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Pancetta does more than add meatiness to pasta. When cooked over low heat, its fat renders cleanly and makes a base for a sauce -- just add a touch or lemon juice or vinegar -- and the exterior of the meat crisps for a delightful contrast against the texture of the noodles. Pancetta doesn't undergo smoking like its American cousin, slab bacon, but you cook it using the same technique. You can incorporate sliced pancetta or slab pancetta into your pasta for equally satisfying results.
Unwrap the pancetta and blot up any moisture on the surface with a paper towel. If using sliced pancetta, you shouldn't have to pat it dry.
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Cut slab pancetta into 1/4- 1/2-inch-thick slices. Stack the slices of pancetta and cut them all at once into thin strips. Turn the strips 90 degrees and chop or dice into smaller pieces to suit your recipe. If using sliced pancetta, stack the slices and roll them into a cylinder, then cut them into 1/2- to 3/4-inch-wide strips.
Separate the pancetta pieces and place them in a heavy-bottomed pan. Set the heat to medium low.
Cook the pancetta until the fat renders and the edges start to brown, about 5 to 6 minutes for cubes and 2 to 3 minutes for slices. At this point, you can drain off and reserve the fat and cook the pancetta until crisp. Or, continue cooking the pancetta to the desired texture then add the pancetta along with the fat to the pasta.
You can blanch pancetta in boiling water to remove some of the saltiness. Blanch sliced pancetta for 10 seconds and diced pancetta for about 1 minutes.