Zampone is traditionally served on New Year’s Eve throughout Italy. Zampone of Modena is made from the front trotter of a pig. The trotter is stuffed with a mixture of lean meats, pork belly, back skin and neck fat, boiled before it is served. It should be well-cooked and cut into slices less than half an inch thick. Traditionally it is sliced directly at the table. Classic side dishes include lentils for 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 comes from Parma. Zabaione was created in the Reggio area when Gian Paolo Baglioni 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 40% shoulder and thigh meat – specifically the meat around the leg bone, 40% pork cheek and 20% skin. The mixture is seasoned with salt, pepper and mixed spices including cinnamon, coriander, cumin and cloves. 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, as well as Verona and Rovigo in Veneto.