Difference between Pancetta and Prosciutto

Updated on February 13, 2017

Anyone who has entered a deli when hungry has had that mouth-watering sensation at the sight of all the delicious cold meats. Some of them you are very familiar with, while others you have only tasted. But what do you do when you have your mind set on trying a new recipe? What about pancetta and prosciutto, for example? Would you know how to cook with any of them? This article will describe the differences and uses of these two types of prepared meat.

Descriptions

Pancetta
Pancetta slices

Pancetta is a type of Italian bacon that comes from the pig’s belly. It is salt-cured for two weeks, salted, and spiced. It is served cooked, or raw as a cold cut. You can find it in stores in large chunks, sliced, or in cubes. You can also find it in strips, although many people mistake it for bacon.

Pancetta looks just like bacon that has been wrapped in a giant roll. When you slice it, you can see red and pink layers with creamy white fat between them. Although you could eat this cold meat raw, it is recommended in cooked dishes because its shorter process of air-drying does not kill all bacteria. Therefore, you can use it in soups, pastas, all types of stuffing, on pizza, and as a wrap.

Prosciutto
Slices of prosciutto

Prosciutto is an Italian type of ham, dry-cured for months or even years. You can find it cooked (Prosciutto cotto) or raw (Prosciutto crudo). The extended drying period makes it safe for eating raw. The most famous type is Prosciutto di Parma, a product with Protected Designation of Origin.

The meat of prosciutto comes from the leg of the pig. Its color is pink and it is very salty. It is usually sold in very thin slices. You can have prosciutto with pizza, pasta, with cantaloupe, on bread, or however you like.

Pancetta vs Prosciutto

So what is the difference between pancetta and prosciutto? Apart from the fact that both of them are Italian meats and very delicious, they do not have much in common.

Pancetta is similar to bacon, while prosciutto is similar to ham. Therefore, pancetta is meat from the belly of the pig, while prosciutto is meat from the leg of the pig. Also, pancetta has layers of creamy fat, whereas prosciutto has very little fat and if it does, almost all of it is clumped together.

There are also differences in the way they are made. Pancetta is dry-cured and salted for several weeks, while prosciutto is cured for months or even years. Therefore, pancetta should be cooked because not all bacteria will have been killed in the short thermal process. On the other hand, this makes it a bit more flavored. Prosciutto is better for serving raw, but it is saltier.

You can buy pancetta sliced like bacon or in cubes. Prosciutto is usually sliced very thin.

Comparison Chart

PancettaProsciutto
A type of Italian baconA type of Italian ham
Made from a pig’s bellyMade from a pig’s leg
Is pink or reddish, with layers of creamy white fatIs pink and it has less fat
Cured and salted for a couple weeksCured and salted for months or years
Should be cookedCan be eaten both raw and cooked
Can be purchased sliced or in cubesIt is usually sold sliced very thin
Is very flavoredIs very salty