Italian pancetta is cured pork belly that is air dried. Pancetta arrotolata is the rolled and tied version. It is satisfying to make and nice to have on hand. Diced and sautéed, it adds a porkiness and depth to salads, warm vegetables, pasta, or as a garnish to cream soups. I add it to my brioche with thyme and blood orange zest which makes for a tasty, slightly savory French toast.
One slab of pork belly, around five to six pounds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 bay leaf
3 juniper berries
3 allspice berries
3 ounces sea salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons curing salt #1
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
How To Make
Lay the pork belly fat side down on a cutting board and trim so the edges are squared. You will want a nice rectangle to work with. Using a sharp instrument (knife, skewer, trussing needle… I use my jacquard) make deep incisions across the entire belly, at least every ½ inch, preferably closer. Take the time to do this. This will allow for uniform and faster penetration of the cure.
Wash the belly in a 50-50 solution of distilled white vinegar and water. This is insurance to inhibit any unwanted bacteria. Rinse with water and pat completely dry with paper towels.
In a spice grinder combine peppercorns, red chile flakes, bay leaf, juniper berries, and allspice berries. Finely grind. Transfer to a bowl and add salt, sugar, curing salt, and nutmeg. Mix well with your fingers.
Place belly on a sheet pan and rub the cure evenly over all sides, massaging into the meat. Place belly fat side down. Cover and refrigerate.
Flip the belly the following day, presenting the fat side up.
The day after that, flip it again. Flip every couple of days for two weeks.
At this point, you want to “hang” the belly in the refrigerator for two to three days. I place my belly on a rack fitted over my sheet pan to increase airflow and catch any drippings. You could tie kitchen twine to the upper shelf to create a “belly hammock” with the pan below. You may need to get creative. The point is to hang the belly to allow airflow with a pan to catch the possible drippings.
[I have come to be a firm believer in the following step I credit to Taylor Boetticher of The Fatted Calf] After two or three days, when the belly is dry, remove from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature. Cover a cutting board larger than the belly with plastic wrap, place the belly, fat side down, on the wrap. Cover the belly with plastic wrap.
With a rolling pin or other blunt instrument beat the hell out of the belly. Seriously. Taylor says, “thoroughly, evenly, and without mercy.” Release your pent up frustrations on the belly for at least five minutes, rotating belly to evenly execute. This will make the belly malleable and easier to roll into pancetta.
Time to roll and tie your pancetta. You will want to roll the pancetta very tight to eliminate any air pockets inside the pancetta where mold could take hold.
With the fat side down and the longest side of the belly facing you, begin to roll the belly tightly away from you. Fold the first couple inches onto itself and press firmly to eliminate any air. Continue to roll tightly again, eliminating any air gaps.
When the belly is completely rolled, tie at one inch intervals with kitchen twine. I find this is easier with the help of a second person to ensure the roll stays tight while you tie.
Hang again in the refrigerator for another two weeks. It will keep for up to six weeks in the refrigerator. Cut off and freeze what you do not plan to use in six weeks.