Red Sauce America - Food, Culture, and Italian American Experience

Don’t Call It Bacon

By on Thursday, July 8th, 2021 at 6:29 pm | 424 views

Italian-American recipes often call on salted pork products. Some early recipes don’t bother specifying, simply calling the pork “salt pork” to distinguish it from fresh, raw meat. Pancetta, guanciale, and prosciutto are three of the most common of these Italian meats.

Pancetta has become much more common in recent years and American manufacturers sell domestic versions of the meat. Made form pork bell, the meat is salt-cured and often serves as a base for soup, lentils, or sauces. Sometimes pancetta is eaten as part of an antipasti, sliced cold.

If there is any product analogous to American bacon, pancetta fits the mark, but is less salty and usually less fatty. American bacon has a much stronger flavor.

Guanciale is cured pork from the cheeks or jowl of the pig. The curing process reduces the weight by as much as as a third, and the meat is considered much sweeter and lighter in flavor than pancetta. The cured meat tends to be fattier. Guanciale is considered essential for all’Amatriciana and Gricia pasta sauces. It remains difficult to find in American grocery stores, and even specialty butcher shops may not carry the meat.

Prosciutto is well-known among Italian cured meats and is widely available. High quality prosciutto is delicate and when cut paper-thin can melt in the mouth. The meat is cured from the leg and thigh of the pig and often served raw. American ham is sometimes suggested as a substitute for cooking, but ham tends to be thicker and often makes