Friday, October 7, 2011

Meat In The Pasta Pantry

Pancetta is an Italian bacon, but it has a distinctly different flavor from regular bacon as it is cured differently. For pasta, buy flat pancetta in a slab, not the rolled version Unsmoked bacon can be used instead, but, for authentic Italian flavor, we urge you to seek out pancetta from Italian specialty or gourmet stores. Buy several pieces about 4oz (125g) each cut into 1/4 - 1/2 in (5-10mm) slices. Wrap separately and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. This way you will always have the real thing on hand when it is called for.
Prosciutto is a specially cured Italian ham that comes trom the hind thigh of the pig and is air-cured for over a year. This long process of air-curing gives it a distinctively sweet flavor and delicate rosy color. Buy prosciutto sliced to order and avoid the packages of ready sliced meat wherever possible. Store it well wrapped in the refrigerator for no more than three days.
There is an old adage from Parma that says: Grasso e magro non del tutto, ecco il pregio delprociutto. This means that prosciutto must have the right balance of fat and meat.
When buying, look for prosciutto with a generous proportion of fat, as this contributes as much to the flavor as the meat part.
The best sausage to use for making pasta sauces is Luganega, a sweet medium ground sausage. If you cannot find it, use a sweet Italian sausage with a very high percentage of pork meat.

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