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What Is Capicola and What Does It Taste Like?

What Is Capicola and What Does It Taste Like?

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Also known as coppa, capocollo, or gabagool, this fatty, lightly spiced and smoked cold cut is really tasty.

Capicola is spiced and smoked pork shoulder cured in natural casing.

If you’ve watched your share of Sopranos episodes, you’ve probably heard about a magical type of salumi known as gabagool. It’s actually called capicola (also spelled capocollo or a handful of other variations), and it’s delicious.

Capicola, also known as coppa, is what you might consider to be a cross between prosciutto and sausage. To prepare it, large pieces of pork shoulder (or sometimes neck meat) is seasoned with red or white wine, garlic, and a variety of herbs and spices (usually including paprika) before being stuffed into natural casing and hung for up to six months to cure. It is also oftentimes smoked, and in one variety, called coppa cotta, it’s also slow-roasted.

So what does capicola taste like? The resulting product is fatty without being overwhelmingly so, delicately spiced, slightly smoky, and sliced as thinly as possible. It’s found in most Italian delis and gourmet food shops, and is one of the most delicious meats you can put on a sandwich (it’s also one of the key ingredients in a New Orleans-style muffuletta sandwich).

While big-time companies like Boar’s Head produce it, look for smaller-scale producers like Seattle’s Salumi, Portland’s Olympic Provisions, or New York’s Salumeria Biellese if you’re looking to stock up. Go ahead and buy some — you won’t regret it at all. Capicola is definitely not one of these 19 food terms you should never use again.

Homemade Capicola

Capicola is one of the simpler salumi to make – you don’t need to grind the meat, worry about keeping the fat cold and many other little details like when you make salami or sopressata. However, the outer parts of solid meat muscles tend to dry out in the curing chamber faster than they do with salami. That’s been my experience, anyway. For a while, I’ve struggled with making my capicola dry evenly from side to side, without harder outer parts and soft, sometimes poorly dried centers. This is a common problem for many home salumi makers.

The typical solution is to vacuum seal capicola and refrigerate it for a couple of weeks. The meat will undergo a period of ‘equalization’ where the remaining moisture inside it will get distributed more evenly. While this seems to kind of work, this isn’t necessarily the most optimal way of making capicola at home.

The poorly dried center may harbor spoilage bacteria, which during equalization may get propagated to other parts of the meat. Uneven drying over time may also result in off-flavours, poor overall flavor development and other little nuances that will impact the final product’s taste, aroma and appearance.

Homemade Italian Capicola

Succulent, superbly seasoned and flavorful, this baked version of Capicola will take your Italian subs, sandwiches, pizza and snacking to a new level!

Do you enjoy a good sandwich from time to time? I mean a really good sandwich filled with succulent, high quality seasoned meat? Then you’ve GOT to make this baked Italian Capicola!

And if you’ve always dreamed of making your own charcuterie but have either felt too intimidated or were put off by all the special equipment or all the work involved, this fabulous homemade capicola is for you!

This is charcuterie-making that is easy, non-intimidating and thoroughly delicious!

Capicola or Coppa – What’s the Difference?

Capicola (also known as capocollo) and coppa (more on that below) are both Italian charcuterie standards and use the same cut of pork. This specific cut of meat is highly marbled and comes from the neck of the pig (known as the coppa in Italy) and is selected because of it’s a near perfect ratio of 30% fat to 70% lean. This cut is commonly cooked/baked as well as dry-cured to create two different forms of highly popular charcuterie. This recipe is for baked capicola and is inspired by Olympic Provisions’ version.

Coppa (named after the cut of meat) is the dry-cured version. The meat is prepared in a special brine and hung to dry for approximately 2 months depending on its size in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment where it becomes dry-cured. The coppa is then sliced very thinly (similar to prosciutto). The flavor is complex and flavorful, the texture delicate and almost melt-in-your mouth. Below is a dry-cured coppa I made a few months ago.

Today I’m sharing the cooked (not dry-cured) version of coppa: Capicola.

The term capicola is often used interchangeably to also refer to the dry-cured version, so it can be a little confusing. We’re going to use the term capicola throughout the rest of this tutorial to refer to the cooked version.

For this tutorial I’m also using a regular pork loin in the event that you have trouble locating the traditional coppa cut of pork (it can be difficult to find butchers who are knowledgable in European cuts, especially less common ones used for specialty charcuterie). It lacks the marbling of the traditional coppa cut and so won’t be as tender/moist but it still thoroughly delicious.

The ingredients for making capicola are minimal and (if you’re just using pork loin) you only need two items you normally may not have in your kitchen: Pink curing salt and size 24 meat netting. The pink salt helps the meat retain its appetizing pink color (instead of just looking like a brownish-gray pork roast once it’s cooked) and the net helps the meat retain its shape while cooking so you can get those beautiful slices.

