Bacon vs. Pancetta
I’m a Canadian girl but I’m also the daughter of a second generation Italian. I grew up with a healthy appreciation of both rare roast beef and homemade manicotti…it was a great childhood!
So, when this editorial assignment landed in my inbox, I was torn as to the side I would take when writing this piece. In my household, dominated by my three beautiful boys, bacon would win. Although, quite honestly, I do use pancetta in my lasagna and pasta dishes and the boys are none the wiser. Is there a real difference between bacon and pancetta?
The answer is yes, there is a difference. Although both are made from pork belly, bacon is cured and smoked while pancetta is cured and can be infused with a variety of spices, including nutmeg, pepper and fennel. Using pancetta instead of bacon in a dish will impart a rich pork flavour without the smokiness. In Italian cooking, it is a base for classic pasta dishes such as Carbonara and all’Amatriciana.
In North America, pancetta is usually sold rolled and paper-thin but some specialty shops and butchers will have it available in a slab or block, with the fat on the bottom. This version is great to cook with as it can be diced or chopped easily.
Pancetta should not be confused with prosciutto, an Italian cured ham made from the hind leg of the pig. Although cured, pancetta is raw and needs to be cooked, just like its close cousin, bacon.
If you have never used pancetta before, why not give it a try. Start with something simple, like substituting bacon for pancetta in your next Caesar salad. Dice a handful of cubes, fry them and toss them in – you will not be disappointed.
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, try one of these classic recipes: