Guy Fieri's Succulent Bacon Swap For Better Nachos

Guy Fieri is practically synonymous with nachos, largely due to his signature Trash Can version of the dish. This colossal creation, featured in many of his restaurants, is assembled in a metal can before being inverted onto a plate. It boasts a medley of flavorful ingredients, including house-smoked pork, various cheeses, beans, and bourbon brown sugar barbecue sauce.

However, Fieri sometimes opts for a simple swap when preparing a batch of nachos that is just as delicious, and much easier to replicate at home: He replaces regular bacon with Italian pancetta. The "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" host, a longtime advocate for using rich Italian meats to upgrade game-day snacks, features Italian turkey sausage with a salami topping in his Guy-Talian nachos, for instance.

The Mayor of Flavortown's suggestion to use pancetta instead of bacon in an everyday nacho recipe is an effortless modification, yet one that is effective for several reasons. The Italian cured meat introduces a unique blend of rich flavors to the dish while retaining a comparable level of desirable saltiness. Moreover, this fatty meat particularly complements many standard nacho ingredients, providing a chewy textural enhancement.

Swap bacon for crispy cubes of pancetta

Like bacon, pancetta originates from the belly of the pig. However, there are significant differences between pancetta and bacon, which often lead to the Italian meat being used in distinct ways. For starters, most pancetta is cured with salt, so unlike bacon, it doesn't contribute any extra smoky flavors that might compete with — or overpower — other nacho ingredients.

Pancetta also often gains additional depth from the herbs, spices, or other aromatics traditionally used during its preparation to infuse the pork with extra flavor. This process lends a richer complexity to a simple topping for nachos or other dishes.

Guy Fieri prefers cubes of pancetta for making nachos, rather than the thinner, rolled variety sometimes found in stores or delis. The diced fatty meat contributes superb texture, offering a silky succulence when combined with ingredients like beans. Speaking of which, beans are another component Fieri sometimes changes for Italian-style nachos, opting for cannellini beans instead of the conventional black beans. Cubed pancetta also becomes delightfully crispy when sauteed, while still retaining a soft juiciness — unlike the denser chew sometimes associated with bacon — which adds a surprisingly sophisticated touch to nachos.

Using pancetta to elevate other everyday dishes

Guy Fieri is a fervent advocate for using pancetta across a variety of dishes, particularly in pasta. He once humorously remarked on "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" that his "middle name should have been pancetta," highlighting his fondness for the salty, succulent Italian meat. He employs sauteed cubes to introduce a crispy dimension to a simple pasta cacio e pepe recipe; he relishes it equally in a classic carbonara or mac and cheese.

To elevate your creamy pasta dishes Fieri-style by substituting pancetta for regular bacon, begin by cooking the diced meat in a cold pan. This approach allows the fat to render, and the cubes to achieve a crunchier texture, offering a delightful contrast. For another Italian classic, consider using finely chopped cured pancetta as a rich pizza topping.

The crispy cubes can also rejuvenate lackluster vegetable sides. If you or your family members are not keen on the notoriously divisive Brussels sprouts, follow Fieri's advice, and incorporate pancetta. Cooking the sprouts in the rendered pork fat, along with tossing them with the crunchy pancetta before serving, infuses them with additional tasty richness. Alternatively, enhance frozen peas by mixing in some of the cured Italian meat that has been sauteed with shallots, creating a quick yet flavorful side dish perfect alongside grilled meats or fish.