What Is Pancetta?


Pancetta is often called Italian bacon. That’s a true enough description, but unlike American bacon, which is most often smoked, pancetta is unsmoked pork belly that is cured in salt and spices such as nutmeg, pepper and fennel. It’s then dried for a few months.

Outside of Italy, pancetta most often comes rolled (rotolata) so that the fat and muscle spiral around each other. Pancetta can also be made as a slab (stesa) so that the fat is mostly on one side. Rolled pancetta is normally cut into circular paper-thin slices before being fried, while slab pancetta is usually chopped or diced before being added to a dish.

Pancetta adds a distinctive pork flavor to pasta and other dishes, without infusing into them bacon’s smokiness. In the U.S., it’s a common substitute for guanciale, which is the cured pork cheek that is the traditional base for many classic pastas, like carbonara or all’amatriciana.

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