I love the Italian culture preserving foods . Great job

    • Alida

      Thanks Paul and good luck with your cellar!

  6. Paul Camilleri

    Hi Alida my cellar is finally finished . And first winter . Can you help me with any recipes for an Italian salami . And ratios . Also are you from the south part of Italy . A friend asked that’s all and was not sure .

    • Alida

      Hello Paul,

      Well done on new your cellar!
      I have actually never made salami myself but I have been to several salami making feasts in Italy.
      I have been browsing on Italian websites and I have found this recipe which seems pretty good. This might give you an idea of what you need to do.
      You need:
      1 kg of pork meat at 40% fat
      course sea salt – 20 grams
      Whole black pepper – 2 grams
      Ground black pepper – 2 grams
      Nutmeg – the tip of a spoon
      Garlic powder – 2 grams
      Garlic – 2 cloves
      Red wine -3 tablespoons
      Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) – 2 grams

      Prepare the meat: remove any bones and cartilages and then mince it.
      Add all the spices: garlic powder, salt, nutmeg, whole pepper, ground pepper, ascorbic acid, wine and mix well with your hands until all the ingredients are well combined together.
      Let the meat rest for at least 3 hours and then put it in the bowels and tie the ends.
      Pinch the sausage casing repeatedly with a needle.
      Hung the salami for 3-4 days at about 20 °C. After that hung them in your cantina or in a cool place to continue the maturation process.

      You can check my article for salami making here:

      To answer your question I come from Northern Italy from the region of Friuli.

      Good luck with your salami making!

  7. Paul camilleri

    Thanks Alida I appreciate your help once again . My cellar sits on 17 degree threw the winter with maybe one degree variation . I am hoping this will work . I’ve put some salami in it a couple days ago and the moisture seems to be weaping out of the hole were this older fella pricked them with small holes . He does not like my set up as he thinks there is no air flow . But from what I’ve googled and researched it said I had more than enough vents What temperature would you think is suited ?

    • Alida

      When I was growing up we always had a cellar to keep our salami and cheese. The temperature was between 15C to 17C.

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