Pancetta, an air-cured pork belly, is the Italian equivalent of bacon. It comes from the same cut of pork but has a rich, salty flavor without the smokiness of bacon. Make a crispy and crunchy topping for soups, salads, casseroles or sandwiches or wrapper for vegetables, fruits or seafood by cooking pancetta in your oven. When you bake or broil instead of pan-frying pancetta, you'll allow some of the melted fat to drip away to get the same crispy topping with fewer calories.
As a Topping
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the pancetta slices in a single layer on a ridged baking sheet to allow the melted fat to drip away from the meat.
Place the baking sheet in your oven and cook the pancetta 10 to 12 minutes, or until crisp.
Carefully transfer the pancetta slices from the baking sheet to a paper towel to help absorb any remaining grease. Serve as is on sandwiches. You can also crumble the slices to toss in salad or sprinkle on soups or casseroles.
As a Wrapper
Preheat the broiler in your oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
Cut each pancetta slice in half. Wrap each half around a bite-size chunk of vegetable, fruit or seafood such as asparagus, fig, pear, peach, pineapple, cauliflower, shrimp or scallops. Secure the pancetta to the stuffing by placing a toothpick through the area where the two pancetta ends overlap.
Place the pancetta-wrapped items in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place them 3 to 4 inches beneath the broiler's heating element and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until the pancetta is golden brown.
Remove from the baking sheet and serve hot.