Ahhh Porchetta. This Italian version of a pork roast, with its crispy bubbly crackling, juicy fatty meat and herb stuffing is just divine! Eat it sliced onto a soft, white roll, or serve it alongside some roast potatoes and veg as a main course the coming Holidays!
My first ever proper taste of porchetta was from a little charcuterie cart on Campo de’ Fiori in the center of Rome and then once more from a quaint little deli in another part of the city that I couldn’t for the life of me remember where it was. Sure, I had tasted Porchetta sandwiches before, but they were either terrible (read: no crackling nor succulent fat in sight * gasp *), or mediocre (dry-ish) at best – which explains why my happiest memory of being in Rome (besides gorging on pizza and pasta every day) is stuffing my face with a large, soft bread roll overflowing with succulent, fatty meat and crispy, bubbly pork crackling.
Of course, you don’t really have to get on the first plane to Italy to taste a good porchetta – you can easily make it at home! My recipe here is for a pretty basic porchetta (meaning it’s not stuffed with any kind of offal, or meat products other than pork belly and loin) that is stuffed generously with herbs and generously salted, which is all it really needs.
Notes: Step 1 – 5 of this recipe (‘preparing the porchetta’) can be prepared 1 day up to 2 days in advance of cooking the pork.
My recipe below is for a porchetta made with about 2.5 to 3kg of meat that will serve about 6 – 8 people. If you are planning on using a larger piece of meat, count about 20 minutes of extra cooking time for every extra 0.5kg of meat (after turning down the heat after the initial 20 minutes of roasting on high heat).
Porchetta (Italian Pork Roast)
- Rectangular piece of deboned pork belly attached to the loin, or with a separate piece of thin-sliced pork loin of the right length to be rolled up inside the piece of belly, rind attached. Aim for a total weight of about 2.5 - 3kg for this recipe (or read note in post above for larger pieces of meat).
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- About 3 tablespoons minced fresh sage
- About 3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- Zest of one lemon
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 600g carrots, peeled and large ones cut in half lengthwise
MethodPreparing the porchetta (preferably a day ahead of roasting):
- Butterfly the piece of pork: If your piece of meat is quite thick (in some places), ask your butcher to butterfly the piece of pork, or butterfly it yourself to create one long, rectangular flat piece of about 3 - 4 cm thickness (more or less). Don’t be scared to do this step yourself; the goal of butterflying the meat is to create a long, flat, rectangular piece that is easy to handle. It doesn’t really matter if the meat looks a little bit jagged as long as you’ve got a lot of surface to put the herbs on and the meat stays more-or-less in place after rolling it.
- Make a herb paste: Toast fennel seeds in a small frying pan until fragrant for about 2 - 3 minutes. Transfer seeds to a food processor, or mortar and grind along with the fresh sage, rosemary, lemon zest and garlic. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to combine all the herbs (it doesn’t have to be totally smooth).
- Assemble the pork: Rub a generous amount of salt and freshly cracked pepper into the meat side of the pork. Rub the herb-and-spice mixture into the meat as well.
- Rolling: Very tightly roll the pork belly/loin into a log shape with the pork loin more or less in the middle. Tie with kitchen twine, making ties about 5 cm apart.
- If you have time, refrigerate the pork roll uncovered for about 6 hours, or preferably overnight to let the herbs permeate the meat and to let the skin dry out (highly recommended). If you don’t have time, let the meat marinate uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before roasting.
- Before roasting, take out the pork roll and let it come to room temperature for about 1 hour.
- Pre-heat the oven to 220°C.
- Make sure the skin of the porchetta is dry by patting it with some kitchen paper and rub generously with salt. Lay the peeled carrots across the middle of your roasting tray and place the porchetta on top. Place the roasting tin in the center of the preheated oven and roast the meat for 20 minutes to give the crispy skin a good start.
- Reduce the oven’s temperature to 150°C. Continue roasting the meat for 2 – 2.5 hours more (or longer, if you piece of meat is larger (see note in post above). The meat is fully cooked when it has a core temperature of minimum 72°C).
- Note on roasting: If you find that the skin starts to burn during roasting, loosely tent the porchetta with a piece of aluminium foil. However, if for some reason the skin of the porchetta is not yet brown and crispy, remove meat from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 250°C. Place the porchetta back into the middle of the oven and roast until the skin is golden brown and crispy for about 10 – 15 minutes more, but keep an eye on it as it can burn quickly!
- Let the meat rest: When the meat is fully cooked and the skin is a dark golden-brown and crisp, remove porchetta from the oven onto a large cutting board and let it rest for 30 minutes, or until fully cooled before slicing.