Ask anyone about the most memorable Italian meal and chances are that menu includes pasta. But during this trip to Italy I gained a whole new appreciation for another Italian staple: prosciutto, a delicate, flavorful, melt-on-your tongue, paper-thin slice of porky goodness.

My first lesson learned: prosciutto is NOT ham. Prosciutto stands alone, or perhaps I should say hangs alone, as one of Italy’s proudest pork products. The pigs are raised with love and a careful diet to enhance the flavor. Even their demise is a respectful event, as prosciutto aficionados say they can actually taste fear in meat that has been unethically slaughtered.

Prosciutto is made from the hind leg of a pig. Each step of butchering and processing prosciutto is carefully regulated by the government, insuring a safe and consistent product. Because the truth is, prosciutto is actually raw pork (what?!) cured, salted, and left to chill in a temperature-controlled, walk-in fridge. Once the salt is removed, each hind leg is left to dry age for up to 18 months. The entire prosciutto making process can take anywhere from nine months to two years.

So the next time you are craving a ham sandwich, kick it up a notch and replace that thick slice of ham with prosciutto; delicate, sheer, perfectly marbled slices of pork perfection.