Pasta with Pancetta

A quick and delicious pasta recipe using only three ingredients! Olive oil, pancetta and pasta is all that you need to make this super tasty dish. Recipe with step-by-step photos.

pasta with pancetta in skillet

Pasta with Pancetta

At its simplest, this recipe only uses three ingredients – olive oil, pancetta and pasta. This is a recipe you need to have for those evenings when you don’t know what to cook or when you simply don’t have time to cook.

This Pasta with Pancetta is what I like to make when we arrive home after a long journey or holiday, and when I need to make a satisfying dinner from what I already have in the kitchen and pantry.

I typically always have a few blocks of pancetta in the fridge or freezer, and we always have a steady supply of spaghetti in the pantry. Which means that dinner will usually be ready in the time that it takes me to cook the pasta.

pasta with pancetta in skillet on marble table

Spaghetti with Pancetta

What I love about this pasta recipe is that it is so simple. The pancetta is cooked and rendered in olive oil, which in turn adds a delicious salty, bacony flavour to the oil, which is later used to effectively dress the pasta.

It is similar to a Pasta alla Gricia, which also starts with pancetta or Guanciale cooked in olive oil. But whilst Pasta alla Gricia involves transforming the bacon juices into a pasta sauce from the pasta water and grated cheese, this Pasta with Pancetta is even more pared back; the “sauce” is the bacony olive oil, and there is no cheese in this dish.

Pancetta, Bacon or Guanciale

Pancetta is Italian cured pork belly, whilst bacon is cured and smoked pork belly. You could substitute the bacon for pancetta in this recipe, but the flavour will be somewhat different. The bacon will still be delicious, but I recommend using a thick cut bacon which you can slice into thick batons or dice for this recipe.

Guanciale is Italian cured pork jowl or cheeks. Guanciale is more fatty than pancetta, so you will find that it will render a lot more fat upon cooking. It has a distinctly different flavour and aroma to pancetta, but it also works well in this recipe.

pasta with pancetta on marble table

Pasta with Pancetta Recipe

This recipe started out as Nigella Lawson’s Linguine with Pancetta, many many years ago when I was a poor university student trying to cook with as few ingredients as possible. Back then, pancetta was only available at the Italian deli next to my local supermarket, so I considered it a treat whenever I wanted to make this dish.

Fast forward a few decades, and I still make this pasta dish regularly and fondly.

Thankfully, pancetta is readily available here in Switzerland; it was almost non-existent in Australia in the early 2000’s, but maybe things have changed now?

I remain quite faithful to Nigella’s original recipe, although I can be even more lazy and use regular olive oil instead of her suggested garlic-infused oil. And as I try to limit the varieties of pasta in my home, we eat this more often with spaghetti than with linguine.

pasta with pancetta in white skillet

How to Make Pasta with Pancetta

Step 1

If possible, I recommend buying the pancetta in a block and chopping it up yourself. This way, you can guarantee that you will have decent-sized pieces of pancetta in your dish and which are all the same size, which means that they will take the same time to cook.

When buying blocks of pancetta, look for pieces which have an event amount of fat and meat, and which are fairly uniform in size for easy cutting.

Many supermarkets sell pancetta which have already been diced, but I find the pieces to be small, thin and uneven. These packets are totally ok in a pinch, but slicing up the pancetta yourself will make a big difference to this dish.

There are two ways to make this dish: either on the stove or in the oven.

If you need to be hands-off, I recommend cooking the pancetta in a large roasting pan in the oven. This will take about 20-30 minutes.

Otherwise, this dish is fairly quick to make on the stove, about 10 minutes.

raw pancetta in skillet with oil

Step 2

Cook the pancetta pieces in a generous amount of olive oil until they are evenly golden brown all over. During this time, the pancetta will have rendered a lot of its fat into the oil.

cooked pancetta in skillet

Step 3

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water. The pasta needs to be cooked until al dente, or until you are happy with the texture. You will NOT be cooking the pasta again after you have drained it.

