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Old 09-12-2012, 11:06 AM   #1
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Pancetta - A distinguished Italian cold cut

Following the publication of a thread about bucatini with pancetta, I felt the need to talk about the different kinds of pancetta, which are produced here in Italy.
As it always happens in Italy, you will find lots of variations for a single food, based on local heritage and culture. We can say a couple of universal things about our pancetta: it is made with belly pork meat, and it is appreciated and used across Italy.
We could compare Italian pancetta to North American or British bacon, but there are differences both in the cut of meat used, both in the making of this savory and versatile food. For example, in Italy we donít have that beautiful back bacon which Britons love so much and while bacon, as far as I know, is usually only salted and/or smoked, pancetta undergoes a different treatment.

The glorious Pancetta family
Pancetta is an Italian cold cut produced with the belly and part of the ribs of the pig. Layers of fat and layers of muscle make this meat.

Letís see how it is made
  1. First, the meat is cut and trimmed as needed.
  2. Second, it is cured with salt but also with herbs and spices. The seasoning mixture is based on various recipes, which are different for every producer. Among the spices, the most used is black pepper.
  3. Third, pancetta is seasoned for a variable time, depending on the final outcome to be produced.

In Italy you can find different salumi under the name of pancetta
  • Pancetta tesa, also called pancetta piana (stretched pancetta) - It is a piece of meat, flattened, cured, sold in rectangular pieces, still with its rind (cotenna), sometimes with pieces of bone cartilage.
  • Pancetta arrotolata (rolled pancetta) - In this case, the rind is trimmed away, and then the meat is cured and rolled to form a sort of big salami. Sometimes it is put in a casing and tied, to keep its shape.
  • Pancetta coppata - It is a special kind of pancetta. The pancetta is rolled around a piece of coppa (another Italian pork cold cut), which is a cold cut leaner then pancetta.

We can also distinguish pancetta from its flavor and curing
  • Pancetta dolce - Sweet pancetta, it refers to a pancetta tesa, which is not been smoked.
  • Pancetta affumicata - This is smoked pancetta, usually pancetta tesa, but sometimes you can find also smoked pancetta arrotolata.
  • Pancetta aromatizzata - In this case, the pancetta has been cured with very special mixtures of herbs and spices to enhance its flavor.

Buying and eating pancetta
The main advice when you buy pancetta is to look at the fat: if it has a yellow color, pancetta has not been prepared or preserved properly.
Pancetta tesa is generally used diced or chopped as an ingredient in various recipes, like pasta sauces carbonara or amatriciana, while pancetta arrotolata and coppata are eaten as a sliced cold cut, with flatbreads or to stuff panini. But you can also wrap finely sliced pancetta arrotolata around quails, for example, to add its typical fragrance to another meat. The best quality pancetta tesa can also be sliced and served in a cold cut plate.
You can also find industrial pancetta diced and ready to use in your recipes, so youíll spare some time in the preparation.

High quality local Italian pancettas
Some of the best Italian pancettas:
  • Pancetta Piacentina - A rolled, sweet and spiced pancetta, aged for at least 3 months, from the northern town of Piacenza.
  • Pancetta di Calabria - From the southern Calabria region, it is a rolled pancetta, cured with salt and peperoncino, aged for about 1 month. Only the meat from pigs raised in this region can be used to make this local delicacy.
  • Pancetta allíaglio di Caderzone - A pancetta tesa flavored with spices and garlic, from the northern Trentino region.
  • Pancetta dei Nebrodi - A rolled pancetta, made only with the meat of local black pigs in Sicily.
  • And a lot more...

Buon appetito!

