For one of the easiest Italian recipes, make some pancetta pasta. Quick cooking angel hair pasta with crispy pancetta, garlic, & olive oil is simple yet comforting. I cannot rave enough about this dish.
This simple recipe is similar to carbonara but without the eggs. It has a rich velvety texture thanks to the combination of 3 fats - pancetta grease, olive oil, & butter. The combination is decadent and gourmet without the fuss.
Like my recipe for spaghetti leftovers with fried eggs - it's ready in about 20 minutes. Perfect for busy weeknights. With only a few ingredients & steps, this pasta recipe is perfect for beginners yet fancy enough for date night with any foodie.
Ingredients for Pasta with Pancetta
The main ingredient for this recipe is the fatty, salty, & crispy bits of diced pancetta. It can be found in most large grocery stores. You can also try Italian markets or butchers. It is what gives this pasta dish a restaurant-quality taste & a luxury vibe.
Besides the Italian-style pork belly, garlic & other ingredients combine for an olive oil sauce. All is tossed with thin spaghetti, also known as angel hair pasta.
- Pancetta - salty cured Italian-style bacon.
- Olive Oil- the base of the simple sauce.
- Angel Hair Pasta - It cooks in ½ the time as regular spaghetti.
- Garlic - the aromatic adds a bold pungent flavor for a kick.
- Salted Butter - just a few pats adds a lovely mouthfeel.
- Black Pepper - for heat & flavor.
- Shaved Parmesan - the perfect nutty cheese for topping.
- Fresh Italian Parsley - the flat-leaf herb adds color & brightness.
See the recipe card for quantities.
What is Pancetta?
Wondering if pancetta is just Italian bacon? There are differences and similarities between pancetta & American bacon. Both are made from the pork belly. However, they are both processed differently.
Pancetta has a saltier taste since it is salt-cured & dried. Pancetta can actually be eaten raw (a big no for American bacon). It has a stronger pork taste since it isn't overpowered by smoke.
American bacon on the other hand is not cured. It is smoked & often has nitrites/nitrates for curing. It is often less salty than pancetta and smokier in taste.
How to Make Pancetta Pasta
This recipe has a quick pan sauce that cooks in the same amount of time as the fast-cooking angel hair pasta. Because this recipe moves quickly once cooking begins, I recommend getting your mise en place (tools, ingredients prepped, etc.) ready before turning on the stove.
Here are the simple steps for making pasta with crispy pancetta:
- Cook the pasta & fry the pancetta
- Finish the sauce & add the pasta
- Add toppings & serve
1 - Cook the Pasta & Fry the Pancetta
Over medium heat, cook the diced pancetta in the olive oil. Stir occasionally. It should take about 7-8 minutes for the pancetta to crisp up and some of the fat to render down.
I like to use a splatter screen when frying the pancetta. It helps shield you, your clothes, etc from the popping fat & pork pieces during the cooking process.
Once the water comes to a rolling boil, add the angel hair pasta. Stir so the pasta is covered by the simmering water. Reduce the heat to medium. Angel hair only takes 4 minutes to cook to al dente - so be ready!
2 - Finish the sauce & add the pasta
Once the pancetta is cooked and crispy, turn it down to low. Do NOT drain the pork fat. Add the minced garlic & stir to combine.
Once the angel hair is done cooking, save ¼ cup of the cooking liquid. Drain the pasta.
Using tongs, toss the angel hair in the pancetta sauce. Add 2 tablespoons of pasta water & the butter. Toss to combine & coat the pasta as it melts.
Add additional pasta water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time until you have a sauce that coats all the pasta. The melting butter will coat the pasta almost giving it a creamy texture. Turn off the heat & now it is time to plate it and add toppings.
3 - Add Toppings & Serve
Transfer pasta to a large pasta bowl, platter, or individual bowls. Top with fresh parsley, shaved parmesan, & freshly cracked black pepper. Serve & enjoy immediately.
Hint: This pasta is great at any temperature. It makes for a lovely hot meal, warm or room-temperature pasta, or even cold. Like bacon is great for breakfast, Italians enjoy this pasta as a leftover in the morning. When it tastes this good, no one can resist or wait to eat more.
Recipe Substitutions & Variations
Here are a few alternate ingredients that you can use to make this dish. If you need to alter the recipe for dietary, allergy, or other reasons, here are a few substitutes.