For this recipe, I like to use spaghetti or linguine. But any other flat pasta will also work well here, such as farfalle (bow-tie pasta), orecchiette or fettucine.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it well.

spaghetti cooking in pot

Step 4

Add the pasta to the hot pan and use a pair of tongs to mix the pasta into the hot, bacony oil. Toss the pasta well to ensure that every strand is coated in the oil. As you do this, make sure that any pancetta fat stuck to the pan is lifted off with the pasta – this is what will flavour your pasta.

For this step, I like to do it on the stove over medium heat, so that the pasta remains hot.

Serve immediately.

spaghetti with pancetta in skillet

Variations

This recipe is delicious as it is with just 3 ingredients – olive oil, pancetta and pasta.

But if you want to spruce it up a bit, the following are variations I often use:

  • Add dried chilli flakes to the hot oil after the pancetta has cooked.
  • Add finely grated or thinly sliced garlic to the hot oil after the pancetta has cooked.
  • Add frozen peas to cook with the pasta.
  • Add a mix of frozen peas and baby carrots to cook with the pasta.
  • Substitute the olive oil for garlic-infused olive oil.
  • Serve the pasta on a bed of fresh rocket (arugula).

More Pasta Recipes

Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Print

Pasta with Pancetta

5 from 1 reviews

  • Author: Thanh | Eat, Little Bird
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3-4
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Stove
  • Cuisine: Italian

A quick and delicious pasta recipe using only three ingredients! Olive oil, pancetta and pasta is all that you need to make this super tasty dish. Recipe with step-by-step photos.

Ingredients

  • 200 g (7 oz) pancetta
  • 350 g (12 oz) pasta (spaghetti or linguine)
  • sea salt and freshly cracked white pepper
  • 34 tablespoons olive oil
  • fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil.
  2. As the pasta water is coming to a boil, prepare the pancetta.
  3. Remove the rind from the pancetta, and chop the pancetta into small, thick dice. The pancetta will shrink as it cooks.
  4. Add the pasta to the boiling water, together with 1-2 teaspoons coarse salt. Cook the pasta according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  5. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  6. Cook the pancetta pieces until they are golden and crispy all over.
  7. If the pancetta has rendered too much fat, remove some fat to a bowl. You want about 3-4 tablespoons of fat remaining in the skillet.
  8. Generally, the pancetta will finish cooking before the pasta is ready. If so, set the skillet aside off the heat while the pasta finishes cooking.
  9. Drain the pasta well.
  10. Return the skillet to the stove over medium-high heat.
  11. Add the pasta and mix it through the pancetta and oil well, ensuring that every strand of pasta is coated. As you do this, make sure that any pancetta fat stuck to the pan is lifted off with the pasta – this is what will flavour the pasta.
  12. Garnish with parsley (if using) and serve immediately.

Kitchen Notes

COOKING IN THE OVEN
Pour the olive oil into a large roasting pan, add the chopped pancetta pieces and toss to coat. Bake at 210°C/410°F (without fan) for 15-30 minutes (timing depends on your oven and how big or small you have cut the pancetta), until the pancetta is golden and crispy. During this time, cook the pasta. Finish as per the recipe above.

VARIATIONS
* Add dried chilli flakes to the hot oil after the pancetta has cooked.
* Add finely grated or thinly sliced garlic to the hot oil after the pancetta has cooked.
* Add frozen peas to cook with the pasta.
* Add a mix of frozen peas and baby carrots to cook with the pasta.
* Substitute the olive oil for garlic-infused olive oil.
* Serve the pasta on a bed of fresh rocket (arugula).

CONVERSIONS
To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.

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1 comment

  1. James 2 October 2022

    This is one of my favourite recipes from Nigella too. It’s so simple yet so tasty. I’ve always followed Nigella’s recipe – I’ve never thought to cook the pancetta on the stove. That would make it much quicker!

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