sharing (Italian) food to enjoy life

Posts Tagged ‘pancetta’

Daughters know

Posted by Jim Carfrae on February 15, 2011

My daughter has invented the ultimate “gourmet” KD, disagree at your own peril.

Her secret ingredient is Mastro Salametti Hot:

The outcome:

If I ate KD, my secret ingredient would be pancetta.


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Italy meets Mexico, very successfully

Posted by Jim Carfrae on January 21, 2011

Huevos Rancheros my favourite breakfast. I am constantly trying new variations and found adding in a little Italy, i.e. pancetta, was the final ingredient to perfection.

Huevos Rancheros is the classic Mexican breakfast of eggs in a tortilla. The dish usually includes scrambled eggs, shredded cheese and salsa. It can also include refried beans, whole beans, onions, peppers, cilantro and I am sure other things. My version sautés: pancetta, chopped onions, chipotle peppers, (I buy a canned version, dice up one and add to the pan) and add black beans. Once the onions are translucent, the pancetta rendered and the black beans soft I remove this pile and put in a bowl. I then fry up an egg easy-over, put in warmed tortilla, add the sautéed pile, and lastly add some finely chopped fresh cilantro, (really should take the leaves off the stems before chopping). I usually make two tortillas worth, and don’t need to eat for a long time – very filling. I love the runny yolk soaking mixing and soaking with everything else, but you can go with scrambled eggs or omelet-style if you prefer

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Italian “Tapas” and Sherry

Posted by Jim Carfrae on December 21, 2010

The Spaniards have done a great thing with the word “tapas”. It communicates so much, and leaves many doors open. My wine expert friend Ramesh recently was in Spain for a course on Sherry – not your mother’s sweet pre-dinner aperitif either.

He tells me, for I know little of sherry, that there are many Sherries from ultra-sweet to bone dry. The dry Sherries work very well with the tapas we might call charcuterie – so this is my Christmas Eve plan given my mother has said we are doing only appetizers.

My plan goes as follows:

Cacciatore – sliced thick and on the diagonal

Mini-Milano grilled sandwiches – my daughter’s favourite and she will make them. (see https://jimmyprosciutto.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/cooking-with-my-kids/)

The proven pleasers, one-bite pancetta cups filled with Caesar salad, (see https://jimmyprosciutto.wordpress.com/2009/11/26/a-master-chef-from-the-canadian-institute-of-culinary-arts-science/)

And for something new will try this “christmasy” idea: http://www.howsweeteats.com/2009/11/25/holiday-appetizers-101-baked-brie-with-cranberry-pancetta-and-spiced-pecans/

And the sherry, per Ramesh’s recommendation is Lustau Amontillado, although I have had to search and source to find.

I promise a full report …

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Posted by Jim Carfrae on December 20, 2010

Brussel Sprouts bitter no more

Amazingly brussel sprouts seem to still be standard fare for the holidays, even though many people find them bitter. I love them and am always looking for ways to share.

The latest LCBO magazine sautés them in butter and adds prosciutto crisps at the end – hard to argue, (it doesn’t seem to be posted on the lcbo website yet).

Two weeks ago, having no prosciutto, I cut up the brussel sprouts and sauted with a very small amount of salametti and olive oil to positive reviews. The brussel sprouts take on a nutty flavour that combines with the salami beautifully; any bitterness in the sprouts is a subtle enhancer in the background.

Last weekend I sautéed some diced pancetta in olive oil, then sauteed the chopped brussel sprouts for about 10 minutes, 3 sprouts per person. Huge hit, we ran out and am planning to do for our family Christmas gathering.

I was also thinking of adding just a bit of white wine in the pan or balsamic glaze just before serving, maybe next time. They are also great roasted in the oven with garlic.

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“Ladies Day Out” Event

Posted by Jim Carfrae on November 17, 2010

We had the grand prize event to our “Ladies Day Out” Contest this week. As hard as one prepares there are no guarantees the event will live up to expectation. This time it could not have been more enjoyable to be part of.

Each of 10 winners brought two friends to watch the filming of a Cityline show. They were then driven to Romagna Mia in a huge limousine, and wandered into the restaurant just before noon.

These women were so engaged and shared their personal experiences around the table and with the entire group, I could not have asked for a better group. And the food…

Chef Gabriele started us with a thin slice of pancetta wrapped around a shrimp and grilled. It was served with a balsamic vinegar reduction.

 Caesar salad added our feature ingredient, San Daniele Cube-etti prosciutto quickly sautéed and sprinkled over the top.

The grilled whole calamari was amazing.

The restaurants featured dish, risotto stirred into a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano, with truffles and the feature ingredient mixed in. The prosciutto was not cooked, just warmed by the risotto.

Pasta with a Bolognese sauce and finally tiramisu in a small shot glass, which was all the room left.

