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If you’re interested in making homemade pancetta, but don’t know much about curing meats (like me!), you’ll love this simple homemade pancetta recipe! With herbs and spices, you can mimic the flavor of traditional pancetta for use in all of your favorite recipes.

homemade pancetta sliced on a cutting board

A few years ago, Keith and I spent several weeks in Italy. I missed a lot of non-Italian foods while we were there because they’re nearly impossible to find: burgers, Thai food, Mexican food.

And bacon.

In Italy, you’ll find delicious cured meats like prosciutto, guanciale, and pancetta, but 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.

When I got back home, it was pancetta that 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.

mock pancetta browned in a skillet

What is Pancetta?

Not long ago, I bought a pound of pork belly and got to thinking about making my own pancetta. Pancetta is the Italian cousin of bacon, made by curing pork belly with salt and aromatics, but not smoked.

I considered the traditional dry cure route (Michael Ruhlman’s cookbook is a wealth of information on making cured meats). But it’s something I haven’t dabbled in before and wasn’t interested in the whole charcuterie curing process, which typically includes cure ingredients like sodium nitrite, also called curing salt or pink salt, and dealing with an entire pork belly (10 pounds or more). 

So I thought, “Why not just coat fresh pork belly with the traditional herbs and aromatics used to make pancetta and let the flavors penetrate over a couple of days in the refrigerator?”

It worked beautifully!

seasoned mock pancetta

The herb mixture includes mostly common herbs and spices like bay leaves and black pepper, and 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 72 hours. From there, use it in any recipe you like that calls for pancetta or bacon (or portion and freeze it for up to 3 months!).

FAQ

What is the difference between pancetta and bacon?

Bacon and pancetta are both cured pork belly. Bacon is brined and smoked while pancetta is flavored with herbs and aromatics, but not smoked.

Can you fry pancetta like bacon?

Yes, absolutely! Just be sure to note the thickness when determining how long to pan fry it, just as you would bacon.

Does pancetta need to be cooked before eating?

Pancetta that has been traditionally cured is often thinly sliced and can be eaten straight from the package. Because this homemade pancetta is not traditionally cured, it should be thoroughly cooked before eating.

Use to Make…

How to Make Pancetta

Step 1: Finely grind peppercorns, dried juniper berries, bay leaf, and fresh thyme and rosemary leaves in a spice grinder.

grinding spices

Step 2: Combine ground spice mixture with brown sugar, nutmeg, and garlic in a small bowl.

combining spice blend in small bowl

Step 3: Place pork belly flat in a baking dish. Coat all sides thoroughly with spice mixture. Cover and refrigerate 24 to 72 hours. Use or freeze for up to 3 months.

coating pork belly with spice mixture

Recipe Video

Easy Homemade Pancetta

5 from 12 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Total: 3 days 15 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Calories: 151
Servings: 16 ounces
An easy way to simulate the delicious flavor of cured pancetta without the hassle of actually curing it. Basic ingredient list from this recipe.

Ingredients  

  • 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 about 2 sprigs
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves about 1/2 small sprig
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 pound skinless pork belly

Instructions 

  • 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 72 hours. Use or freeze for up to 3 months.

Notes

Use in any recipe that calls for pancetta or bacon, taking care to cook it thoroughly before eating.

Nutrition

Calories: 151kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 20mg | Sodium: 445mg | Potassium: 58mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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50 Comments

  1. Tam says:

    Quick question…Do I rinse off the salt/herb mixture before cooking?

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Hi, Tam! No need to rinse it off before cooking.

  2. Bee says:

    Am going to try this recipe on our hand- reared pork. How long will the pancetta keep in the refrigerator after curing? Thanks

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Hi there, Bee. Because this isn’t traditionally cured, I recommend using or freezing it as soon as it’s ready. It will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.

  3. Jason F Shuster says:

    Fantastic recipe! Quick question, what should I do if after sealing it there are juices in the sealed bag? Simply drain? Pat dry and reseal? Would love your advice!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Thanks, Jason! Yes, that’s exactly what I would recommend – drain the liquid, pat dry and reseal.

  4. Peter says:

    5 stars
    I had grown frustrated with the pancetta I have had access to lately. 90% fat and $25 / lb. I have a wine cellar so I considered doing the full cure method that’s been written up elsewhere. Then I found Marissa’s recipe. This is easy and produces fabulous results. My one adjustment was to cut the slab I purchased into 1-1 1/2″ strips and then rub these. This exposed more surface area to the rub. Through COV ID, we’ve been doubling down on buying from local producers so there’s a side benefit of being able to use pork belly from a local farmer.

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Thank you for your wonderful comment, Peter! I’m so glad you’re enjoying this and love that you were able to find pork belly from a local farmer. Great idea to slice the belly to intensify the flavor!