The process is very easy, there’s frankly very little that could go wrong, and your friends and family will think you’re an absolute pro! Make some delectable Italian subs using this capicola, add some cheese and some homemade giardiniera if you like (amazing stuff!), and you’ve got one seriously delicious sandwich! It’s also fabulous on pizza.

Making your own coppa is also extremely cost-effective. Coppa in the specialty deli (if you’re lucky enough to find it) comes with a hefty price tag. You can make your own at a fraction of the cost.

First we’re going to make the cure for our pork. Place the sea salt, sugar, red pepper flakes and pink curing salt in a coffee/spice grinder or use a mortar and pestle to grind them. (It is essential that the pink salt is evenly distributed in the rub.)

Place the pork in a large bowl or on a work surface and massage the rub into the pork, making sure to get every nook and cranny.

Wrap the pork tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 5 days. After 5 days flip it over so the bottom side is up and refrigerate it for another 5 days.

After 10 days unwrap the meat. It will be firmer to the touch. Thoroughly rinse it under cold water to remove all the spices and set it aside while you prepare the final rub.

To make the rub, place the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, anise seeds, red pepper flakes and black peppercorns in a coffee/spice grinder or use a mortal and pestle to grind the spices until you get a coarse rub. Lightly blot the coppa with a paper towel.

Spread the rub out onto a plate or work surface and roll the coppa in it, coating all sides. Use up all the spice rub to coat the meat.

Next you’ll need a #24 netting roll. Cut a piece of netting off the roll that is a few inches longer than your coppa.

Stretch the netting and feed the coppa through it (unless you have a ham-stuffing funnel, it’s easiest to do this with two people).

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Fill a pan up with water and place it on the middle rack of the oven. This will create humidity as the coppa cooks to keep the coppa moist. Place the coppa on a roasting pan fitted with a wire rack and place the pan on the top rack of the oven. Cook the coppa for 1 hour, then turn the coppa over so the bottom side is up and bake it for another hour or until the internal temperature reaches 145-150 degrees F. Don’t overcook or the meat will be dry.

BE PATIENT, IT’S NOT READY TO EAT YET! Remove the coppa, place it on a plate and refrigerate uncovered for 4 hours.

At that point your homemade Italian capicola is ready to eat! Slice it thinly and enjoy it on your sandwiches, pizzas or eaten on its own!

If you want very thinly sliced meat like the deli meat you buy in the store, you’ll need a meat slicer like this Chef’s Choice Electric Meat Slicer.

We love to make Italian subs by adding some capicola, cheese and homemade giardiniera – it’s out of this world!

To store, keep it wrapped tightly in plastic wrap in the refrigerator where it will keep for up to 3 weeks.

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Celeriac is celery root, the bottom part of the crunchy green vegetable you already know. Nothing more, nothing less.

It’s simply a different part of the celery plant (Apium graveolens)�leriac is the root, while celery is the stem.

While you may not be familiar with the funny-looking vegetable, it has a rich history and is firmly rooted (pun intended) in European cuisine.

Celeriac is believed to be referenced in Homer’s Odyssey way back in 800 B.C.E., though it was called “selinon.” Its popularity grew through the centuries and, by the Middle Ages, it was being cultivated throughout Europe.

Julia Child’s Celery Root Remoulade might be the most famous use of celeriac. Of the veggie that inspired the famous French dish, she wrote, “Underneath the brown, wrinkled exterior of celery root there is white flesh with a bright celery flavor and crisp texture that, when finely shredded, makes a delicious slaw like salad.”

Celeriac isn’t going to win any beauty contests any time soon. It’s bulbous, it’s hairy, and all-around unattractive. But what it lacks in looks, it makes up for in flavor and health benefits.

What the Hell is 'Gabagool,' and Why Does Tony Soprano Talk About It All the Time?

Our resident Italian-American explains the mystery behind the meat.

Everybody knows about salami, prosciutto, and bologna. The staples of the great Italian-American meat and cheese board have become as well-known as Extra Virgin Olive Oil thanks to over-priced Starbucks breakfast sandwiches and wedding caterers nationwide. But if you were a fan of The Sopranos&ndashcelebrating its 20th anniversary today&ndashyou&rsquove probably been wondering for a very long time, what the f*ck is "gabagool?"

Formally known as capicola, gabagool is by no means the most trendy or popular of the Italian cold cuts, but it is the most fun to say. If you grew up in New Jersey, have an Italian heritage, or ever found yourself surrounded by either of those cultures, chances are, you&rsquove heard the term thrown around quite a bit. In The Sopranos, red meat plays a crucial role in the psychological trauma of Tony Soprano, so words like "gabagool" and "super-sod" (soppressata) carry a bit of narrative heft throughout the series. Even The Office invokes the term in its memorable mafia episode from 2009, which sees Michael Scott ordering "just the gabagool" to show off in front of his new Italian-American friends.

