Pancetta is an Italian cured meat that is made from pork belly. It is similar to bacon, but is not smoked and has a more delicate taste. Pancetta can be used in a variety of dishes, such as pasta carbonara, salads, and sandwiches. It is a versatile ingredient that adds depth and richness to any dish. In this blog post, we will explore the history of pancetta, its different types, and how it is made.
History of Pancetta
Pancetta has been a part of Italian cuisine for centuries. It dates back to the Roman Empire, where it was an essential component of the Roman legions’ rations. The word ‘pancetta’ comes from ‘pancia,’ which means belly in Italian. In ancient times, the belly of the pig was considered the most flavorful part and was consumed by the wealthy and influential.
Over time, pancetta became a popular food all over Italy, and each region developed its own unique style of making it. For example, the pancetta from Umbria (a region in central Italy) is seasoned with wild fennel seeds, while the pancetta from Calabria (a region in southern Italy) is spiced with hot chilli peppers.
Different Types of Pancetta
There are two main types of pancetta: the arrotolata (rolled) and the stesa (flat). The arrotolata pancetta is rolled tightly into a cylindrical shape, while the stesa pancetta is pressed flat. Both types are made from pork belly, but the way they are cut and cured makes a significant difference in taste and texture.
The rolled pancetta has a more intense flavour and a firmer texture than the flat pancetta. It is also easier to slice because it has a uniform shape that allows for even cuts. The flat pancetta, on the other hand, is softer and has a milder taste. It is usually cut into small pieces and used as a garnish.
The Different Methods of Making Pancetta
The process of making pancetta begins with selecting the right pork belly. The pork belly should be fresh and of high quality. The fat should be evenly distributed, and there should be no cracks or blemishes on the surface.
Once the pork belly has been selected, it is trimmed and seasoned with a blend of salt, sugar, and spices. The spices used vary depending on the region and personal preference. Some of the most common spices used include black pepper, garlic, rosemary, and fennel.
After seasoning, the pork belly is rolled or pressed flat and tied with twine. It is then left to cure for several days or weeks. During this time, the salt and spices penetrate the meat, giving it flavour and helping to preserve it.
The curing process can also involve the use of other ingredients, such as wine or vinegar. Wine is used to give the pancetta a more complex flavour, while vinegar helps to tenderize the meat. Some pancetta makers also smoke the meat to give it a smoky flavour, but this is not traditional in Italy. However, Butchers Fridge makes its smoked pancetta.
Once the curing process is complete, the pancetta is ready to be used. It can be sliced thinly and eaten as a cold cut or cooked in a variety of dishes. Diced Pancetta is a popular ingredient in pasta sauces, such as carbonara and amatriciana, where its flavour adds depth and richness to the dish.
Health Benefits of Pancetta
Pancetta is a high-fat food and should be consumed in moderation. However, it does have some health benefits. Pork belly is a good source of protein and contains essential vitamins and minerals, such as thiamin, niacin, and vitamin B12. It is also rich in monounsaturated fats, which can help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Pancetta is a delicious and versatile ingredient that adds flavour and richness to any dish. Its history dates back centuries, and each region of Italy has its unique style of making it. Whether rolled or flat, pancetta is a popular ingredient in Italian cuisine and is used in a variety of dishes, from carbonara to salads. While high in fat, pancetta also has some health benefits and should be enjoyed in moderation. So, the next time you are looking to add some flavour to your cooking, try using pancetta – you won’t be disappointed.