Giada De Laurentiis' Bacon Swap For Better BLTs

Few lunchtime staple dishes remain as iconic as the classic BLT — shorthand for bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. Since this club became a staple in U.S. diners during the 20th century, people have come to appreciate its delightfully simple recipe and light, savory flavors. It should be no surprise that many professional chefs have created countless BLT spins that deserve their own recognition. Even so, few of those takes might be as exquisite as Giada de Laurentiis' personal spin on the BLT, which utilizes pancetta as a substitute for bacon.

While many people refer to it as "Italian bacon," pancetta is more different than it appears at first glance. This pork product first gets cured in a blend of salt and various spices, then folded onto itself and allowed to age for weeks until it can be safely consumed without cooking. Bacon, on the other hand, gets smoked instead of spiced and should not be consumed raw.

When seared on a skillet and placed on a BLT, pancetta adds a rich, spiced pork flavor that cannot be replicated with regular bacon. De Laurentiis recommends pairing it with a spicy mayo, as this complements the umami flavors of the porky slabs and brings a spicy kick to the sandwich.

For an even bigger twist on the BLT, add avocado and other fillings

While BLT purists will insist that this sandwich does not need more than bacon, lettuce, and tomato, it really never hurts to spice things up with extra ingredients. A fried egg or a slice of cheese can add some much-needed textural contrast to this crunchy dish while providing different (but equally tasty) umami-goodness. Giada de Laurentiis' very own pancetta BLT recipe actually resembles a BLAT sandwich, as it squeezes avocado in between the lettuce and tomato.

If you're feeling extra adventurous, you can even start swapping in the L and the T in a BLT to create equally craveable results. For a caprese salad-style sub, you can substitute basil for the lettuce and have a sandwich that, combined with some pan-seared pancetta, might actually transport you to the Italian countryside.

Whatever direction you decide to take your BLT in, just remember that too many fillings will, inevitably, turn it into a different type of sandwich altogether. Don't stray too far from the original recipe by trying to stuff too many ingredients between your bread, as the subtle flavor of tomato and savory pork are meant to stay at the forefront. For a subtler way to spice up a BLT, you can substitute the mayo for another dressing such as jam or chipotle sauce.

Other tips for building the perfect pancetta BLT sandwich

One of the most crucial parts of nailing a BLT lies in picking out the right bread for the sandwich. Never use fancy, crispy bread with a chewy bite, as this can distract from the filling's simple flavors. Overly soft bread might ruin your BLT as well; it will not be able to hold any heavy ingredients and will instantly mush up at the touch of a wet tomato.

Ideally, you want to use a nice country bread, but any sliced loaf that is not too dense or frail should do the trick. Giada de Laurentiis likes to use toasted sourdough as the base for the pancetta BLT, so keep that in mind the next time you're shopping at the grocery store.

Once you've selected your bread, your next step in building the perfect pancetta BLT will be to toast it. This step helps prevent your sandwich base from absorbing too much moisture from the middle. Also, be careful how you arrange the fillings of your pancetta BLT. Any wet ingredients, such as tomato slices, should be patted down with a paper towel and kept between dry, nonpermeable ones to protect your bread. Two large Romaine leaves should be enough to keep the two apart, but other lettuce variants such as iceberg and arugula will also do the trick. Similarly, layer mayo on both pieces of bread to act as a moisture barrier and give you the perfect bite.