When used correctly, pancetta, guanciale and bacon can add a rich variety of flavor to many dishes and are magic if you can find the highest quality. Because of their similar qualities, they are often confused with one another and used interchangeably. Below are some of the basic differences that exist between these delicious cured meats as well as a couple of authentic, Italian dishes to use them in.
Bonus Tip: When you’re shopping for guanciale and pancetta, make sure they are made in Italy if you cannot find a small, local producer.
Sometimes called “Italian bacon”. Pancetta is a pork belly side, salted and cured with pepper, spices and rolled into a casing. It is then potentially dried/cured for several months. There are two basic types of pancetta – arrotolata (rolled) and stesa (flat). The arrotolata, salted, is mainly cut in thin slices and eaten raw as part of antipasti or as a part of a sandwich. The stesa is often used chopped as an ingredient in various recipes, or cut in thick strips, that are usually eaten grilled.
Pancetta is a classic ingredient that can be found in Bolognese Ragu.
Guanciale, the pig jowls or cheeks, are triangular in shape and rubbed in salt, pepper, sometimes garlic and other spices and allowed to dry for at least three months. It has a shorter shelf life once cut into and should be used within a month of opening. Its rich flavor is stronger than other pork products, such as pancetta, and its texture is more delicate. Guanciale should be trimmed of any of the hardened meat on the outside.
You can find it as an essential ingredient in Carbonara or Pasta alla gricia.
A staple in American cuisine, bacon can be found on burgers, in sauces and soups; served with eggs and even found in martinis and desserts. It is the sides and belly of a pig which can then be smoked or naturally cured. It is found in a range of different styles and flavors and is delicious.