Italian food is renowned for its rich flavours, including their diverse range of cured meats. Most of the popular cured meats in fact, come from Italy like coppa, Prosciutto, pancetta, guanciale mortadella, and salami. Three of the most popular and versatile of the Italian cured meats are guanciale, Prosciutto and pancetta. These three ingredients are often compared to one another and may seem similar at first glance, but they come from all different parts of the pig, and have distinct characteristics in flavour and texture that impact the result the of dishes they’re added to.  
What is Guanciale?

Guanciale is an Italian cured meat coming from the pork jowl or cheek. The name is derived from the Italian word “guancia”, which means cheek. Guanciale is a particularly unique cut of meat that is cured in salt and spices such as pepper, sage, rosemary, and garlic. It is prized for its rich and intense pork flavour, and high fat content. Guanciale is often sold whole or in cubes.  

Guanciale Flavour 

Guanciale has a stronger pork flavour than others in the cured meat family along with a delicate balance between lean meat and rich fat. The high fat content of guanciale gives it a special melt-in-your-mouth quality, adding loads of meaty flavour and velvety texture to any dish it’s accompanying.  

Ways to Use Guanciale

Guanciale is a staple in many Italian dishes, the two main ones being carbonara and amatriciana. The distinct flavour and texture make it the preferred choice for both recipes so that the richness of the pork can really shine through with the two traditional sauces. If you’re looking for less traditional ways to cook with guanciale it's the perfect addition to several dishes as its rich and distinctive flavour really adds an extra kick to a variety of dishes. Try in a hearty bean soup, oven baked with brussels sprouts, as a pizza topping, or in stuffed mushrooms.  

Learn how to cut and prepare guanciale here.
What is Pancetta?

Pancetta is similarly an Italian cured pork product, but, in comparison, comes from the belly of the pig. It’s often described as the Italian cousin to bacon, though its typically cured not smoked. It’s typically cured in salt and pepper and can be sold thin sliced or cubed.   

Pancetta Flavour 

Pancetta has a milder flavour than guanciale making it slightly more versatile in a wider variety of dishes. The fat in pancetta is leaner and distributed more evenly, providing a subtle richness without the strong flavour intensity of guanciale.  

Ways to use Pancetta 

Unlike guanciale, pancetta isn’t a necessary ingredient to making the traditional version of Italian dishes like carbonara and amatriciana. Pancetta can be used as a highly versatile ingredient in a range of dished from pastas to roasted veg and sauces. The flavour doesn’t stand out as prominently as that of guanciale which is why traditional carbonara and amatriciana use guanciale. Pancetta is a perfect meat to complement other ingredients, without overpowering the overall taste of the dish. 
What is Prosciutto?

Prosciutto is a dry-cured Italian ham that goes through a lengthy ageing process to give it its distinct flavour. Prosciutto is air-dried rather than cured with salt, like pancetta and guanciale. It is typically made from the hind leg of the pig, resulting in a delicate and thinly sliced meat with a unique texture and flavour. 

Prosciutto Flavour

The taste is a delicate combination of sweet and salty notes, with a slight nuttiness making it a great meat to pair with lots of different foods. The aging process gives it a unique and slightly different texture from guanciale and pancetta, with more of a tender melt-in-your-mouth feel.  

Ways to use Prosciutto

The unique curing process helps it develop a complex flavour, making it a versatile ingredient in a variety of different dishes. It’s commonly seen on antipasto and charcuterie platters, sandwiches and wraps, salads, as a pizza topping, wrapped around meats or veg and in pastas and risotto. It’s flavour profile allows it to pair nicely with sweet and salty foods making it likely the most usable between guanciale, pancetta and prosciutto.  

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