How to Make Pancetta
Learn how to make this Italian-style cured pork belly at home.
Pancetta: Better Than Bacon
Pancetta is Italian-style cured pork belly, similar to bacon but unsmoked, and it can easily be made in any home.
If possible, get a pork belly with the skin on. To get a proper cure, you need sea salt equivalent to 3 percent of the weight of the meat, or 1/2 ounce sea salt for each pound of meat. To that, again per pound, add 1/2 teaspoon each black peppercorn and juniper berries, crushed, 1 garlic clove, minced, 1 bay leaf, crumbled, and 1 rosemary sprig.
Wrap It Up
Mix the salt and spices well. Lay out a sheet of cling wrap and set the belly on it. Rub the cure all over the belly, coating all the surfaces. Wrap the belly and all the cure together, tightly, in 2 or 3 layers of cling wrap. Place in a dish large enough to hold it and put in the refrigerator for 5 days, turning at least once to redistribute.
On the fifth day, unwrap the pancetta and rinse off the cure in cold water. At this stage it is completely usable as pancetta and can be can cut and fried for whatever purpose you like. But to get the best flavor, it’s best to hang it.
Wrap the belly in 3 layers of cheesecloth. Wrap a length of twine around the pancetta about an inch from one end, and tie it off with a square knot, leaving a foot or so of loose twine on one end.
Make a loop with the twine. Wrap the loop over the far end of the pancetta. Pull the loop back toward the first knot, stopping about an inch from the first knot.
Pull the twine tight, make another loop and repeat until you've gotten to about an inch from the far end.
Flip the pancetta over. Wrap the loose end of the twine around each of the loops on the reverse side.
Tie off the 2 lengths of twine with a square knot. Leave several inches of loose twine to use to hang with. Weigh your pancetta. Jot down the date and weight on a label, and hang it on the twine.
Hang your pancetta in a slightly humid cool, dark place with good air movement, such as a basement or garage, or even in a corner of your kitchen. Weigh your pancetta frequently. When it has lost 30 percent of its weight at hanging, it's ready.
Store It, or Eat It
Wrap your pancetta in cling wrap and store it in the refrigerator for a couple weeks, or shrink wrap it and freeze it for several months.
Pancetta is perfect for pairing with pastas of all types. Here are a few recipes to try: