February 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza- February- Salt Cure

do you charcutepalooza?

When they announed that the February project was the salt cure, perhaps I went a little wild.
I did pancetta, the stesa style, which is most typical in Florence for cooking with.
Then the bacon, i did not use pink salt, but did the sugar cure which was in the Ruhlman book.
I could not help but also do a guanciale, since my friend Ray raises Cinta Senes pigs.

Too Much Pork?

I live in the land of pork- Tuscans eat meat almost daily, in small quantities, saving the large steaks for special occasions. Pork is really one of the meats of choice. Until not too long ago, many families raised pigs to provide food for their families. On large farms one or two hogs would provide prosciutto, spalla, sausages, pancetta and head cheese to be cured and eaten over the year.

I adore using pancetta with winter greens as a pasta course. I buy the pancetta stesa to cut small lardons for cooking with. Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage and kale are all enriched with the lovely pork fat and saltiness.

Of course there are the classics like Carbonara and Amatriciana sauce.

I enjoyed trying to make bacon, but without the pink salt as Ruhlman suggests and without smoking it, I did not satisfy my American bacon cravings. Since we get so much pancetta here, I will try to make bacon again, bringing back some pink salt to try again.

My bacon came out nicely, I cut the slab into slices and then cut those into lardons and made an Amatriciana sauce.

For the Amatriciana sauce and for the Carbonara sauce, it is important to cook the bacon ( pancetta or guanciale) first. Crispiness is important.

SORE POINT: Amatriciana sauce is the first recipe I cooked for my now husband. When I served it, he walked out of the room without eating it at all. I had made it wrong! He is my Italian life coach as well as culinary coach and I NEVER let that happen again!

I had destroyed an Italian classic.

I had fried the pancetta and then added the tomato sauce, which then boils the pancetta and it loses the crispiness.  Well. we have been together now for 26 years and my Amatriciana sauce is killer!

My Amatriciana for two:
There are as many recipes for amatriciana sauce as there are cooks, including the sauce "Gricia"which uses no tomato. Tomatoes were only introduced into Italian cooking after the discovery of America- but not used until the 1600's!

200 gr spaghetti ( tradition is bucatini, a thick hollow spaghetti)
100 gr ( 3 ounces) smoked pancetta ( or thick sliced bacon)
1 small red onion, sliced
1 clove garlic
2 tiny birds eye chili's
olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce or canned san marzano whole tomatoes

Put a pan of water on to boil to cook the pasta.

Slice the pancetta into thin strips.
Saute' in pan until crispy.
Remove and saute the onion in the fat left from the pancetta, adding a little extra olive oil if needed.
Add the sliced garlic and break in the chili peppers. ( do not touch your eyes!)

Once the onion is cooked, add the tomato sauce and salt to taste, cook the sauce for about 10 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes if you have bought whole san marzano's.

Salt the water for the pasta using kosher salt or sale grosso, the large sea salt.
Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.

Drain the spaghetti ( save some of the pasta water).

Place the spaghetti into the pan with the tomato sauce and sautè.
The pasta will finish cooking by soaking up the tomato sauce.
Add some of the saved water if it gets too dry.

Add the crispy pancetta bits now and sautè again and serve immediately.

NO cheese!

Just as the buzz is coming down from all the pancetta, bacon and guanciale, with perfect timing our March Challenge is up.

Brining! Corned beef' rubens...look out.
I will make one while I am here in California, but can't wait to make it in Italy.

Of course if I want a ruben will also have to make saurkraut?


One last pancetta post: Pancetta Brittle!
I first tried from Grateful Palate--- inspired used a gifted pancetta piece from Scott.


  1. interesting point about the pancetta!! nice tip...

  2. Thanks for sharing the advice about adding the pancetta at the end and I will do it this way from now on.

  3. If you want to smoke your bacon, try getting your hands on a DVD of an old _Good Eats_ episode: He built a cold smoker out of spare parts, and smoked his bacon with that.

  4. Thank Maurice- I can actually smoke stovetop-- know how to do that-- just didn't- was following directions. NExt time will smoke- the smokey flavor is what bacon is all about to me

  5. GORGEOUS! I made Amatriciana also - I am sure your hubby would prob not eat mine though it sounds similar to yours! Love the brittle!

  6. This is a wonderful post, thank you for sharing. Pancetta tip noted!

    Looking forward to your next post!