What is Pancetta
Pancetta refers to an Italian meat that is cut from the belly of the pig. It is often compared to bacon and is called the Italian bacon, but as far as the flavour goes, the two are really not the same and they are different in many ways. By contrast, the bacon is cut from the belly and sides of the pig, then salted cured and smoked. The main difference is that while bacon is smoked, Pancetta is cured with salt and many savoury and sweet spices such as black pepper, fennel, and nutmeg are added to it. It is then dried slowly after the curing process is complete.
Pancetta is sold in meat stores and can be obtained in several forms. The form of the meat that looks like a slab is called pancetta in Italy. Usually it would be cut in lengths according to the wishes of the customer. In this form most of the fat of the meat is on the top of the slab, and the bottom and the top has an auburn colour.
Yet another form of Pancetta is known as rotolata and is more popular in Spain than in Italy. This type is in a rolled form and the muscle and fat are evenly layered in the meat. Rotolata is ideal for uses where you want to get very thin slices for frying. You can even place these slices on a pizza before it is cooked.
Stesa is another variety of Pancetta that is very easily found in the US and is very well liked in Italy. Usually this form is diced instead of sliced and is used in a wide variety of dishes. It has none of the smokiness found in the US bacon, but instead it will add flavour, spice salt and fat to any food.
Spaghetti carbonara or pasta is a classic Italian dish that uses stesa in its recipe. Some people refer to it as the Italian equivalent of bacon and eggs. When different recipes of carbonara are made, only a small quantity of the diced pancetta is used together with such ingredients as cooked pasta, garlic, parmesan cheese, scrambled eggs and parsley.
When using Pancetta, a small amount goes a long way. If you cook carbonara or four people, you will use about one ounce of the pancetta for each person. It has a lot of fat in it so the small pieces cook down quite fast.
Rotolata for of pancetta can be used to make very delicious recipes. It is possible to make the American classic BLT using thin slices of the fried rotolata. The slices used should be cut as thinly as paper, the way this type of pancetta is usually sold.
Since Italian foods have become very popular, it has made finding pancetta a very easy thing to do. You will find it in the meat department of your supermarkets or at the local butcher’s store where you will be able to get it sliced to your satisfaction.