Pancetta is cured pork belly, the Italian equivalent of bacon. Unlike American bacon, however, pancetta is cured with a variety of herbs, spices, and garlic, and is left unsmoked. Pancetta is usually rolled and tied in a cylindrical shape, then hung to dry. Some versions, such as the variety made in Florence, are left flat. Our pancetta recipe is the rolled kind, and it’s amazing when prepared with our Pasta Carbonara with Peas. If you’re visually inclined, see our illustrated step-by-step guide.
What to buy: Pork belly is the same as fresh bacon. You can order it from a good butcher or buy it online from Niman Ranch. A whole fresh pork belly with the skin on weighs around 11 pounds, of which you’ll need half (a 5-1/2-pound slab) to make 1 pancetta. If you like, you can ask your butcher to remove the skin for you, making the total prep time minimal.
Curing salt, also known as pink salt or saltpeter, contains 6.25 percent sodium nitrite. It is colored pink so as not to be confused with regular salt. Curing salt is available at Butcher & Packer.
We like to use kosher salt in our recipes. It’s especially important to use kosher salt here to ensure that your quantity is correct. We prefer Diamond Crystal brand, available in most grocery stores.
Special equipment: In addition to your chef’s knife, you’ll also need a boning knife to remove the skin.
Be sure to have a spool of cotton butcher’s twine for tying and hanging your pancetta.
We found that giant storage bags, like these jumbo 2-gallon bags by Ziploc, were perfect for holding the pancetta during the curing process.
Game plan: Find a cool place to hang your pancetta, away from windows and direct sunlight. And of course make sure you allow enough time for the curing and hanging processes.
Note: Pancetta is not meant to be eaten uncooked. Be sure to cook it, just as you would bacon, before eating.