Arroz blanco con pancetta

Arroz con tocino is classic Puerto Rican. It’s white rice cooked with the white fat of the bacon, very similar to Italian lardo, but cut into small cubes. The rice comes out so velvety and flavorful that you can eat it with a spoon. It’s beautiful.

My mom would cook it sometimes for special occasions, always sautéing first the cured fat until crispy before adding the rice. I remember she would save me bits of the fat to enjoy as a snack.

And my mom's rice had no science, but it was magical. It was fat, rice and salt. That's it. You sauté the fat until golden, add about two cups of rice, a pinch of salt and water. Maybe a drop of oil, if needed. Serve it with plantains, beans or any stew. It’s simple comfort.

Now at home in Chicago, it can be challenging to find this cured fat in regular supermarkets. Plus, I don’t think we would eat the whole thing anyways. What we have found to be a great substitute, however, is Italian pancetta. It’s the perfect ingredient to add a touch of smoky flavor to our vegetable, rice or starchy dishes.

To get fresh, quality pancetta, we like to visit our local butcher. They will tell you what’s good. 

Pancetta goes particularly well with our scallion rice dish, a quick and easy meal that anybody can put together. Try it with our sautéd zucchini steaks cooked in olive oil, a pinch of garlic salt and chili powder. It's delicious and perfect for any day of the week.

Arroz blanco con pancheta y cebollines – Scallion pancetta rice
  • 1 ½ Cups of basmati rice
  • 1/3 to ½ Cup of Pancetta
  • ½ Cup of chopped onions
  • 3 Mashed garlic cloves
  • ½ Cup of scallions
  • Olive oil to taste
  • Salt to taste

In a dutch oven or Puerto Rican caldero, cook the pancetta with a few drops of olive oil. When it starts to brown, add the onion and let it cook until the onion starts to get translucent. Then add the garlic and scallions, cook for another minute, and add the rice with 1 ½ cups of water and a pinch of salt. Make sure it’s well covered and cook for about 12 minutes before mixing. Continue cooking until rice is ready.