What is Bresaola?

What Is Bresaola?: The Ultimate Guide To Cured Beef

Chances are that during your culinary explorations, you’ve come across some of the premier artisan cured meats available on the market. However, after you’ve tried your favorite style of prosciutto, and seen what guanciale can do for a simple pasta, it’s time to consider some of the more unique cuts of the charcuterie world. The ideal choice for the cured meat savant-in-the-making is hands down Bresaola

Now of course, unless you’ve gone that far on your journey, this begs a rather obvious question: What is Bresaola?

One of the hidden gems of your supermarket, Bresaola takes Italian cured meats to a whole new arena as it swaps the typical pork meat for lean beef. Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions about Bresaola and how you can properly add it to your regular charcuterie rotation.

The Basics

First, we’ll get you up to speed with some base-level knowledge about Bresaola. We’ll review its makeup, origins, techniques used in making it, and how it compares to your other favorite cured meats.

What is Bresaola?

At first glance, Bresaola appears to be just like any other Italian cured meat variety. However, it bears some key differences that set it apart from many other offerings. Primarily, Bresaola is made from beef instead of pork. More specifically, it typically is made with meat from the eye of the round cut of the cow, a very lean and tender cut. 

Visually, it carries a deep ruby red shading and has very thin lines of marbled fat scattered through it. You’ll frequently see it served as thin slices over a bed of arugula. This often draws the description that Bresaola is essentially Beef Prosciutto.

From a flavor perspective, Bresaola differs greatly from cuts like prosciutto. Whereas prosciutto is distinctly smooth and rich with its fat content, Bresaola prioritizes a sweet, aromatic flavor that accentuates the taste of the lean beef it’s made from and the spices used to impart flavor notes. 

How is Bresaola Made?

Like many of its salumi counterparts, the beauty of Bresaola comes from the simplicity in its creation. First, the eye of a round cut of beef is trimmed and prepped by butchers to ensure an intact, lean piece. Once prepped, a blend of salt, white pepper, nutmeg, and warm spices is massaged into the muscle. These spices provide Bresaola with its unique flavor profile and also begin the curing process. 

By the end of the curing and aging period, which typically lasts at least 85 days, the meat will be pulled, prepped, and sliced to serve. The end product t is identifiable by its deep ruby-red coloration and its one-of-a-kind flavor profile.

Bresaola Salad. What is Bresaola?

Where Did it Originate?

Bresaola originated in the northern region of Lombardy, Italy. In ancient times, the fields of Lombardy were extremely fertile, supporting farming and herds of grazing animals in the warmer months. However, these warm-weather crops and meat had to be preserved for the families to eat during colder times.

Like many places across Italy, the primary meat preservation practice was dry-curing. The process lengthens the shelf life of proteins which was vital to survival. Families and farmers would use their cellars (and a copious amount of salt) to preserve their necessities for the long haul.

Bresaola vs Carpaccio

It can be very difficult to identify and sort all the different types of Italian meats and the dishes that use them. As such, items like Bresaola often find themselves confused or compared to foods that may look similar to them, but have little in common at their core.

A perfect example of this is the dish Carpaccio. The recipe is quite simple. Carpaccio takes thin slices of meat, most often beef or fish seasons them, and serves them raw alongside accouterments of herbs, oils, vinaigrettes, and vegetables. It is based on a style of meat in Italy originally called Carne Cruda but has only been popularized since the 1950s.

There are some key differences between the two foods. First, Carpaccio can be made from a variety of proteins. Even though you’ll most often find it served with beef, Carpaccio refers more to the style of serving than the meat itself. 

Secondly, Carpaccio is raw whereas Bresaola is cured. When preparing Carpaccio, you’ll season the raw meat and then allow it to chill for several hours. This allows for the meat to essentially marinate and develop flavor from the seasoning, but it does not remove or transform any of the meat chemically. As such, you’ll want to use very high-quality meat. 

Conversely, Bresaola is raw in the sense that it is never cooked via direct heat, but that doesn’t mean it carries quite the same risks. The process of curing alters the meat at a chemical level. As the meat is cured and aged, water molecules are slowly removed through a process called osmosis, creating an inhabitable environment for pathogens and removing any risky or harmful elements. You can enjoy plain slices of Bresaola like you would any other salumi.

Bresaola Tips, Tricks, and Pairings

Now that we’ve covered the essentials on beef prosciutto knowledge, let’s address some of the questions that require more nuance. 

How Do I Serve Bresaola? 

Bresaola is a fine dry-cured meat, created over months in small batches by expert artisans. As such the simple answer to serving it is to remain as simple as possible. It’s common to enjoy paper-thin slices of this salumi on its own. However, it also functions wonderfully in special presentations and pairings. 

In terms of ideal pairings, Bresaola’s iconic sweet and aromatic flavors perform well with flavors that cut into it. Consider serving Bresaola with a classic cheese like aged Parmigiano or something peppery and textured like an Arugala Salad.

Bresaola Recipes

Start simple with something that pairs Bresaola with basic ingredients to elevate all the elements like our Bresaola Tartine. Once you’ve got a handle on how Bresaola’s flavor profile plays with others, level up to a more complex recipe like this elevated take on the Tuna sandwich.

Like with any ingredient. Use your comfort to experiment and find new combinations that wow your palate.


For a product with such humble and simple beginnings, Bresoala brings a wealth of attributes and interesting factors to the kitchen. While you’ve probably found yourself with a wonderful slice of prosciutto or flavorful pancetta, you’ve likely been letting this sleeper hit go unnoticed.

Take this as a sign to rectify that mistake. Use your newfound status as a Bresaola savant to take your charcuterie journey to an all-new height.

Take this as a sign to rectify that mistake. Use your newfound status as a Bresaola savant to take your charcuterie journey to an all-new height.