cucina bene; mangia bene (pancetta finale)
I took down the pancetta today. After examining it closely, I determined that it was ready: it felt firm to the touch and had a sweet smell. I removed the string, cut some off the top, and chopped it for tasting. I then sliced the pancetta into thirds to vacuum pack and freeze. Despite the fact that I didn’t use any curing salt, the meat stayed a nice pink color on the inside. The finished product weighed a little over three pounds; I started with a five-plus pound piece of pork belly so it lost quite a bit of weight!
We’ll be using the pancetta this week to make a couple of dishes: spaghetti carbonara and chicken breast in porchetta (I’ll post this recipe at a later date). The carbonara recipe is below:
Spaghetti Carbonara (this recipe is not traditional, but it’s really good)
This pasta dish is Roman and is traditionally made with guanciale which is a pork jowl that has been cured like pancetta, and is similar in taste. Bacon can be substituted for the pancetta in this recipe, but it will change the flavor of the dish due to the smoke. Pecorino Roman is much sharper and tangier in flavor than Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Parmigiano-Reggiano or American Parmesan can be substituted, but again the overall flavor of the dish will be slightly different. Whatever ingredients you choose to use, be sure they are of good quality.
- 1/2 lb. pancetta cut into small dice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup pecorino Romano
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 lb. spaghetti
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Salt to taste (the pancetta and cheese are pretty salty as well as the pasta water, so you may not need any extra)
- 1 cup reserved pasta cooking water
Bring a large pot (8-12 qt.) of water to boil. Add salt to the water and taste; it should be noticeably salty. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the pancetta; sauté until crisp, remove from the pan and set aside. Drain the fat from the skillet but remove and reserve 3 tbs.. Add the wine to the skillet and deglaze the pan. When the wine has reduced, remove the pan from the heat and add the fat back to the pan. Beat eggs, cheese, garlic, and back pepper together and set aside. Cook the pasta until it is close to al dente. Add the pasta to the skillet along with the egg mixture and 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Toss the pasta with the mixture over low heat until it forms a creamy sauce. Add more pasta cooking water if needed. Add the pancetta back to the pan and toss. Serve immediately on heated plates or pasta bowls. Buon Appetito!