What is pancetta?
Pancetta is a type of Italian-style cured pork made by salting pork belly. After curing, the pancetta takes on a light pink hue, silky texture and a distinct savoury pork flavour that is different to smoked bacon. Pancetta generally needs to be cooked before eating. It is possible to buy pancetta either sliced paper thin or cut into cubes depending on its cooking purpose. Thinly sliced pancetta is great to wrap around meat or vegetables, whilst the cubes are perfect for a sauce, soup or risotto.
Pancetta vs Prosciutto
In both being Italian cured meats, many wonder what the difference is between pancetta and Prosciutto. Pancetta is made from the pork belly, whereas prosciutto is made from the hind leg of the pig. Both meats are salt rubbed and sometimes covered in various spices to draw out moisture and pack in a punch of flavour. The meat is left to air dry for weeks or months before it is ready to be sliced and eaten. Outside of Italy, Prosciutto is most commonly known as cured ham. Both pancetta and Prosciutto have a light pink colour but Prosciutto is more buttery in texture and nearly always eaten uncooked.
We have many recipe ideas for what to do with pancetta. Pancetta provides a bomb of salty flavour which will help to deepen the flavour of a meat ragu sauce. If you are making a bolognese sauce, try adding some diced pancetta along with your minced beef and pork for extra flavour. Pancetta is a great accompaniment on a pizza, in slices with roast chicken chicken or even fried in cubes with brussel sprouts. A classic way to use pancetta is to make a pancetta pasta. Start by frying cubes of pancetta in a little bit of oil until golden and crispy. Add a diced onion, celery and some chilli to your pan and cook until soft and transparent. Pop a tin of chopped tomatoes into the sauce, a pinch of sugar and taste to season with salt and pepper as necessary. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to the boil adding a handful of rock salt when it reaches boiling temperature. Throw in some pasta (we recommend 100g per person) and cook until al dente. Mix the pasta in with your sauce, using some pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce if needed.