Kitchn Love Letters

The $4 Aldi Dinner Shortcut That I Always Have in My Freezer

published Oct 22, 2022
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Credit: Amelia Rampe

Aldi sometimes transports me back to the Italian neighborhood I grew up in: I’m not Italian, but I grew up mooching off Mrs. Silvestri’s Italian home cooking. I would play with her daughter, my friend Anna, and deliberately try to hang around through dinnertime because her pasta was way better than my mom’s.

And although my mom’s a good cook, she’s not Italian. So, as an adult, after I moved away from home and from Mrs. Silvestri’s amazing cooking, I took some cooking classes. The first Italian sauce I mastered was pasta all’Amatriciana — a simple yet sublime sauce made with tomatoes, onions, and guanciale. It became one of my go-to dishes, and after the first date with my now-husband, I made him a bowl of it. He always says, “That sealed the deal.”

I still make pasta all’Amatriciana regularly, but between carpooling and deadlines, I don’t have the luxury of trekking out to my favorite Italian grocery store to get guanciale. That’s where Aldi comes in. Although Aldi doesn’t sell guanciale, it does sell Appleton Farms Diced Pancetta that comes in four-ounce packages for $3.49 each, and pancetta is a good substitute for guanciale.

Credit: Jeanette Hurt

What’s So Great About Appleton Farms Diced Pancetta?

Appleton Farms diced pancetta is not only everything you want in a pancetta with its savory, salty goodness, but it also comes pre-cut. One of the worst things about buying pancetta whole is that I have to chop it up, and even when my knives are freshly sharpened, pancetta’s fatty deliciousness sticks to my knives. With Appleton Farms, I open the package and I’m good to go.

What’s the Best Way to Use Appleton Farms Diced Pancetta?

My simple sauce consists of two packages of pancetta, one large onion, a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, and a little wine. I’ll also add in some crushed red pepper and a little sugar if the tomatoes need it. It’s a meal that comes together beautifully in 30 minutes, including the cook time for the pasta, and it allows me to get my kiddo out the door and to gymnastics practice on time. 

I’ve used the Aldi pancetta in carbonara sauces and salads — just toss together some tomatoes, mixed greens, red onions, and olives with fried pancetta, olive oil, and balsamic vinaigrette — but I mostly keep it on hand for desperation pasta all’Amatriciana. I usually have two packages in my freezer for just such occasions. I think Mrs. Silvestri would be proud. And I know my husband certainly is.

What Aldi staple do you have stashed in your freezer? Tell us in the comments below.