You’ll Gain Weight Just Looking At This Post! Lardo.

Have you ever eaten something so fabulous, so lucious, so decadent that you almost felt the need to run to confession (to confess your indulgent food “sins”), say three Hail Mary’s (that’s for you Catholics out there) and pray really hard that you can zip your jeans up again? Ok, a bit exaggerated, but looking back, this is a bit how my first real taste of lardo made me feel.

Now many of you may be scratching your head wondering, “Lardo? Wait, did she mean to write that? Maybe she mean Lardons? Surely she’s not talking about Lard?” Well, kids, hold on to your Spanx-controlled muffin-top, I am talking about lard. But lardo ain’t just any old lard… it’s special lard. Very, very, very special lard.

In our few trips to Italy over the past couple of years, lardo graced our palates a few times, but only in very small quantites (as it should!). The first time we ate it – in Modena, Italy – we were, sadly, so fiercely hungover that we couldn’t really appreciate it. However, this saved us from eating what was an obscene amount of it – slathered in thin ribbons over a beautiful 12 inch thin-crust pizza and topped with the town’s famous aged balsamic.

Apologies for the awful, 1970s plate. I’m blaming the in-laws.

Pearly-white inside and darker and grainy at the edges, lardo, which is basically salt-cured pig fat flavored with rosemary (and occasionally other herbs), is made throughout Italy, though the most famous – lardo di Colonata – is produced only in Colonata, a small, isolated Tuscan town, where the pigs are fed on a steady diet of acorns to better flavor their fat.

In some areas of northern Italy, lardo is used as the cooking fat in which soffrito is sauteed in the preparation of a sugo or ragu, but like other salume, it is often eaten in thin, bite-sized pieces and allowed to melt on the tongue, before being washed down with an effervescent white wine. Which is how, if you can find yourself some, you should try it for the first time. Yes, that’s right, cured pigs’ fat straight-up. No crackers, no bread, no olives. Just fat and your tongue in perfect harmony. It really does melt.

It’s unlikely that we ate lardo di Colonata that day, as the real thing is almost as expensive as the most highly-prized prosciutto, but what we had was still beautifully perfumed of bacon & rosemary, and incredibly rich & luscious tasting, and probably quite pricey in its own right. With the crackle of the pizza crust underneath and the honey sweetness of an ancient balsamic, it was one of the most texturally amazing things I’ve ever put in my mouth, sober, drunk or hungover.

Occasionally, in the intervening year, we’ve complained of a lack of lardo in our lives, but we were completely shocked to find it at a local specialty foods store over the summer – and it was cheap too! They had about half a pound left, and we bought the whole thing, fearing that we might not find it ever again outside of Italy. Fortunately, because it’s cured, it has a good long shelf-life, so we’re taking it easy to make sure we don’t drop dead from cholesterol-related disease before we’re done eating it.

I think we need to do more research into recipes that call for lardo, because apart from taking it neat, so far we’ve only recreated that decadent pizza from Modena. There’s a recipe below, but the sad thing is, if you don’t have any lardo or anywhere that sells it, and you don’t have a 25 year old balsamic vinegar to top it with, that recipe might not be much use. Still, you can aspire to collect these ingredients, and trust me, when you find them, make this pizza and you’ll be glad you waited for it. It might be the most incredible pizza that ever passes your lips.

Lardo Pizza with Wilted Radicchio & Onion

For an absolutely tried & tested, nailed-on recipe for the perfect thin-crust pizza dough read this previous post: Remembering Italy with Thin-Crust Pizza. To get the finest aged balsamic vinegar available in North American delivered to your door, click here, or if you don’t want to buy the good stuff, you can reduce the ordinary kind in a saucepan until consistency resembles molasses.

Unfortunately, Italian lardo is not exported to America. The American Department of Agriculture wants it heated to 156 F (69 C) before it is sold to consumers, but at that point, the fat would start melting, and it would no longer be lardo. However, we found some domestically produced lardo completely by chance in a local store, so you may get lucky somewhere along the line. And while it is widely thought that Italian lardo is greatly superior to any made domestically because it is aged for so much longer, we found US lardo to be very acceptable indeed. Your best bet if you don’t have any awesome gourmet food stores nearby, and this may be even trickier, is to get friendly with your local organic hog farmer and have him save you some back fat from best fed pig on his farm, then cure your own pig fat! Why not? Good luck!

