Pancetta is an un-smoked Italian bacon that is seasoned with black pepper and other spices and herbs before rolling and salt-curing. My meat-free version is seasoned with my own blend of spices and herbs to impart a distinctive Italian flavor. For this recipe, two batches of dough will be mixed to create the pancetta. Dough 1 is for the light marble layer and Dough 2 is for the dark marble layer.
Aromatic Seasoning Ingredients
• 1 and ½ tsp finely ground black pepper
• 2 tsp dried basil leaves
• 2 tsp dried oregano leaves
• ¼ tsp ground fennel seed
• ¼ tsp ground red pepper (optional)
Dry Ingredients for Dough 1
• ½ cup (75 g) vital wheat gluten
• 1 T garlic powder
Liquid Ingredients for Dough 1
• 6 T (90 ml) water
• 1 T olive oil
• ½ tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
Dry Ingredients for Dough 2
• 1 cup (150 g) vital wheat gluten
• 1 T onion powder
• 2 tsp sweet paprika
Liquid Ingredients for Dough 2
• ½ cup plus 2 T (150 ml) water
• 2 T tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• 2 T nutritional yeast flakes
• 2 T red miso paste
• 1 T olive oil
Additional Item Needed
• 18-inch wide heavy-duty aluminum foil
Warning! It is very important to use only heavy-duty aluminum foil for this recipe. Regular foil is not sturdy enough and can easily rupture from steam pressure which builds up inside the sealed package.
Combine the Aromatic Seasoning Ingredients
Combine the aromatic seasoning ingredients in a small dish and using the back of a spoon, grind the mixture until the oregano and basil are coarsely ground; set the mixture aside. This blend will not be added to the dough, but rather layered over the dough before rolling in the foil.
Preparing Dough 1
Preheat the oven to 325°F/170°F.
Combine the dry ingredients for Dough 1 in a medium mixing bowl.
Stir together the liquid ingredients for Dough 1 in a separate bowl or measuring cup until the salt dissolves.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well to incorporate. Knead the dough with a spoon or spatula in the bowl until the dough offers some resistance to mixing. Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Set aside.
Preparing Dough 2
Combine the dry ingredients for Dough 2 in a large mixing bowl.
Whisk together the liquid ingredients for Dough 2 in a separate bowl or measuring cup until the miso and yeast dissolves (the yeast will not dissolve completely).
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well to incorporate. Knead the dough with a spoon or spatula in the bowl until the dough offers some resistance to mixing, about 2 minutes. Kneading can also be done in a food processor fitted with a dough blade attachment and processed for about 1 minute. Divide the dough in half.
Layering the Dough
Now you will begin the layering process which will create the marbling effect for the pancetta.
Tear off a sheet of foil (about 18-inches) and place on your work surface. Take a piece of Dough 1 (the light dough) and flatten into a disc. Place the flattened dough onto the foil. Sprinkle about ¼ of the aromatic seasonings over the disc of dough (don’t worry if some of the seasonings scatter on the foil).
Next, repeat with a piece of Dough 2 (the dark dough) and place on top of the first disc. Scatter ¼ of the aromatic seasonings over the disc of dough. Repeat with the second piece of Dough 1, again scattering ¼ of the aromatic seasonings over the disc of dough.
Finish layering with the second piece of Dough 2 and scatter the remaining seasoning over the dough. Firmly press down and stretch the stack against the foil until it is about ¼-inch thick.
Now, roll the dough into a cylinder and then use your hands to compress the dough into a thick compact log. Press any seasoning mixture that has scattered on the foil into the log.
Roll the dough in the foil to create a cylindrical package and twist the ends tightly to seal. Bend the ends in half to lock them tight. Repeat this wrapping procedure with 2 additional sheets of foil.
Place the package directly on the middle oven rack and bake for 90 minutes.
Cool the pancetta in the foil and then refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours. Chilling will firm and enhance the texture and make slicing easier – this is important. The pancetta can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week before slicing and finishing or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
For the best finished texture, use a very sharp knife and slice the pancetta as thinly as possible. Of course, if you prefer a thicker cut, that’s entirely up to you. The slices can also be cut into narrow strips if desired. Pancetta can also be small diced.
Finishing the Pancetta
Finishing the pancetta in the oven is my preferred method since heating is controlled. Sliced pancetta can also be given a “rippled” appearance using this method. To do this, preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the slices (or diced pancetta) on the paper. Mist or brush the slices or dice with cooking oil. Use your fingers to “scrunch” the pancetta slices, thus giving them a rippled appearance. Bake for 20 minutes. Let the pancetta cool for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a serving plate. As the pancetta cools it will crisp up a bit while still retaining a nice chewy texture. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to blot any excess oil.
Optionally, the pancetta slices or dice can be briefly fried in a non-stick skillet with a light layer of cooking oil over medium to medium-low heat. Frying “low and slow” is preferable to frying at a high temperature. The pancetta will brown (and burn) quickly and the texture will become hard if the temperature is too high. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to blot any excess oil.
Serve warm; chop, dice or crumble in recipes; or layer on your favorite sandwich.