Zampone of Modena is made from the front trotter of a pig. The trotter is stuffed with a mixture of lean meats, belly and back skin and neck fat and boiled before consumption.
Zampone is traditionally served on New Year’s Eve, not only in Modena, but also throughout Italy. It should be well cooked and cut into slices less than half and inch thick. Traditionally, it is sliced directly at the table. Classic side dishes include lentils (that are thought to bring good luck), but also stewed, large white beans (fagioli di Spagna), buttered spinach or mashed potatoes.
There is also a tradition of pairing zampone with zabaione. This peculiar way to eat zampone seems to come from Parma, where the cooks from the other side of the Alps who followed Maria Luigia of Austia were particularly skilled in preparing the dish. According to Numa Ciripiglia, in her book Cucina tradizionale Reggiana, zabaione was created in the Reggio area when Gian Paolo Baglioni, who was later decapitated in Rome by Leone X in 1520, had to feed his hungry troops. They found only eggs, sugar and white wine, which they whisked together, heated and served to the enthusiastic soldiers. The recipe was given the dialectical name of its creator “Zvan Bajoun.” In dialect, zabaione is still referred to as “zambajoun.”
Originally, zampone was made with leftover skin and pork meat. Today, it is more refined and a true Zampone Modenese IGP must have about 40% shoulder and thigh meat (specifically the meat around the leg bone), about 40% pork cheek and about 20% skin. The mixture is seasoned with salt, pepper and mixed spices like cinnamon, coriander, cumin and cloves, for example. Everything is stuffed into a little sack made from the skin and the trotter, which is then tied together at one end. The best zamponi are fresh and available only in the winter. The area of production of Zampone Modena (an IGP product since 1996) is the entire region of Emilia Romagna and the provinces of Cremona, Lodi, Pavia, Milano, Varese, Como, Lecco, Bergamo, Brescia, Mantova in Lombardy and Verona or Rovigo in Veneto.