BRESAOLA - uncertain origin, certain taste


BRESAOLA - uncertain origin, certain taste

Bresaola is how it is called in Italy a preparation made of salted and dried beef. Typically it is produced in some areas of Lombardy and the canton of Grisons, in Switzerland.

The “Bresaola della Valtellina” is recognized as a Protected Geographical Indication food, PGI, thanks to the particular characteristics acquired in Valtellina and Valchiavenna, two valleys in the heart of the Italian Alps. The area belongs to the province of Sondrio in Lombardy Region. According to many sources this is also the area to which to attribute the historical origin of this food.

The Bresaola has an inviting red color meat with only few small white veins: the morphological characteristics highlight the Bresaola reduced amount of fat, compared to the high protein content. The organoleptic characteristics are very appreciated: the Bresaola slices have a compact consistency, are pleasantly scented and the flavor is amazing.

The origin, the history and the production of this salami are linked to its territory and propagated by the "Bresaola della Valtellina" Protection Consortium.


History and origins

The Consortium for the Protection of “Bresaola della Valtellina” was recognized by the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies in 1998: in the last 20 years the Consortium has carried out promotion, enhancement and protection activities.

All the morphological and organoleptic characteristics depends on the production area: the Lombard valleys low temperature and the naturally free of humidity air allow conservation and seasoning procedures that would not be repeatable in other territories.

Salting of meat was originally only a preservation method to cover the needs of the people of the valleys. Only at the beginning of the nineteenth century the artisan work become a wider production and allowed the diffusion of the Bresaola della Valtellina.

The origin of this salami name remains uncertain: there is agreement on the "saola" suffix, derived from the salt used for the fresh meat preservation. The name prefix could derive from "brasa", which in the Valchiavenna dialect means embers. Time ago, in fact, the cured meat was dried in special rooms heated by braziers fed by fir wood, juniper berries, thyme and bay leaves. In Valchiavenna, however, the salami name is "brisaola", so it is possible that the original suffix of the name was "brisa", a name that in local dialect is attributed to a strongly salted bovine gland.



Bresaola della Valtellina is produced with the thigh meat of bovine aged between 18 months and 4 years. The bone's private flesh can be derived from:

  • fesa

  • hip tip

  • sottofesa

  • magatello

  • sottosso


The muscular masses are trimmed and deprived of external fat and tendinous parts without affecting the pulp, which must form an entire piece throughout the process. The meat masses are, therefore, destined to the "dry salting" with sodium chloride, also known as “kitchen salt”, and natural flavors selected by the operator: coriander seeds, juniper berries, bay leaves , rosemary, pimento, star anise, fennel, cinnamon. The addition of sugar, authorized by the Consortium specification, favors the Bresaola maturation.

The salting phase lasts 10-15 days depending on the weight of the pieces. During this period the meat is massaged several times to promote the aromas penetration.

The meat pieces are then "stuffed" into natural gut, but the artificial one is allowed. This phase is followed by seasoning at 12 and 18 ° C for four to eight weeks. The Valtellina and Valchiavenna climatic conditions allow the natural ventilation of the seasoning rooms.

At the and of seasoning time Bresaola is ready for packaging as whole piece, or already sliced, vacuum-packed or in a protective atmosphere.


Nutritional characteristics

Bresaola has better nutritional characteristics than other salami. This food contains 33 % protein and 2% fat. Bresaola proteins have an high presence of branched chain amino acids that is leucine, isoleucine and valine.

The Bresaola fats are mostly saturated, but a 50 g standard portion contains only 3% of the maximum recommended daily intake for these nutrients. The cholesterol content per serving is only 31.5 mg, just 10.5% of the recommended daily dose for this fat.

This processed meat contains B1, B6 and B12 vitamins, and mineral salts, such as iron, zinc, phosphorus and potassium.


How to taste it

Bresaola is typically served with rocket and parmesan and seasoned with balsamic vinegar. Among the Italian wines the most suitable for Bresaola is Valtellina Superiore, a still red wine of the same region.

In the typical Italian menu Bresaola and other similar products are a “second dish”. As all processed meat is advisable to limit the intake to a maximum of twice a week, limiting the standard portion of the weight of 50 g.



- Bresaola della Valtellina IGP. Dizionario dei prodotti DOP e IGP 2018 Treccani

- Bresaola della Valtellina IGP. Qualigeo. Fondazione Qualivita.

- Disciplinare di produzione della denominazione di origine protetta «Bresaola della Valtellina»

- Alimentazione e attività fisica. Imola 2005. SINU, Società Italiana di Nutrizione Umana.

- LARN Livelli di Assunzione di Riferimento di Nutrienti ed energia per la popolazione italiana. SINU, Società Italiana di Nutrizione Umana.


Francesca Antonucci






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