Ingredients & Recipe

1lb fresh pizza dough

1/2 head of radicchio di Chioggia (regular round, red radicchio), shredded finely

1/2 spanish (yellow) onion, finely sliced

2tbsp good olive oil

1 pinch kosher salt

– Sweat radicchio and onion until soft and decorate your pizza with it.

- Then, place thinly-sliced lardo on top and fire pizza in the oven. Remove and dress immediately with balsamic vinegar.

Savor every mouthful.

40 thoughts on “You’ll Gain Weight Just Looking At This Post! Lardo.

  1. I was still reeling from your post about dinner at Au Pied Cochon…and now this! I hope you’re balancing these indulgences with exercise!! Seriously, if given the opportunity, I would love to try it. Another interesting post.

  2. Joan – i know it sounds like all we do is feast on animal fat, but really, we don’t eat that much of it -honest! We actually made this pizza during the summer but didn’t get around to posting it until now – it’s just coincidence that it happened to come hot on the heels of au pied de cochon

  3. I think you will need the help of Bert (at Mary Poppins movie) to unblock your arteries!!!!!!!
    Also, how do Spanish Onions look? We’ve got many different kinds here.
    I sometimes use lard mixed with olive oil when roasting meats… it makes a difference! ;D

  4. I guess I would have to find and fat back and try to cure it. The chef at a place I workes out did it with fat back and shaved it thin like you did. It was delicious on flatbread with some dressed argula if I recall.

  5. Nuria – we’ve used lard when roasting too and it really does make an appreciable difference – nothing flavors like pork fat. As for Spanish onions, well – that’s a good question. I’m not sure why, but in the UK, Spanish onion refers to a large, relatively sweet (i.e. the fumes aren’t super sharp + don’t make you cry) yellow onion. I’ve read that the further north onions are grown, the harsher their fumes are. So perhaps “Spanish” connotes a yellow onion grown outside of the UK, somewhere warmer, and therefore, sweeter? More research needed, i think.

    Coco – that’s the spirit! Cure your own fatback, or find someone who knows how to do it for you. And the preparation on flatbread with arugula definitely sounds like something we should try!

  6. Sounds similar to a breakfast my husband had in northern Spain–in Soria, if I remember correctly. It (the breakfast) was a piece of bread with pig fat on it. I don’t recall there being any flavorings though, so maybe that was just the equivalent to salt pork or something.

  7. Amy and Johnny,
    You can order a nice bowl of crostini with lardo to spread on it at Mario Batali & Lidia Bastianich’s place on 10th Ave. DELPOSTO.
    We get it every time and it is SOOOO good!
    Who doesn’t love fat?

  8. Kristin – interesting you should mention that. I now remember having a bowl of bread and bean soup in Leon (not a million miles from Soria) with a couple of slices of melting pork fat on top for lunch. That said, lard on toast for breakfast might well be the original breakfast of champions!

    Stacey – I don’t know if you realised, but you’ve just asked what might be the question for the ages…

  9. I make my own (and guanciale too, among other things) and it’s wonderful. I use it for soffrito, and as charcuterie, and I gave a bunch away as gifts. If you freeze a piece, you can grate it over steak for a happy ending. Small hunks are wicked in baked beans.

  10. I’m not a big lardo fan (it’s a textures thing for me) but they often shave it very thin and serve it with polenta, for example. One of the most interesting presentations I’ve seen of lardo is shaved very thinly, rolled and placed “on-end” around the circumference of the polenta (like a little wall!). It’s not mixed in. Otherwise, with crostini or just eaten with bread. The beauty of lardo is about eating it raw – if you mix it into something or fry it it starts to lose its characteristics.

