food finds: pancetta

With a bucket full of salt and a handful of spices you can turn any meat into deliciously cured meat and pancetta is surely no exception. Similar to bacon, Italian pancetta is made from salt-cured pork belly, but it’s usually rolled up like a jelly roll and left to dry unsmoked. Sliced thin and pan-fried to a crisp, pancetta adds extreme flavor to just about anything, especially pasta sauces. Mixed into stuffing, topped on a gourmet slider, or tossed into macaroni & cheese… the possibilities are endless!

Pancetta cooks just like bacon, so if you know how to fry up bacon, then you’re set ;) And like bacon, you don’t have to do much to make it taste good =D Most of the work is already done for you; i.e., the salt-curing process. This is also exactly why it’s so important to pick out good pancetta, which all starts at the grocery store. Good pancetta shouldn’t be too fatty, too salty, or too spicy/peppery. Specialty food stores like Whole Foods sell pancetta sliced to order along with their other cured meats, but their pancetta is, more often than not, super fatty and way too salty… basically like buying super salty pork fat… ugh. They are definitely my last resort =P

Over the years, I’ve tried pancetta from just about every neighborhood grocery store and even splurged at an Italian food market once in Santa Monica, but my search finally ended with Columbus Pancetta… who would’ve guessed? A pre-sliced package of pancetta? Yep =D Their pancetta is never too fatty nor too lean, cured with just the right amount of salt and spices and already sliced thin, ready to go! I use it for my linguine & mussels alla diavola, carbonara, and bucatini all’amatriciana, just to name a few =) On rare occasions, a recipe will call for thick-sliced or diced pancetta. When that happens though, more often than not, I just substitute with Columbus Pancetta, instead of risking it with another ultra fatty, super salty (not to mention pricey) slab of pancetta at a specialty food store. The result, of course, is just as good, if not better! Until I get inside information on where to get a real, authentic roll of pancetta for a decent price, I’m just gonna stick with what I know is gonna be good ;)

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