This effortless recipe is 5-star as is. But if you wish to personalize it a bit or make it with some variety, here are some ideas that I have tried & are equally as tasty.
- Pancetta - I highly recommend you only use pancetta but you can use thick-cut bacon or guanciale instead.
- Angel Hair Pasta - Use regular spaghetti instead, just keep in mind it will take twice as long to cook to al dente.
- Shaved Parmesan - Use grated or try a combination of any other Italian hard cheese: Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, or Grana Padano.
- Spicy - Add ¼ teaspoon chili pepper flakes along with the garlic while cooking to add heat to the olive oil sauce
- Peas & Pancetta - Add ⅓ cup frozen peas to the sauce along with the garlic & let defrost & warm up before adding the pasta.
- Creamy - Drizzle in 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream & stir just before serving.
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Storing & Reheating
This pasta stores well in the refrigerator. Place in a container with an air-tight lid and store for up to 4 days.
To reheat, add a little bit of butter or olive oil & warm up in the microwave for 30-45 seconds. Stir to coat & add parmesan & parsley.
All of these great tips are shared in the post. But these are so good and important they are worth mentioning again so you don't miss them.
- Pancetta is best to use for the salty taste & fatty mouthfeel. But in a pinch, you can use thick-cut diced regular bacon.
- Get all your ingredients & tools ready before you start cooking because this recipe is fast-cooking.
- Start the sauce while waiting for the water to boil.
- Use a splatter screen to help reduce the oil & pancetta fat from splattering on you - safety first!
- Do NOT drain the pancetta fat after cooking.
- Top & serve immediately.
There is a slight difference between the two Italian pork products. Guanciale vs Pancetta - pancetta is pork belly & guanciale is from the jowl of the pork cheek. Both are fatty, with guanciale being traditionally more fatty & is the star of a good carbonara recipe. For this recipe, both will work just fine so use your favorite or what you have on hand.
Prosciutto however I do not recommend as an alternate for pancetta. Prosciutto is traditionally not cooked until crispy and is sliced thinly. It will not render the fat needed for this dish nor the small dice that make the crunchy bits irresistible.
Yes, the sauce ingredients are celiac-friendly. If you wish to eat a gluten-free diet, swap out the regular angel hair for your favorite gluten-free pasta. It will likely take longer to cook but that is ok - it will be worth the wait.
Pancetta is cured and therefore safe to eat right out of the package. This recipe calls for cooking it so that the fat renders down & helps create the sauce. You can cook it to be as well-done/crispy or as rare/soft as you desire. If there is not much fat in the pan to coat the pasta, drizzle on additional olive oil.
- 1 pound angel hair pasta
- 8 ounces pancetta small dice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 tablespoon fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley minced
- ¼ cup shaved parmesan
- fresh cracked black pepper
Cook the Pasta
- Boil water over high heat with plenty of salt in a large stockpot. ** Start the pancetta below while waiting for the water to boil & the pasta to cook.
- Once at a boil, add the angel hair pasta. Stir so the pasta separates & does not stick together. Turn the heat down to medium so it will simmer & cook. Angel hair cooks fast, 4-5 minutes. While the pasta cooks, finish the quick pancetta pan sauce.
Make the Pancetta Pan Sauce
- In a large skillet, add the olive oil & pancetta. Over medium heat "fry" the pancetta until crispy & some of the fat renders down. This should take 5-7 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Turn the pan to low heat.
Toss the Pasta with Pancetta
- Once the angel hair is done, reserve ¼ cup of the pasta liquid & set aside. Drain the pasta & add it to the pan with the pancetta & garlic. Toss to coat.
- Add 2 tablespoons of the pasta water to the pan. Using tongs, toss the angel hair in the pancetta sauce. Add the butter & toss to combine & coat the pasta as it melts. Add additional pasta water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time until you have a creamy sauce that coats all the pasta.
- Turn off the heat. Transfer pasta to a large pasta bowl, platter, or individual bowls. Top with fresh parsley, shaved parmesan, & freshly cracked black pepper. Serve & enjoy immediately.
- Store leftovers for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 20.1g||26%|
|Saturated Fat 7.7g||38%|
|Total Carbohydrate 41.7g||15%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin D 3mcg||13%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
|Recipe analyzed by|