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Italian pancetta is a type of dry cured meat, similar to bacon. It is pork belly that has been salt cured and spiced (nutmeg, pepper, fennel, dried ground hot peppers and garlic are often featured), and dried for about three months (but usually not smoked). There are many varieties, and in Italy each region produces its own type.

Left: Pizza prepared with sliced rolled pancetta.

Pancetta can be rolled (see photograph), or straight (with all the fat on one side). The straight variety is more common in Italy and Spain than elsewhere, especially where home-made pancetta is still produced.

When served on its own, the rolled pancetta is presented in very thin slices. More often it is used to flavour other dishes, especially pasta sauces.

Pancetta has recently gained in popularity in both the UK and US, to the point where it is now frequently available in supermarkets.

In Spain, medium to long and relatively thick portions are served as a side dish, usually fried in olive oil or its own fat. Fried eggs with chorizo and pancetta is considered a popular hearty breakfast in some rural parts of the country.

In French cuisine, pancetta is sometimes used for larding (the technique of adding fat to a lean piece of meat for roasting to increase its tenderness and moisture).

Pancetta also combines well with the following ingredients: Parmesan cheese, asparagus, goat cheese, cream, mushroom, frisée (curly endive) and radicchio (Italian chicory).


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