Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Nov 16, 2007 07:04 AM

Any decent subs for pancetta?

I cooked w/pancetta for the first time the other day - it was a baked pasta recipe that called for sauteing the pancetta (diced) w/onion. Although it tasted great, I didn't love the texture....a bit too chewy and DEFINITELY too much fat. Is there some less fatty that would give me a similar taste?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The usual substitute is bacon - fatty, of course, but you won't have the chewiness problem. Just be careful not to buy a flavored bacon, like maple.

    1 Reply
    1. re: katecm

      Are you sure you sauteed it long enough? It should pretty much crisp up when you sautee it.

      Bacon or guanciale (depending where you live, it might be tough to find) would be the common substitutes. Bacon will give an added smoke flavor but guanciale will not. In a pinch you could also use hams like prosciutto. I'm surprised it was too chewy for you.

    2. I often find that pancetta (used a lot here in England) is a bit salty for my taste. I'm surprised you found the texture not to your liking. It should come out looking crisp just like regular bacon.

      6 Replies
      1. re: zuriga1

        I definitely didn't cook it long enough for crisping, although I cooked it even longer than the recipe called for. Also, it was cooked w/lots of onion, so it cooked slowly....recipe called for 5-7 minutes and I cooked for at least 10-12. Maybe I'll try again, cook it longer and crisp it up?

        1. re: JaneRI

          That's really weird that the recipe calls for them to be cooked at the same time. Generally, as with bacon it might be best to cook the meat just by itself until the fat is rendered and the pancetta or bacon has crisped up. Maybe adding onion added too much moisture or overcrowded the pan giving you that texture. You just want to render the fat and crisp it up, then you remove the pieces with a slotted spoon and pour out whatever fat you don't need then add the aromatics you are going to cook up. Add the pancetta back at the end.

            1. re: digkv

              I wonder if it's because it wasn't high-quality pancetta, it was just from my regular supermarket? But knowing now how it should be cooked I wouldn't mix it w/anything else (like the onions). It was from Cooking Light.....not exactly Julia Child, but not Sandra Lee either, you know? They should know better.

              1. re: JaneRI

                Generally speaking, if you're using pancetta for a recipe that calls for bacon, you actually should ADD more fat - i.e. cook the pancetta in olive oil. That said, this applies to "better" pancetta.

                As far as someone else talking about pancetta being salty, I'd guess (and it's only a guess) that's an indication of an overly-cured or older pancetta. Most of the pancetta I've had recently can be eaten uncooked (it's been cured for 90+ days) and generally features nutmeg and other spices over salt.

            2. re: JaneRI

              Once you add onion and therefore moisture/water you can't get the pan hot enough to cook the pancetta without burning the onion. Always do the pancetta first to maintain the higher cooking temperature (ie; you can heat oil/fat to a higher temperature than water) then add the onion.

          1. We also have had problems with the pancetta we have purchased. It just never rendered down right.

            A while back, though, we made a batch of pancetta ourselves. Surprisingly easy to do, and it came out really nicely.

            As for substituting, bacon is the way to go as others have pointed out. Try to get bacon that is as light on the smoke flavor as you can.