What is Soppressata?

Cassie L. Damewood

Soppressata, also referred to as capochia or copa di testa, is an Italian pressed pork salami that is dry-cured. Depending on the region in which it is made, it may contain only the best cuts of a pig or use meat from many different parts of the animal. The highest quality soppressata contains only the meat from the thighs or fresh ham sections. The more common variety includes meat from the pig’s head, belly, stomach, tongue and other body parts.

Ground coriander seeds are often used to season soppressata.
Ground coriander seeds are often used to season soppressata.

As with most salamis and sausages, the flavorings in soppressata depend on the recipe chosen by the butcher or company that produces it. Some versions are slightly sweet and savory due to cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves being used for flavorings, along with black pepper and coriander. Spicier types are seasoned with garlic, hot pepper such as cayenne and various Italian spices including fennel, oregano and basil. This type more closely resembles the popular salami known as pepperoni.

Soppressata can be found in Italian markets that specialize in meats and cheeses.
Soppressata can be found in Italian markets that specialize in meats and cheeses.

Regardless of the chosen flavorings, the technique for making soppressata typically involves either grinding the meat in a machine or hand cutting it into tiny pieces. After the meat is prepared, it is cooked with the spices until the meat is fully cooked and then stuffed into jute bags. The bags are customarily shaped into sausages that are long and thin and then dried under pressure for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, soppressata is generally hung to cure for three to 12 weeks, depending on the diameter of the sausages. During the curing period, the sausages normally lose about 30% of their original weight. To preserve it longer, the sopressata salami is traditionally stored in jars or canisters of olive oil.

The sweeter versions of soppressata are used much like salami and are frequently found in sandwiches or as toppings for crackers for appetizers and hors d’oeuvres. The spicier types may be used in pasta dishes along with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. In recent years, many Italian restaurants and pizzerias have begun using the latter version as a substitute for pepperoni as a pizza topping or in the filling for calzones.

In large metropolitan areas, soppressata can frequently be found in supermarkets and local Italian markets. Some delicatessens that specialize in Italian meats and cheeses offer it as a regular part of their selections. A number of companies located worldwide sell soppressata as well as other Italian meats online or through mail order catalogs.

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