I have been talking a lot about the guanciale – a kind of meat that we use a lot in Italy for different kind of dishes – and most of the time I am asked what is the difference between guanciale and bacon.
The guanciale is an Italian cured meat that takes its name from guancia – the Italian for cheek. It is made from pork’s cheek and neck. It is aged for a period between three to four months and it is seasoned with salt, pepper and other spices such as ground black or red pepper and thyme or fennel and sometimes garlic. For this reason its flavor is stronger than other pork products – such as pancetta – and its texture is more delicate. When cooked the fat melts away giving depth of flavor to sauce and dishes in general.
Talking about the guanciale I introduced another pork product: the pancetta. Don’t be scared: the difference between pancetta and guanciale is not always clear to Italians either.
The main difference between this two products is the part of pork they come from: pancetta is made of pork belly meat and spiced mostly with ground black pepper upon other spices.
Pancetta can be found arrotolata (rolled) or stesa (flat). The arrotolata is usually cut in thin slices and eaten as part of a antipasti dish or in a simple sandwich while the stesa is mainly chopped as ingredient for many recipes – such as carbonara or amatriciana -; cut in thick stripes is perfect to be grilled.
The difference between the two types is mainly regional.
The famous bacon is nothing but pancetta seasoned with sauces and spices to give the sausage a very strong smell and taste.
It is often difficult to find the guanciale and many times it is replaced by pancetta for just this reason.
Last but not least a difference is in the calories contained in them – in 100 grams of pancetta we find no more than 480 calories while 100 grams of guanciale contains more than 600 calories!