Here’s everything you need to know about carpaccio, a traditional Italian dish with a colorful history:
What Is Carpaccio?
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Carpaccio is an Italian appetizer of thinly sliced raw meat drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil.
It’s traditionally made with beef, but can be made with fish (specifically salmon or tuna), veal, or venison.
These days, “carpaccio” is used to refer to pretty much anything that’s been thinly sliced and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. It’s not uncommon to see vegetarian carpaccio on menus, comprised of thinly sliced fruit or vegetables.
Related: 30+ Italian Appetizers to Make ASAP
Saying the word “carpaccio” seems to be a difficult task for many English speakers.
Here’s how to pronounce it confidently and correctly: kar-pah-chee-oh.
Carpaccio was invented by Chef Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry's Bar in Venice in the 1950s.
According to legend, Countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo, whose doctor had warned her against eating cooked meat, asked Cipriani to create something that suited her dietary needs.
He rose to the challenge and presented her with thinly sliced raw beef served with a cream-coloured sauce.
So how did he come up with the name “carpaccio?”
When he admired his creation’s deep red hue, Cipriani was reminded of a painter from the Italian Renaissance named Vittore Carpaccio. (Carpaccio, you see, was known for his liberal use of the color red).
“It so happened that there was an exhibition of Carpaccio's pictures all over Venice at that time,” said Jan Morris, author of Ciao! Carpaccio: An Infatuation, to NPR in 2014. “And in it predominated the particular color red that Carpaccio was very fond of. So old Cipriani thought at once, ‘Oh, that's it. It's called carpaccio,’ he said to the old lady. Anyway, he's given the name to the world, hasn't he? I'm afraid he wouldn't be half so well known in the world if it weren't for Senior Cipriani.”
Is Carpaccio Safe to Eat?
While many people all over the world eat rare—or even raw—meat every day, there’s no guarantee it’s a safe practice.
“Unfortunately, even if preferred by foodies, there's no way to guarantee the safety of rare meat,” according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “That also means raw meat delights, such as steak tartare or beef carpaccio, are not considered safe, especially for people who are at higher risk of food poisoning. Pregnant women, children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems should avoid all raw and undercooked meats.”
Symptoms of E. coli (an infectious disease caused by eating raw beef) include stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and fever.
Some infections are mild, but some can be life-threatening. If you choose to make or enjoy carpaccio or rare/raw meat of any kind, it’s important to be aware of the risks.
Read more: What Are the Symptoms of Food Poisoning and How Do You Recover?
How to Make Carpaccio
Beef sirloin and tenderloin are the most common meats used to make carpaccio. Go to a reputable butcher who knows that the beef will be consumed raw.
After you’ve trimmed all the fat off the meat, season your cut with salt, pepper, herbs, and vinegar.
Seal the meat tightly in plastic and chill in the fridge for a minimum of 8 hours.
Using an electric meat slicer is the best way to ensure you get the thin slices required for carpaccio. If you don’t have one (or prefer to go the old-fashioned route), use a sharp knife to slice the meat as thinly as possible.
Drizzle the meat with olive oil and lemon juice for the most basic beef carpaccio. However, most people finish the dish with capers, onions, and Parmesan cheese.
While we don’t have any beef carpaccio recipes to offer (you know, food poisoning risk and all that), we do have a few delicious vegetarian carpaccio recipes to serve at your next Italian dinner:
- Radish Carpaccio
- Broccoli Carpaccio with Broccoli Stalk Salad
- Mushroom Carpaccio with Gremolata and Shaved Parmigiano
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