If you like Italian cooking and want to try making different Italian dishes, it is first necessary for you to know the different kinds of products that are used. Most Italian dishes are characterized by the use of fresh produce and meat both fresh and cured. Prosciutto and pancetta are two cured meats that are widely used in Italian cuisine, and without the use of these two ingredients, no meal is complete. Is there a difference between pancetta and prosciutto? Of course there is. In this article, we are going to discuss everything about these two meat types.
Difference between Prosciutto and Pancetta
Pancetta is a kind of Italian bacon that has been cured with kosher salt and other ground spices. It is made from pork's belly and its name comes from a Latin word meaning 'little belly'. Unlike bacon, pancetta is only cured and not smoked before consumption.
It has a moist texture with a mellow flavor, and it is cured for a period of 2 to 3 weeks in salt and spice mixture before being air-dried for about a month. It is usually rolled tightly and then wrapped in a casing to preserve its shape.
Prosciutto, on the other hand, is made from the hind quarters of a pig, which is then cured with salt. It is then rolled in salted lard and allowed to be further cured for up to 2 years.
Prosciutto is also cured but not smoked. It is made from the best quality pigs, which are reared and fed for this purpose. The diet of the pig and the region they come from makes a big difference in the ultimate flavor of the prosciutto.
Thus, both pancetta and prosciutto are cured but not smoked, and pancetta is basically made from the pig's belly while prosciutto is made from the pig's hind quarters.
Pancetta has a flavor that is sausage-like with a sharp salty taste, and it is used in soups, stews, and for braising purposes. Prosciutto after being cured and aged is shaved into extremely thin slices that are almost transparent and very salty to taste.
It can be eaten raw and is excellent with fresh fruits, various types of cheese, and a variety of salads. Prosciutto, because of its high salt content, goes well with various types of soft cheese and dry white wines. Many Italians serve antipasto platter with prosciutto slices.
Another difference between these two meat types is that pancetta has to be cooked before serving while prosciutto can be served raw. Pancetta also has a higher fat content and when cooked, all the fat is rendered in the pan making the pancetta very crisp.
If you do not have pancetta and your Italian recipe calls for one, then the best substitute for it is to use streaky bacon. Just boil the bacon first in some water to get rid of its smoky flavor and then use it in your recipe.
For substituting prosciutto, you will need either Serrano ham or country ham. Although it does not have the exact taste of prosciutto, you can use it for preparing some dishes.
Both pancetta and prosciutto can be found in your local Italian deli or the processed meat section of the supermarket. If you are unable to find pancetta, you can make it at home by curing pork belly with some salt. Now, that you know all about these two popular meat types, you can decide which ingredient to use in which dish.