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Milan Diary: Lardo di Colonnata

Bear with me on this one because it’s really light and delicious, even if it is pure pork fat. But Lardo di Colonnata is not just any cured pork: It is the carefully trimmed fatback of Italian pigs that is then coated with spices (salt, pepper, fresh rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander and cloves) and marinated under brine for six to ten months in cool caves in a marble container — a conca. The marble is of the finest quality; Colonnata is contiguous with Carrara, where generations of sculptors have sourced their material.

Lardo tastes melt-in-your-mouth sweet without any cloying quality at all. Spread it on toast, add it to salad, or just take it neat, as I recently did at the Trattoria del Carmine restaurant in Milan’s Piazza del Carmine:

Lardo di Colonnata.jpg

Lardo Comp.jpg

A decade or two ago, the EU’s bureaucrats tried to rule that curing Lardo di Colonnata in a marble conca in deep, coool caves did not meet sanitary norms. Fortunately, common sense and many centuries of history (according to local lore, Michelangelo was a big fan) saved the day, and the production of lardo has not been impeded.

Addendum: A similarly delicious preparation, Lard d’Arnad, comes from the Val d’Aosta region in northern Italy. Using spices and brine as is done with Lardo di Colonnata, it is produced in wooden tubs called doïls, made from oak, chestnut, or larch.

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