Italian Cured Meats: Pancetta

Pancetta on top. Source:  Steve Calcott

Pancetta on top. Source: Steve Calcott

The Basics

Definition: Pork Belly, salt cured with spices, then dried. 

Origin: 15th Century, Italy. More popular in Spain, UK, and Croatia.

Etymology: Italian pancia ("belly").

Curing Process: Pancetta is very easy to make. It can come as a slab or rolled, depending on how its cured. Pancetta often comes as a roll so the fat and muscle curl around each other. Usually, rolled pancetta will either be sliced and eaten raw or fried and added into dishes. 

To start the curing process, create the cure. Herbs, spices, sugar, and salts are mixed and massaged into the meat. Then the pancetta can either be rolled, tied, and hung for drying or placed in a curing chamber for a period of time. 

Use: Pancetta can be sliced thinly and eaten raw. It is also used to add an aromatic pork flavor to dishes or sauces. Pancetta can be used to substitute bacon, as it leaves out the bacon's smokiness. 

Eat: Pancetta should be pink and slightly damp. Do not eat overly wet, slimy, or dry pancetta. The fat should be white or cream-colored and never yellow. 

Taste: Hearty, strong, and slightly salty in flavor. Fatty and either smoked or unsmoked. 

Here's a nice guide on making your own pancetta: Test Kitchen. It's also a great website with lots of useful articles. 

Pancetta. Source:  Kevin Weeks

Pancetta. Source: Kevin Weeks