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The Wisdom of an 8 year old

Posted by Jim Carfrae on May 26, 2010

May long weekend and entertaining for our friends with two people who can’t eat wheat, (celiac). My thought went to a potato salad recipe that was developed for my company using our new Cube-etti pancetta cubes by Chef Leo at Humber College. When Leo served it, I couldn’t stop eating until it was gone. I shared it with my friend Bruna, and she also had great results. You see where this is going; I didn’t do as well.

Here is my photo, you can see the “chef’s photo” and the actual recipe, at this link: Potato and Bean Salad. I wanted to make the dish in advance, even though the warm topping is part of the magic – I think this was the source of my problems: the beans wilted and the balsamic dressing absorbed into the potatoes, making the potatoes bland. Oh, and I forgot the chives, even though we had some in the garden. And my potatoes were too big. And I missed the maple syrup in the dressing.

The wisdom of eight year old Tara really said it all, “Jimmy I don’t know about these potatoes, but I sure like the little cubes of pan, pan, pancetta. Would it be okay if I picked a few more of those out and just ate them?”

We have had samples in out fridge, (for short whiles), over the development of this product;  however my 15 years daughter  has taken to omelets to the next level, eating one whenever there is pancetta in the fridge. It is one of the fastest-growing products my company sells.

As an aside, the Cube-etti Pancetta are cubes of dry cured pork bellies – the same meat used to make bacon, but done in a very different way – giving a much more intense taste. (Previous blog on this if you are interested:  A rare mistake from my favourite cooking magazine.) Cube-etti are just starting to be shipped, so you may not find it in a store for a couple weeks.

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A rare mistake from my favourite cooking magazine

Posted by Jim Carfrae on January 12, 2010

Fine Cooking is the single magazine I get the most inspiration from, with ideas from Canadian Living and the odd Bon Appetite or Gourmet. I find they teach things and ideas where you can taste and share the difference. Usually they do a great job, but when explaining the difference between pancetta and bacon I think they failed to capture how great the difference really is.

In their Special Entertaining Issue: “… the difference between them lies in how they’re prepared and cured. To make bacon, pork belly sides are brined and then smoked. Pancetta … is made by seasoning a pork belly side with salt and pepper, curling it into a tight roll, and wrapping it in a casing to hold the shape. It’s cured, but it isn’t smoked.”

To call bacon cured is to consider only the salting of the belly.  Bacon is pumped full of brine, cold smoked  and put through a continuous oven to an internal temperature of around 140 Fahrenheit, uncooked for most of us.  When the bacon leaves the oven and reaches the package it weighs even more than the meat started at. This is why you see steam for the first couple minutes you cook bacon, as the water that was pumped in gets boiled off.

Contrast with pancetta and it is clear why the difference is so pronounced when you taste it. 

Pancetta is salted and put in a temperature and humidity controlled room for two to three months.  During this time the meat cures and loses much of its moisture.  The final pancetta weighs a third less than the meat weighed before curing. As the meat ages it develops the true cured pork taste.

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Discover and Share as a Company

Posted by Jim Carfrae on December 14, 2009

Last week we had a “tapas” style holiday celebration in the Humber Room at Humber College.  They closed off the room for us and served us seven different appetizers, with a neat mini frozen chocolate mousse to finish.

The chef who developed the recipes is Austrian, so there were some very “non-Italian” Italian ideas; that had many people asking for the recipes. I have outlined the most popular two here, with my own two cents on how to modify or simply them.

Smoked hot Calabrese on a roesti with fried onions and sour cream


2 Pc Potatoes large (peeled and fine julienned)
    Vegetable oil for cooking
    Butter for cooking
  TT Salt and pepper
Heat up a frying pan and add a little bit of vegetable oil. With a spoon arrange the potatoes in the frying pan in small roestis. (pancakes) . Season with salt and pepper. The roestis shouldn’t be thicker than 1 cm. When the roestis brown on the bottom add the butter and flip them over. Brown them on the other side too. When the are nice and crispy transfer them onto a baking sheet lined with a parchment paper.
2 Pc Sautéed onion julienne
Put the sautéed onions on the roesti.
200 G Smoked calabrese
Cut the calabrese into a 3cm x 3 cm sticks and smoke them till they have a good smoky flavour. (30 – 45 Min.) Slice them thin and put in top the sautéed onion on the roesti with it.
200 Ml Sour cream
Put the sour cream into a squeeze bottle and garnish the sausage with it.


I will be making a version of this over the holidays, but plan to skip the smoking, use Sopressata over Calabrese and give the Sopressata a super fast fry on only one side.

  • Cooking really brings out the spice of the Calabrese, I feel it then overpowers the other flavours. You can buy Sopressata or Calabrese at the deli case or in a small piece in the self-serve section. For this recipe you want it to be about 5mm/1/8” thick, so should not buy the pre-sliced.
  • I will put the pan on high and quickly fry one side for about 20-30 seconds.  This will give it a crispness, but leave the meat in its more natural dry cured state.

