Pancetta Is Expensive, But There Are More Affordable Options To Try

sliced uncooked pancetta
sliced uncooked pancetta - AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock

Pancetta is the delicious Italian meat that can add blissful texture to your roasted squash pasta, salty bites to your asparagus and leek pasta, and tasty slices to your next charcuterie board. But, for as yummy as it may be, it's not the cheapest protein option around. For example, just 3.5 ounces of pancetta can cost $8.99 at the grocery store, while 16 ounces of bacon at the same store will set you back just $7.49. Prices vary by brand and store, of course, but the former is generally considered much more expensive than the latter -- and if you visit specialty or gourmet food shops, you can expect costs to be even steeper. The culprit for pancetta's elevated price is the way that it's cured, which involves a long, multi-step process of brining, seasoning, and occasionally smoking.

Luckily, there are a few cheaper alternatives out there that can play the same role in your dish, namely bacon, prosciutto, and salami. Pancetta is salt-cured pork belly meat and, as such, it's full of fat and flavor. We love it because of its salty taste and silky texture but also because it can be eaten cooked or uncooked.

Read more: The Best Meat For Your Charcuterie Board Isn't One You'd Expect

How To Replace Pancetta

sliced prosciutto on cutting board
sliced prosciutto on cutting board - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

Bacon is cheaper than pancetta, but it can also provide practically all of the same qualities we love. Just like pancetta, bacon is salty, fatty, and can come from the belly of the pig. It's also typically salt-cured but can have a slightly different flavor due to being smoked and the lack of additional seasonings involved. Plus, bacon must be cooked before it's safe to eat, so you won't want to add raw slices to your charcuterie board. But, if you're using it in a pasta or meat dish, you can cook it, dice it, and swap it out for pancetta in a 1:1 substitution.

Prosciutto, on the other hand, can be eaten raw or cooked, so it makes an ideal swap for pancetta in salads and on charcuterie boards. It's typically sliced thinner than the latter but provides a similar salty flavor. Texture-wise, however, it has less fat and moisture than its counterpart, so you may want to toss it in your cooked dish as a finishing touch. Prosciutto may be the priciest swap here, but it's still typically cheaper than pancetta. Salami, however, is an affordable pork product that boasts a high-fat content and can typically be eaten straight out of the package. Just keep in mind that it may be even fattier than pancetta, so you may want to use a little less of it.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.