Sunday, January 19, 2014

I Didn't Know That - Pancetta and Prosciutto


These two Italian meats are favorites for adding flavor to cooking but what is the difference between the two?  I've not cooked with either so I don't know their uses nor taste.  They could both taste the same as far as I know.   Since I had no answers to my questions I decided to looked them both up and this is what I found.

Prosciutto (proh-SHOO-toh) - To Italians the word means "ham".  Cooks in America use the term to refer to a type of ham that has been seasoned, salt-cured, and air-dried (rather than smoked).  The process takes at least nine months and results in a sweetly spiced, rose-color eats with a sheen.  Sliced prosciutto dries out quickly and should e used within a day or frozen for longer storage.

So what do you do with Prosciutto?  The classic Italian dish saltimbocca is made by wrapping prosciutto around veal cutlets.  It flavors the meat and locks in the moisture.  It's good wrapped around not only asparagus but also dates and melons.  It also makes a good topping for pizza or added to a salad.

Pancetta (pan-CHEH-tuh) - This is Italian-style bacon that's made from the belly of the hog.  Unlike bacon, pancetta is not smoked, but instead seasoned with pepper and other spices and cured with salt.  Pancetta is generally available packaged in a sausage like roll. 

OK, what can you do with Pancetta?  It has a distinct spice that makes it a unique ingredient that enhances the flavor of many dishes.  Add a small piece to stews, pasta dishes, vegetables and risotto.  It too can be wrapped around asparagus, sprayed with olive oil and baked until crisp.  For a real treat, wrap pancetta around pineapple slices and bake.  The contrast of the sweet and sour pineapple along with the spicy pancetta makes this a very tasty hors d'oeuvre.

Now that I know the difference between the two I think I'll buy a little of both and see what I can create on my own.

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