Die-hard vegetarians frequently say that the only thing they miss is a bacon sandwich; along those lines one of the things I most miss when away from Abruzzo is La Mascionara’s pancetta.
For the uninitiated and those more used to buying pancetta as soggy, fatty little cubes vacuum packed without a hint of what they came from, you aren’t alone; Italian supermarkets churn out these insipid bits of pink fat too, and you do have to wonder why on earth anyone buys them when they have such moreish bits so readily available elsewhere.
Real pancetta, and in particular the La Mascionara variety bought en route to Lake Campotosto in the north east of Teramo, is yummy belly of pork that has been lovingly massaged with salt, peperoncino and a secret mountain blend of herbs which is then air-cured for 3 months. The flesh is dry not soggy, a dark and elegant prosciutto pink, nothing bright & gaudy. What you cut is what you get when cooked, and less is more as they say; you need just the smallest amount to complement anything green: courgettes, peas, beans or asparagus. It’s quite wonderful with eggs and when used in a spaghetti carbonara you can see what all the fuss is about with this dish.
For perfect pancetta and a scenic drive, it’s well worth the journey to this amazing little Abruzzo meat & cheese shop in the heart of their farm; importers, this should be a compulsory item that you stock in your deli!