Prep & Cook Time: About 1 1/4 hours
Makes: About 14 cups; 14 to 16 servings
8 cups 1/2-inch cubes day-old cornbread (from scratch or a mix)
1/2 lb. thin-sliced pancetta, chopped
About 1 tbs. olive oil
2 onions (3/4 lb. total), peeled and chopped
3 tbs. minced garlic
3 cups finely chopped celery
1 jar (about 7 oz. net) steamed chestnuts (or 1 1/3 cups cooked chestnuts, coarsely chopped)
1 cup drained oil-packed dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
3 tbs. chopped fresh sage leaves or dried rubbed sage
3 tbs. chopped fresh basil leaves or dried basil
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves or dried rosemary
1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) melted unsalted butter or unsalted margarine
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 to 2 cups fat-skimmed chicken broth
1. In a 350 degree oven, bake cornbread cubes in a 12- by 17-inch roasting pan until edges begin to brown, 25 to 35 minutes, stir occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, in a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, stir pancetta often until browned; about 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to towels to drain. Pour out fat and measure; add enough olive oil to make 1/4 cup total and return to the frying pan.
3. Place pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and stir often until limp, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and celery; stir often until celery is limp, 5 to 7 minutes.
4. To cornbread in roasting pan, add pancetta, onion mixture, chestnuts, tomatoes, parsley, sage, basil, rosemary, and butter. Mix well, adding salt and pepper to taste. Mix in broth, 1/2 cup at a time, until dressing is evenly moistened (for a crumbly dressing, use minimum amount). Spoon into a shallow 3-quart casserole and cover tightly. (If making up to one day ahead, chill.)
5. Bake in a 350 degree oven until hot (at least 150 degrees in center), 35 to 40 minutes (50 to 65 minutes if chilled). For a crusty top, uncover the last 20 to 25 minutes.
Pancetta – Italian style bacon