According to The Daily Meal, capicola is a "type of salumi" that&rsquos basically a "cross between prosciutto and sausage." Like its salt-cured sisters, capicola, which can also be called just "coppa," is seasoned with a variety of flavors like wine, garlic, and paprika, stuffed into a meat-based casing, then smoked, slow-roasted, or in most cases, "hung for up to six months to cure." It's red and white, not as spicy as soppressata, but also not as creamy-tasting and mild as, say, mortadella.

Dan Nosowitz on Atlas Obscura did a deep dive on the origin of the gabagool phenomenon in his fantastic piece, How Capicola Became Gabagool: The Italian New Jersey Accent, Explained. After researching with some linguistics experts, Nosowitz discovered that, like the botched American estimations of Italian culture such as meatballs, baked ziti, or whatever Olive Garden is pretending to be, the word "gabagool" is about as Italian as apple pie.

"The word 'gabagool' is about as Italian as apple pie."

According to Nosowitz's research, many Italians in the United States descend from Southern Italians, "about 80 percent," in fact. If you know anything about Italy, you&rsquore probably aware that the dialects of the various regions within the country are all vastly different. Similarly, the Italian language that arrived in America back in the time of the great emigration is much different than the Italian language of today.

What we hear in places like Jersey, Staten Island, and New York is actually the result of former immigrants hanging on to their native dialect, and passing elements of that down through generations of Americans who may not even have a clue what the actual contemporary Italian language sounds like today.

In the case of gabagool, it's a combination of end vowels being deleted, "oh" sounds being raised, and what linguists call "voiceless consonants," namely "k" and "c" sounds, being turned into "voiced" consonants, which, in this case, amounts to "g" sounds.

So, wanna get your Soprano on? Start with capicola. Drop off the end vowel. Turn the "c"s into "g"s. And emphasize the "o" sound. Whaddya get? Gabagool. Fuhgeddaboutit.

The best bacon substitutes for meat eaters

Now, I’m not saying anything on this list is going to be just like bacon. It’s hard if not impossible to emulate that exact texture and salty, smoky, slightly-sweet flavor. But, I’ve come up with 13 healthier bacon substitutions (some only slightly so) that can help you cut back on some of the fat, cholesterol and sodium and still get some of that flavor you crave.

Read on for my top choices for bacon substitutes you can really sink your teeth into.

1. Prosciutto

If you’ve ever had prosciutto-wrapped asparagus where the prosciutto is nice and crispy, you already know it’s delicious, but you may not have considered just ditching the asparagus.

This Italian cured ham is lower in cholesterol and total fat than bacon, with about the same sodium levels. When crisped in a pan (or the oven), it takes on a similar, satisfyingly chewy crunch like bacon does. It’s great on BLTs (PLTs?), especially if you add some fresh basil leaves and maybe some smashed avocado.

2. Beef bacon

Image: Pederson’s Natural Farms

Say what? Yeah. Beef bacon. Instead of being from the belly, though, beef bacon is cut from the short plate, with nice ribbons of fat running through it. What makes it a good substitute for pork-belly bacon is that it has less fat and more protein. And if you opt for the uncured beef bacon (and you should), you’ll reduce your sodium levels as well. There are many brands out there, but I’m partial to Pederson’s Natural Farms.

You can order a four-pack through Amazon for $29.99, plus shipping.

3. Turkey bacon (and duck)

Turkey bacon was probably the first widely-marketed pork bacon substitute. It’s pretty common in most grocery stores these days. If you’re not a fan of turkey bacon, though, and you want less fat than that found in pork bacon, you can give duck bacon a try. Both options have less fat than pork bacon, but they don’t tend to get that crispy crunch that helps make the pork version so darn delicious.

4. Capicola

Image: VitalyEdush / iStock.

Whether you pronounce it Capicola, Coppa or “gabagool” like Tony Soprano, Capicola is a delicious cured meat that crisps up nicely and, like prosciutto, can take the place of bacon pretty much anywhere. What makes it a healthier substitute is that it has about a quarter of the fat and roughly the same amount of protein. Keep in mind, though, that it does have slightly higher sodium levels.

5. Salmon bacon

Image: Azure-Dragon / iStock.

Bacon made from fish? Yes, and it tastes like fish. Salty, smokey fish. I like it a lot even though it really doesn’t taste like bacon. It doesn’t crisp like bacon and I wouldn’t try it on a BLT. I would, however, throw it in an omelet or a fritata, maybe even a quiche. And I could definitely imagine it in a cheesy, salmon-bacon soufflé.

