Are you passionate about Italian cooking and food? Then you will probably know that in addition to extra virgin olive oil, butter, and seed oils there is another animal fat that is used in the preparation of different recipes. It’s lard: have you ever heard of it?
Even if you love to experiment with Italian recipes, you might need a little more help to know what lard is. Today, in fact, this fat is much less popular than in the past, because it has been replaced in most of the culinary preparations that used to include it.
Lard is found mainly in some traditional recipes and in industrial baked goods. But where does it come from? What does it taste like? Is it very used in the kitchen?
Keep reading this article to learn all the secrets of this ingredient.
What is lard in Italy?
The word “lard” in Italian translates as “strutto” or “sugna”. Actually, these two words do not indicate the same product, but the difference is very subtle.
- Strutto: it is a fat obtained from the fusion of parts of the dorsal area of a pig;
- Sugna: it is fat from the visceral area of porks. Compared to lard, it has a more delicate flavor.
What do Italians mean when they speak of “lardo”? In Italian restaurants, it is not difficult to come across recipes such as focaccia or bruschetta with lardo.
But be aware: “Lardo” in Italian is not the translation of “lard”, but it is a pork cured meat, similar to non-smoked bacon.
How does it look and taste lard in Italy?
Lard looks very similar to shortening. It’s a compact white paste sold in squared packages. It should be kept in the refrigerator and when cold it is odorless, while it has a faint but characteristic odor when melted. Its flavor is also very mild.
Why do some Italians cook with lard instead of olive oil or butter?
Although now lard is less common in Italian recipes than in the past, some Italians still use it in some preparations. Why don’t they replace it with oil or butter? Here you can read a number of reasons:
- lard is used in the preparation of traditional dishes (e.g “piadina” or “cannolo sicialiano”);
- lard has a higher smoke point than butter and it is, therefore, better for frying;
- unlike butter, lard has a neutral flavor.
Lard is an animal product so it is always replaced with oil by those who follow a plant-based diet.
Do Italians cook French fries in lard?
No, they don’t. In Italy usually, French fries are fried in vegetable oil. On the other hand, if you are visiting Belgium, their typical fries are fried in lard.
What is Italian lard bread?
In Italy, bread can contain lard, which is sometimes used as an ingredient in bread dough to make it softer. Lard bread is soft, fragrant, and with a crunchy and golden crust on the outside.
Not all bread in Italy contains lard. There are many types of bread made only with water, flour, yeast, and salt. You can easily find bread rolls prepared with olive oil. If you follow a plant-based diet, don’t forget to ask if the bread contains lard.
Do any restaurants in Italy still use lard as an ingredient?
No, they don’t. Nowadays most restaurants in Italy use oil or butter to fry all their food or as a fat ingredient in baked goods. You can still eat food with lard if you order something typical (e.g the “piadina Romagnola” or “tigelle” are typically made with lard).
Where to buy lard in Italy?
You can easily find lard on the refrigerated counter of every supermarket in Italy. Lard is an ingredient of the culinary tradition in Italy and it is still used in the preparation of some recipes. If you live in Italy and you want to prepare a dish that includes lard, we’re sure it will not be difficult for you to find it.
How to pronounce “strutto” and “sugna” in Italian?
You know now that lard in Italy is strutto or sugna. If you speak a little of this wonderful language, you are probably curious to know how the words “strutto” and “sugna” are pronounced. They are quite difficult for non-native speakers and it can be tough to learn the correct pronunciation. Don’t struggle!
- “Strutto” is pronounced s-t-r-oo-t-o;
- “Sugna” is pronounced s-oo- nyaw.