If you’re interested in making homemade pancetta, but don’t know much about curing meats (like me!), you’ll love this simple mock pancetta recipe! With herbs and spices, you can mimic the flavor of traditional pancetta for use in all of your favorite recipes (like Bolognese Sauce and Bucatini all’Amatriciana).
A few years ago, Keith and I spent just over 9 weeks in Italy – we even wrote a travel guide. (Between you and me, that’s a smidge too long to be away from home – at least when you spend each week in a new town or city.)
I missed a lot of non-Italian foods while we were there because they’re nearly impossible to find: burgers, Thai food, Mexican food.
In Italy, you’ll find pancetta, not bacon. At least that’s all we could find, with the exception of our stay at the Oasi hotel near the Cinque Terre where breakfast was included. Among other menu offerings was an ‘American Breakfast’: toast, fried eggs and crispy bacon. We were there for a week and ordered it every. single. day.
Bacon and pancetta are both cured pork belly, but bacon is smoked and pancetta is flavored with herbs and aromatics.
When I got back home, it was pancetta I missed.
It’s not that I couldn’t find pancetta, but it was always in a shrink wrapped package, sliced paper thin. To make some of my favorite Italian dishes, like Bucatini All’Amatriciana for example, I needed thick slices to dice.
Not long ago, I bought a pound of pork belly from our favorite pastured pig ranch, Gunpowder Roasting Ranch and got to thinking about making my own pancetta. I wasn’t interested in the whole curing process, which often includes dealing with an entire pork belly (10 pounds or more), but why not make a dry brine of pancetta’s traditional herbs and aromatics, i.e., mock pancetta?
It worked beautifully!
The herb mixture is a cinch to make, but you’ll need a spice grinder (aka coffee bean grinder) or mortar and pestle. You’ll coat the pork belly generously, then cover and let it dry brine in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours. From there, use it in any recipe you like that calls for pancetta or bacon.
Easy Homemade Mock Pancetta
- 1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon whole dried juniper berries
- 1 dry bay leaf broken into pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar
- pinch ground nutmeg
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 pound pork belly skin removed
- In a spice grinder, combine first 5 ingredients (peppercorns through rosemary leaves), pulse until finely ground. (This can also be done with a mortar and pestle.) Transfer mixture to bowl and stir in kosher salt, brown sugar, nutmeg and garlic.
- Place pork belly in a dish large enough so it will lie flat; coat generously on all sides with spice mixture. Cover and refrigerate 24 to 48 hours.
- Use in any recipe that calls for pancetta or bacon, taking care to cook it thoroughly before eating.