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Old 09-12-2012, 11:17 AM   #2
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Nice post, Luca. I remember eating pancetta at friends' houses while living in Italy. It would be left out of the fridge like the prosciutto and covered in chili pepper. They would slice pieces off and we would eat it like that, uncooked. It was the flat pieces which I believe would be tesa and looked home made. Can I eat the imported stuff I buy in Canada without cooking it? Could I take it out of the shrink wrapped package and cover it in pepper flakes myself and keep it in the fridge and eat it like that?
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Old 09-12-2012, 11:47 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Rocklobster View Post
Nice post, Luca. I remember eating pancetta at friends' houses while living in Italy. It would be left out of the fridge like the prosciutto and covered in chili pepper. They would slice pieces off and we would eat it like that, uncooked. It was the flat pieces which I believe would be tesa and looked home made. Can I eat the imported stuff I buy in Canada without cooking it? Could I take it out of the shrink wrapped package and cover it in pepper flakes myself and keep it in the fridge and eat it like that?
Hi Rocklobster. Yes, I always eat pancetta as it is: as we cruelly say in Italy, "Ť la morte sua", it's the death it deserves...
The only problem is that not all pancettas are made equal. For example, when I buy it at the supermarket, I never eat it sliced, because its taste it is not usually good enough for me. I eat it as a straight, sliced cold cut only when I can get a high quality variety, in my favorite deli.
But you can try and taste it, and see if it has a good, tasty flavor. Don't know about covering it with pepper or other spices, or even marinating it, I never tried. I like its flavor as it is, especially the rolled one which, IMO, is more suited to be served as proper cold cut, not simply as an ingredient for Italian style recipes.
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Old 09-12-2012, 12:02 PM   #4
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Thanks. I have always been tempted to eat it as is, but never knew if it was the same stuff I used to eat while living there, or maybe it was cured a different way. I have only ever cooked with it since returning many years ago. I am going to go and buy some today and try it.
In the Ciociaria region, I used to see it in most kitchens. It would be hanging in a net or on a hook and covered in a coating of chili pepper powder. After it was sliced, the freshly cut edge was covered with more chili powder.
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Old 09-12-2012, 12:08 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Rocklobster View Post
Thanks. I have always been tempted to eat it as is, but never knew if it was the same stuff I used to eat while living there, or maybe it was cured a different way. I have only ever cooked with it since returning many years ago. I am going to go and buy some today and try it.
In the Ciociaria region, I used to see it in most kitchens. It would be hanging in a net or on a hook and covered in a coating of chili pepper powder. Whey it was slices the freshly cut edge was covered with more chili powder.
You're welcome, let me know about it

And yes, the Ciociari love hot stuff!
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Old 09-12-2012, 07:52 PM   #6
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I have only seen Pancetta arrotolata, never seen tesa or coppata. Thank you for letting us know!
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Old 09-12-2012, 09:15 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by PrincessFiona60 View Post
I have only seen Pancetta arrotolata, never seen tesa or coppata. Thank you for letting us know!
Same here PF I'd be afraid to give this stuff we get around here raw It gives me chills just thinking about it. Cooked it's wonderful/
ma
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Old 09-13-2012, 10:11 AM   #8
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someone told me not to buy pancetta if it is dark in color. She said it should be "pinkish" in color. Is that right, Luca?
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Old 09-13-2012, 10:16 AM   #9
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Same here PF I'd be afraid to give this stuff we get around here raw It gives me chills just thinking about it. Cooked it's wonderful/
ma
I was wondering, is there anyone producing italian style pancetta in the USA?
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Old 09-13-2012, 10:39 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by lyndalou View Post
someone told me not to buy pancetta if it is dark in color. She said it should be "pinkish" in color. Is that right, Luca?
Hi lyndalou,
talking about rolled pancetta produced and sold in Italy, you can find "pinkish" and darker meat, with the fat always white. I think pinkish and reddish are ok, brown is not ok, but this is based only upon my personal experience.
I grabbed some photos from the web and put them side by side here:



About pancetta tesa, in my personal experience, every time I buy pinkish pancetta, the taste is not so good as the one with the darker meat. But from what I understand reading the previous posts, pancetta tesa is not so easily available in the US.
I surely need to study the matter more deeply!

Thanks for your question
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