One of Ticino's most deep-rooted traditions is the "mazza" (the processing of pork, but also goat’s meat and beef), a tradition that brought together families and village communities. The shift in lifestyle and the legislative requirements connected to the production of food saw the relocation of the "mazza" from farms to slaughterhouses. In spite of this, flavours and know-how have remained intact and, nowadays, regional products on offer include salami, dried meat, coppa (air-cured pork meat), lard, bacon, luganiga (a traditional fresh sausage produced in Northern Italy and in Ticino) as well as other local specialties.
In the past, the ‘mazza’, or the slaughtering of pigs and meat processing, was an event that involved the entire family at the beginning of winter. Although this ritual has evolved, skilled artisans still produce cured meats and sausages based on a tradition that has been handed down from father to son. Here is a description of the main specialties produced according to these methods.
Luganiga is a cured meat made with pork, lard, salt, pepper, spices, garlic and Ticino Merlot. The grind size is slightly bigger than that of the ground meat. The casing in which the mixture is stuffed is made from beef intestines. After being cooked in boiling water, the Luganiga is served with boiled potatoes or Risotto. Grilled Luganiga is another tasty alternative.
Though similar to Luganiga, luganighetta does not contain any garlic. It is thinner and usually packaged in the shape of a spiral. Epicureans appreciate it in Risotto, on the grill, in stews and sauces, or as an accompaniment to Polenta.
Zampone (stuffed pig trotter) is another delicious option. It is produced using the foreleg of the pig. After being gutted and salted, it is stuffed with a mixture of pork meat, bacon rind, lard, spices, salt, pepper, wine, garlic and a drop of Marsala.
Though resembling Zampone, cotechino (cooked pork sausage) contains less bacon rind.
Liver Mortadella, another Ticino speciality, is prepared using pork, lard, spices and pork liver. This mixture is enhanced by Vin brûlé (mulled wine) which gives it its distinctive flavour. It is served accompanied by beans or Polenta. Liver mortadella can also be eaten raw, but only after being aged like a salami.
Salami is made from pork leg, pork shoulder and lard flavoured with salt, aromas, spices and local red wine. After being stuffed, it is left to dry for about a week and then cured for 20 to 70 days depending on its size.
Bacon, which can be rolled or worked flat, is made from cuts of pork loin or belly, immersed multiple times in salt, pepper, spices and wine. It is then dried and cured for over one month.
Coppa is prepared with meat from the pig's neck. After being salted and spiced, it is stuffed in a casing and left to dry and age for one month.
Lard is usually made from the pig's loin. After being salted, spiced and soaked in red wine, it is hung and left to dry for a couple of weeks.
Raw ham is obtained from pig’s thighs. They thighs are cut so that they assume their traditional shape and then salted and washed multiple times. After a few months, the lean part is smeared and rubbed with a mixture consisting of pork fat, rice flour, salt and pepper. This process is repeated several times during the curing process, which, depending on individual production methods, can last from three months up to one year or more.
Dried meat or Bresaola is made from a single muscle of beef (rump, round steak, haunch). After being salted, it is flavoured with pepper and sometimes with wine and spices. The meat is then rubbed, sealed, dried and cured from two to four months.
The Salami of Bellinzona's Castles
The fascinating world of local flavours has given life to “Discover the Salami of Bellinzona’s Castles”. An original project that takes visitors to the hilltop location of the Castle of Montebello to discover typical Ticino salami. The salami is aged in the ancient cellars of the castle where it acquires the distinctive flavour for which it is renowned. As part of the experience, participants learn how to hand-tie a salami. After completing the task, the salami is left to age and then sent home to them as a souvenir.
The visit ends with a tasting of Ticino specialties in the courtyard of the castle featuring a breathtaking view over Castelgrande and the medieval centre of the city.
Booking required. For information and to sign up for the visit, contact the Bellinzona Tourist Office (tel. 091 825 21 31) or visit the website at www.ticinella.com.