The main difference between pancetta and prosciutto is the source of meat: pancetta comes from pork hind legs, while prosciutto comes from pork belly. Due to this difference, these cured meat products differ in texture and taste. Pancetta has a smoother texture and more delicate flavors, while prosciutto has a firmer texture and a buttery taste.
While it’s effortless to describe bacon, these two cured meat products can be tricky. Read on to learn more about the differences between pancetta and prosciutto, such as how much fat they have, how salty they are, how they are used, and what you can use instead.
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Pancetta vs Prosciutto: How They Differ
Pancetta is a light pink meat made from salt cured pork belly. It tastes similar to bacon, although it has a deeper, sharper flavor and doesn’t have the same smoky undertone. During manufacture, the meat is often rolled, cased, and finally hung during a drying process. This gives the meat a unique, silky, dense texture.
5 Delicious Uses for Pancetta
- Pancetta is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a range of recipes.
- Serve thin slices as part of a cheese board next to bocconcini.
- Slices or cubes can be used as a pizza topping along with tomatoes, rocket and mozzarella. Mamma Mia!
- Toss small cubes into your favorite pasta sauce for extra flavor. Reduce the salt a little though as the pancetta will add plenty of flavor.
- Wrapped around asparagus spears and grilled, the pancetta turns crispy and the asparagus inherits a lovely umami flavor.
- Add pieces to pastas, soups or casseroles for an intense flavor boost.
How It's Sold
In the U.S. pancetta is often sold as cubes in bags or, when requested, sliced thinly from the delicatessen.
Prosciutto is a rosy pink-colored meat that offers a lovely buttery mouthfeel thanks to its fat content. It is made from a salt-cured pork hind leg, which is hung and dried for 6 to 24 months before eating. This drying process provides the meat with an extremely dense, tough texture. It would be difficult to chew if it weren’t for the fact that it gets sliced very thinly.
5 Delectable Uses for Prosciutto
Prosciutto is a very salty meat that pairs well with fruit, white wines, and cheeses that aren’t overly salty.
- Serve slices as part of an antipasto platter with fresh mozzarella.
- Wrap prosciutto around pieces of melon – the salty/sweet combination is divine.
- Add to pizza with rocket leaves, pickled onions, mozzarella and a vinaigrette.
- Include small crispy slices with your favorite salad as a replacement for bacon.
- Layer a muffin tray with prosciutto and fill with and egg. Bake for the perfect breakfast.
How It's Sold
Prosciutto is usually sold in prepackaged thin slices or can be ordered from the delicatessen sliced. The slices are cut thin as the meat is dense and difficult to chew.
- Both are made from salt-cured pork and look similar to bacon.
- They can both be eaten raw or cooked.
- Salads, soups, casseroles, pizza and antipasto platters are ideal for both meats.
- Both meats originate from Italy.
- Both turn crispy like bacon when pan fried or grilled.
- Pancetta is made from pork belly; prosciutto uses pork hind leg.
- Prosciutto has 12g/100g fat, pancetta has 39g/100g fat.
- Pancetta can be used to replace bacon in recipes, prosciutto usually should not.
- Prosciutto is tougher than pancetta and needs to be cut very thin.
- Prosciutto translates to ham, pancetta translates to bacon.
Question: Does your recipe call for pancetta?
Answer: Best option is to use streaky bacon that's been lightly boiled for 2-3 minutes to remove the smoky aroma then rinse in cool water and dry using paper towels.
Question: Does your recipe call for prosciutto?
Answer: You can use either ham or thinly slices Capicola. Neither will provide a close substitute but if you're desperate, they'll get the job done.
If you don't have any pancetta we recommend using streaky bacon as the next best option. Prosciutto has a different flavor and a much tougher texture that won't work in a lot of recipes.
Prosciutto is a much saltier option. Pancetta has 312mg of sodium per 1 oz of meat whereas prosciutto has 764mg of sodium per 1 oz of meat.
Wrapping It Up
So the question you may be asking is: which is better, pancetta or prosciutto? There's no clear winner on this as it comes down to personal preference. If you're a lover or bacon then pancetta may be more to your liking. It's amazing wrapped around vegetables or grilled until crispy and used to top pizza or salads. If you love a strong, salty meat then prosciutto may be to your liking.
Keep in mind that the way you use the meat can make all the difference. By balancing out the saltiness of these two cured meats with some sweet fruit or creamy fresh mozzarella, you'll really lift these ingredients to a new level.