A new Sunday roast idea… and simple.
Porchetta – an Italian classic; it’s simple and all about the ingredients.
PREP TIME: 10 mins + one overnight in the fridge
COOKING TIME: 3 – 4 hrs slow cooking
IDEAL FOR: one-pot meal, family, crowd-pleaser, picnics
WINE MATCH: Suzie (Michael Sutton’s Cellar) has a white and a red suggestion for the porchetta. If you’re feeling like a crisp Italian white, then try the Lenotti (£12) with floral & fruity aromas that will match well with the herbs in the porchetta.
Fancy a red, check out the Chianti Classico Retromarcia with its ripe succulent cherry flavours.
Porchetta (pronounced por- ketta) – what is it?
It’s an Italian roast pork dish and literally means ‘little pig’.
In Italy, it’s meant to be a whole roasted suckling pig, cooked over a fire pit until beautifully tender.
But now, it usually refers to the pork belly and loin.
Traditionally, it’s flavoured with loads fennel, rosemary and some chilli flakes.
Porchetta – an Italian classic but where does it originate?
It originated in the central region of Umbria which grows plenty of fennel, hence the stuffing flavours.
But can be found all throughout Italy, especially Lazio… which grows rosemary really well.
You can see the pattern here.
The porchetta cut
The cut used for porchetta is the belly with the ribs removed and attached to the loin.
It’s not a cut you’ll often find in the butchers but they will sort it for you if you ask.
Otherwise, lots of recipes use the rectangle boneless pork belly.
Or, if you want to go for it, buy the pork belly and a pork loin (which you roll up into the pork belly)
Fennel pollen vs fennel seeds
I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of fennel pollen.
But I’ve always been a huge fan of fennel seeds and pork together.
But there is a difference.
So it’s good to know what’s what, as you may see fennel pollen mentioned in varying porchetta recipes.
The fennel plant
And the mighty liquorice flavoured fennel plant is one of a handful of plants that produce both a herb and a spice.
What sets fennel pollen a part; fennel pollen…
- are the tiny dry heads of the wild fennel flower.
- have a sweeter, more intense taste so you only need a small amount of fennel pollen compared to fennel seeds.
- is one of the world’s most expensive spices because it’s labour intensive to harvest – a bit like saffron.
If you don’t have fennel pollen (/it’s expensive), you can toast fennel seeds lightly, then grind them to a powder (sift the bigger bits out of you want) and use as a substitute.
(Want more info on other spices? Check out my essential guide to spices & pairing with food, here)
Prepping porchetta the day before
You need to prep the cut the evening before.
But don’t worry, it’s not a lot of work but I thought I’d break down the basics of what’s involved.
First, and as always, bring the pork to room temperature.
Tip 1 – prep the cut
- Prep the cut – you may need to butterfly the pork a little more if you have a belly and loin attached.
- Or, trim the loin (if it’s a separate cut) to fit on the belly – just place on top of the belly flesh, widthways, and check it will roll up together nicely, otherwise, trim the loin so it does.
- With the pork belly, skin facing down, pat the belly flesh dry and lightly score 2 cm diagonal cuts so you can rub the stuffing paste into it for maximum flavour.
Tip 2 – prep the stuffing paste
- Does your recipe ask for fennel pollen? Don’t worry – just do as I’ve suggested above – toast and grind fennel seeds.
- Make the stuffing paste as per the recipe and massage into the belly flesh.
Tip 3 – roll, tie & leave overnight
- Learn how to do a butcher’s knot – check out ‘Learn how to tie up a porchetta with gennaro contaldo‘
- Roll up the pork (with the stuffing paste massaged in) tightly and tie.
- Pop in the fridge, uncovered, overnight.
Cooking weight and timings
You can’t make good porchetta with a small cut.
So you need to think, bigger is better.
And don’t worry, porchetta is even better the next day cold.
Slice it up and have it in a fresh roll – delicious!
Based on the oven at 160°C
- 2 hours 45 minutes (1.5kg)
- 3 hours, 45 minutes (2.5kg)
- 5 hours, 45 minutes (3.5kg)
For the perfect crackling uncover the porchetta 10 minutes before the finish and turn up the heat of the oven.
And don’t forget… rest your pork for 20 mins before carving.
What’s your favourite pork stuffing. Leave me a comment.
Porchetta – an Italian classic
- 3 kg pork belly attached to the loin or 2.5kg pork belly (boneless) + 600g pork loin
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 1 large bulb of garlic
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 1 pinch of chilli flakes
- 1 lemon, zested
- 2 tbsp white wine
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 500 ml water
Prep the evening before you want to cook
- In a hot pan (no oil) toast the chilli flakes and fennel seeds until fragrant – approx 30 secs. Then put into a pestle and mortar with the garlic (peeled), salt, pepper, white wine and herbs and grind well and into a paste.
- (*if you have the belly and the loin separate, check this next step out:… Trim the loin: Place the pork belly skin-side down and lay the loin across the width and trim the loin down to size so it rolls up neatly.)
- Now, place the pork skin-side down and lightly score (approx 2 cm) the belly flesh in a diagonal pattern so you can massage the paste into the meat to give maximum flavour.(if you have the loin separate, simply lay the trimmed loin back on the belly once the paste has been massaged into it)Now, roll up tightly and tie up with butcher’s string – see blog for video in how to tie a butchers knot.Leave in the fridge, uncovered overnight to help dry the skin (*you can sprinkle the skin with some salt to help dry it but this is optional)
Day of cooking
- Bring the pork to room temperature.Preheat the oven to 160°C/320 F.Place the pork on a wire rack, over an oven tray and pour in the 500 ml of water then place in the centre of oven. Keep checking it frequently and if the water has evaporated then add more. Cook for approx 3 hours 45 minutes (see blog for timings vs weight). If you want more crispier skin, then turn up the heat for the last five mins of cooking.Rest for 20 mins then serve (and any leftovers, have cold slices in a fresh roll the next day)