Pancetta with du puy lentils and speck

100 G Butter
200 G Pancetta small diced
1 Pc Onion peeled and fine diced
6 Cloves Garlic chopped
½ Pc Carrot peeled and small diced
3 Twigs thyme
1 Stalk Celery washed and small diced
100 Ml White wine
100 G Speck
6 Pc Pancetta  slice ¼ “ thick and pan-fried (not crispy)  for garnish.
  TT Salt & pepper
  TT Chopped herbs: chives and parsley
  TT Lemon juice
2 Cups Cooked du puy lentils


1)      Melt the butter and pancetta in a rondo.

2)      Add onions, garlic, carrots, celery and thyme and develop the flavours. Add white wine and simmer till the vegetables are soft.

3)      Add speck and cooked du puy lentils and season with salt, pepper, lemon juice and herbs.

4)      Arrange the lentils in a Chinese spoon and garnish with chopped herbs and a slice of pan-fried pancetta.

This is an amazing combination of flavours; you have never had lentils this good. A couple things:

  • It’s not always easy to find speck, you can buy pre-sliced smoked prosciutto, (which is what speck is), and julienne.  I will add the speck at the very end so it is warmed, but not cooked.
  • I will use olive oil instead of butter, because that’s how I cook.
  • I will make half the recipe, because this will be one of several appetizers I serve.
  • I will use a regular soup spoon, because I don’t have the fancy china ones – maybe a good Christmas gift.
  • I will buy a can of lentils as I don’t have any idea what “du puy” lentils are.

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The Soup Season is upon us

Posted by Jim Carfrae on December 3, 2009

Nothing can beat pasta fagioli soup on a cold day, especially when people drop in uninvited.  My recipe has been revised at least five times, but not for awhile now.  What makes it so good is that:

  • I mash half the white kidney beans and stay away from those “mealy” red kidney beans.  The mashed beans gives a “chowder” texture to the broth.
  • I cook the pasta, usually ditali or tubetti, separately and add it in just before eating.  If you don’t do this, your left-over soup – I always make a large batch – will have bloated and soft pasta the next time.
  • I use pancetta, never bacon.  Bacon is pumped full of water that needs to be boiled off before you get any sizzle, it has no magic, no flavour.  Pancetta has been dry cured, removing most of the water in the curing room and receiving the incredible taste of dry aging.

I use a medium sized pot, heat the oil, sauté the onions and pancetta, neither should be crispy or browned.  Just before the onions and pancetta are done I add the crushed garlic. I find adding the garlic earlier makes it go bitter. If you are a spice fanatic, add some crushed chilies with the onion or use hot pancetta.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 4 ounces pancetta diced medium, (about twice the size of the onions, half the size of a bean)
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic

Add two cups of chicken broth, half a can of white kidney beans, with all the liquid. Next add the sliced carrots and quartered tomatoes and bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile mash the rest of the white kidney beans with a potato masher and add to the soup.  A perfect mash is not required, the beans will continue to breakdown in the simmer.  Cook until the carrots are just done.

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1  19oz  can white kidney beans, I’m sure you can soak dry beans overnight, but I never have
  • Two medium sized carrots, sliced ¼” thick
  • 6-8 small plum tomatoes, quartered, I use canned tomatoes imported from Italy to get the full tomato taste and sweetness

Cook the pasta in a separate pot.  Always use lots of water.  Cook to al dente, or even just less. Strain and douse in cold water to stop the cooking.

  • 1 cup ditali or tubetti pasta

Serve the soup in the biggest bowls you can find, add the pasta to the soup.  Save the left over soup and pasta in separate containers.  Salt and pepper to your taste.  The broth and pancetta mean salt is not required for most people. Usually takes about 20-25 minutes to prepare. I find some kids don’t like the beans; in that case you can mash or puree the whole can of beans. Feel free to put in green stuff if you like the look.  A lot of people put sage in their pasta fagioli, I think it overpowers the subtly of the beans.

Pasta fagioli is a specialty of Tuscany; it pairs beautifully with the wine of the region, Chianti, and nice crusty Italian bread.

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A Master Chef from the Canadian Institute of Culinary Arts & Science

Posted by Jim Carfrae on November 26, 2009

Humber College has the largest cooking school in Canada. My company has a relationship with them that lets me visit and enjoy; the facilities and professors are outstanding.  Anyway… I have a program for which master chef Leonhard Lechner is developing some simple serving ideas and recipes for me – I get to sit in the restaurant and he serves me 10-15 amazing things, one after another. 

One of his ideas I have to share right away as we approach the holiday season.

12 Slices Pancetta (thin sliced)
2 Cups Romaine lettuces
½ Cup Caesar dressing
¼ Cup Parmesan cheese (fresh shredded)
    Herb-garlic croutons
  1.  Turn small muffin tin upside-down and apply one thin slice of pancetta on top of it.
  2. Bake in oven at approximately 350 /375F till crispy.
  3. Remove the crispy pancetta cups from the cups and stuff them with Caesar salad and garnish.

Amazingly for a master chef, Leo made one huge mistake on this simple idea – 12 won’t be nearly enough!

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