  11. this is so funny. you know something with the word “lard”in it is going to be the best thing you’ve ever eaten. i feel that same “sex in my mouth” feeling when i eat a character cookie. it’s two cookies completely covered in icing. it’s probably 2,000 calories, but do i care? no, not really. haha

  12. I’m glad Jube (Peter) came by to rub it in. I was gonna mention that he makes his own, but he’s usually first to that punch.

    I might make a trip to the Asian grocery today for a slab of belly.

  13. OMG, Amy. My husband and I had some lardo di Colonata in Tuscany a few years ago. Pure heaven. We spent far too much time giggling about the “colon” in the name 🙂 Hooray for lardo–thanks for the memories (and for your amazing blog , too. Thank you for stopping by my site, because it led me to yours.) 🙂 Will be by often!

  14. Lardo pizza – now there’s something i have never seen, but as a Yorkshireman I must say it sounds great. Fat is good. In moderation. We all know how much better roast potatoes taste in Goose Fat – this is an extension of that. tradtionally here in yorkshire, Dripping on Bread is a tasty , bygone treat, and i guess this is just thier version. All good.

  15. For me that first photograph (actually all the photos) is heaven! I was in Italy this summer visiting relatives and they make a lardo concoction that they spread on hot bread and pizza. Delicious!

  16. If I had to choose 5 of my all time favorite rich foods lardo would be on that list! there is absolutley NOTHING like lardo on warm smoky grilled bread. olives on the side and a pint of ipa to chase it down

  17. My mom tells me of when they would slaughter the pig and indeed, the pig fat was also utilized….everything but the squeak!

    Psst…I’m coming to NYC!

  18. Hey guys,
    Long-term reader, first-time blogger – great post as ever. On the intensely rich/fatty food stakes, I’ve just returned from an artery-clogging trip to Berlin where I was subjected some intense rounds of blutwurst (even richer than Blighty’s own disgustingly rich black pudding), and in Japan earlier this year I discovered that the locals were pretty into deep-fried balls of animal fat (and cartilage … they love cartilage). Lardo sounds much more delicious than any of this, though dripping on bread, as referred to above, would take some beating.
    Worth asking Jonny whether lardo is any less fatty than a post-Frenzy greasy Balti Fayre doner … if lardo represents ‘fat heaven’ and all that’s ‘right’ about fat, a Balti Fayre doner is as close as you’d get to ‘fat hell’ (though I’ve yet to sample one of Glasgow’s culinary delights, the deep-fried mars bar).

  19. I’d never heard of lardo until just five minutes ago, reading this post. I never would have thought I’d want to taste raw pork fat, but you had me with “beautifully perfumed of bacon & rosemary, and incredibly rich & luscious tasting”. Wow. What a fabulous description. I’m making up a list of “foods I really want to try” and this is going on it!

  20. I have to admit, as much as I love bacon and prosciutto and other similar pork based products, I am very intimidated by the thought of lardo. However, if it is as good as you make it sound, I may have to try it.

  21. During a recent trip to Milan my mum and I were treated to a starter of very thin slices of stunningly seasoned lardo draped over some mash, Puree di patate rather, (you can take the girl out of london but you can’t take london out of the girl). It was a suitably small portion I hasten to add but utterly delicious.

  22. “Spanx-controlled muffin top”…..ahahahahah! God, they are the only way I can fit into 90% of my wardrobe.

    Never heard of Lardo, so thanks for yet another expansion of my culinary knowledge. You guys rock!

  23. first time i saw/heard of lardo was at an italian restaurant in the west village called Il Buco – or something like that. it came on the charcuterie plate and i was all like, WTF? one bite and i was all like, fucking-A…

    we need to suck up to peter more…

  24. Amy and Jonny,
    I did enjoy your piece on lardo. I’m currently awaiting my order for pork back fat and will make my own. BTW Jennifer McClagan’s book, “Fat: an appreciation of a misunderstood ingredient”, claims it is good for you and far better than current fats popular with the dieting industry. I have bookmarked your site.
    Thank you, Gerry.

  25. Stumbled across your blog just tonight and love it! La Quercia in Norwalk, IA produces what to my mouth is an excellent lardo. Well worth checking out.

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