What Is Pancetta And What Does It Taste Like?

A crispy cube of pancetta is one of the most purely delicious bites on earth (for carnivores, that is). Unctuous, salty, slightly fatty, and deeply porky, pancetta tastes a bit like a union of bacon and prosciutto — without any smokiness — and it elevates any dish that it's added to. When pancetta and pasta come together, it's magic. 

A cured Italian pork product, pancetta is essentially pork belly that has been seasoned, salted, and lightly spiced, according to MyRecipes. It is pronounced pan-CHET-ta, as noted by La Cucina Italiana. Pancetta is often seasoned and cured with salt, sugar, pepper, juniper, bay leaves, nutmeg, and thyme (via Leite's Culinaria). How delicious does that sound? MasterClass notes that pancetta's curing and drying process usually takes between three and four weeks. Once cured, the pork belly is seasoned and refrigerated, then washed, rolled, and slipped into a casing before being tied and hung. But once you have pancetta that's ready for cooking how do you use it?

How to use pancetta

Pancetta is sold in large hunks, thinly sliced, or chopped into small bits. The small bits are an incredible inclusion in pasta dishes, primarily a slight variation on a classic carbonara or all'amatriciana, which traditionally use guanciale — but we think a pancetta swap is permissible because guanciale can be a tricky ingredient to find! Interestingly enough, Serious Eats notes that there is actually is a form of smoked pancetta called pancetta affumicata, but you'd be mistaken if you just assumed that it is bacon. According to the site, it tastes saltier and has a more seasoned flavor than American bacon.

In addition, pancetta lends amazing flavor to soups and stews, pairs amazingly well with green vegetables, and bolsters salads, pizzas, and much more, according to BBC Food. It can also be a part of a cold antipasto platter or charcuterie board. Crisp, perfectly rendered pancetta blows bacon out of the water any day! Truthfully, it should stand on its own. Hopefully, it is now pancetta's time to step into the spotlight.