Trader Joe’s used to carry salmon bacon, but I haven’t seen it there in a while and couldn’t confirm if it is still available. There are other brands out there, though, but I can’t vouch for them.

  • 12 ounces whole-wheat penne
  • 1 2-ounce piece capicola, or pancetta, finely diced (see Tip)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ cup vodka
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup half-and-half
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook penne until just tender, 12 minutes or according to package directions.

Meanwhile, cook capicola (or pancetta) in a large saucepan over medium heat until crisp, about 4 minutes. Drain on a paper towel.

Return the saucepan to medium-low heat add onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 1 minute. Increase heat to high add vodka and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced by about half, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, half-and-half, Worcestershire sauce and crushed red pepper to taste reduce to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Drain the pasta serve topped with the sauce and sprinkled with the capicola (or pancetta), basil and pepper.

Tip: Capicola and pancetta can be found in the deli section of most large supermarkets. Buy one thick piece for this recipe.

Capicola, Shiitake, and Giardiniera Pizza with Smoked Gouda and Manchego

Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into a skillet, swirling to coat. Cook and stir capicola over medium heat until lightly browned and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in garlic clove remove skillet from heat. Transfer capicola and garlic to a bowl, reserving grease in the skillet.

Pour remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil into the skillet. Cook and stir shiitake mushrooms until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

Combine 1 tablespoon minced garlic and sesame oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat cook and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili-garlic sauce, water, sugar, and pepper into the garlic.

Spread garlic sauce over the pizza crust. Top with capicola, giardiniera, and shiitake mushrooms. Cover capicola and mushrooms with smoked Gouda and Manchego cheeses.

Bake in the preheated oven until crust is golden and cheeses are melted, 8 to 12 minutes.


Capicola to Italians, capocollo to Americans, capicolla to Canadians, “gabagoul” to Tony Soprano — whatever you call it, capicola is made from the neck of the pig, coppa, prized for its perfect ratio of 30 percent fat to 70 percent lean, making the meat moist and tender. At Olympic Provisions, it’s cured for 10 days, then coated in black pepper, fennel seed, coriander, and anise and slow-roasted to produce a tender ham. (We have also included two other options if you want to mix it up.) If you can roast beef, you can pull this off with no trouble at all. Yes, but what to do with it? Well, one can’t make a proper Italian sub (or, I’d say, any proper lunchbox sandwich) without capicola.



Skill level


  • 1.4 kg pork coppa
  • 2 tbsp plus 1 tsp (35 g) fine sea salt
  • 2 tbsp (30 g) sugar
  • 1 tsp (4 g) crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp (4 g) curing salt

Classic rub

  • 1 tsp (4 g) crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp (10 g) black peppercorns
  • ½ tsp (1.6 g) fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp (1.6 g) aniseed
  • 1 tsp (4 g) coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp (1 g) fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp (5 g) black peppercorns
  • ½ tsp (2 g) crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp (5 g) black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp (4 g) chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp (4 g) chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp (4.5 g) chopped garlic

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Curing time 10 days

Chilling time 4 hours

To make the cure, grind the fine sea salt, sugar, red pepper, and curing salt using a mortar and pestle.

Place the pork in a large bowl and massage the cure into the pork, really coating it and working it into the cracks and crannies. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap (or put into a big zipper-top bag), place on a dish, and refrigerate for 5 days. Then flip it over so that the top side is down and refrigerate for another 5 days.

After 10 days of curing, remove the coppa from the refrigerator and unwrap it. Rinse under cold water until all particles of salt and spice have been removed. Allow it to dry while you prep your rub.

Prepare the rub of your choice by combining all the ingredients in a mortar and grinding with the pestle for about 2 minutes. You’re looking for a coarse texture, not too fine. Pour the rub into a large bowl and add the meat, turning to coat it well.

Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C). Place a roasting pan filled halfway with water in the middle rack of the oven to create humidity. Put the meat into the ham net and tie the net closed on both ends. Place the meat in a roasting pan and cook for 1 hour on the top rack. Turn the meat over and cook for 1 hour longer. Check the internal temperature: you want it to reach 155°F (68°C). When the capicola is done, it should be evenly roasted and smell so wildly good that you can’t wait to slice and dig in. But not yet! Instead, remove it from the oven, transfer to a plate, and refrigerate, uncovered, for 3 to 4 hours, until the capicola’s internal temp is below 39°F (4°C). Remove the capicola from the refrigerator, slice thinly, and serve, either solo or atop a sandwich or pizza. Wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, the unsliced capicola will keep for 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Olympia Provisions: Cured Meats and Tales from an American Charcuterie by Elias Cairo and Meredith Erickson, copyright © 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, and imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Watch the video: Making Capicola in 5 minutes (June 2022).


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