It is a dish associated with celebrations and holidays. In Italy, porchetta is made with a whole pig. The animal is gutted, the body is split and deboned, very generously salted then stuffed aromatics and herbs. Once all the fillings are in place, the deboned body is tied up tightly then the pig is roasted slowly, traditionally in a pit just like the Filipino lechon, until the meat is done and the skin is browned and crisp.
Much as I love the idea of roasting a whole pig, that’s too much pork for four people. To make porchetta, I decided to go with the more practical version — oven-roasted all-belly porchetta. Almost three kilos of pork belly, carefully chosen so that it had just the right amount of fat.
Making porchetta is not difficult. What it requires is patience because the pork requires slow roasting to ensure that the meat gets cooked through. Once cooked, it’s a feast.
- a slab of pork belly, deboned
- 1/4 to 1/3 c. of salt (I used kosher) for a slab of pork belly between 2.5 to 3 kilos (yes, the meat requires a very generous amount of salt)
- 1 tbsp. of cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp. of fennel seeds
- 1 tsp. of cumin seeds
- 1 tsp. of coriander seeds
- 1 tsp. of black peppercorns
- 1 whole head (not a segment but a whole head!) of garlic, peeled and crushed
- fresh herbs (I used parsley, rosemary, tarragon and thyme but you can always go with the combination that you like), enough to spread on the entire pork
- Lay the pork flat on a cutting board, skin side down. Score the meat (i.e., make long shallow cuts), not the skin, the slashes about two inches apart. Score again in the opposite direction so that the slashes criss-cross across the entire surface of the meat.
- Rub the salt and pepper all over the meat, including the skin, pushing the salt and pepper down into the slashes.
- In an oil-free pan, roast the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, cumin and peppercorns until fragrant. Cool a bit then grind with the garlic. A mortar and pestle works best because you’re aiming for a coarse grind.
- Rub the mixture on the pork, pushing the spices down the slashes. Roll the pork, wrap tightly in cling film and keep overnight in the fridge.
- The next day is roasting day. Preheat the oven to 450F.
- Unwrap the pork and lay flat, skin side down.
- Roughly chop the herbs and spread on the pork.
- Roll the pork as tightly as you can. Don’t worry if some of the herbs fall off; you can push them all back in later.
- Tie up the pork using kitchen twine. You don’t have to do it the professional way with the watchamacallit French knots. I used several pieces of twine, all of the same length, and tied the pork, starting at the middle, until I had a neatly tied slab of meat. Then, whatever herbs had fallen off, I just pushed back in.
- Place a roasting rack on a tray (you can line the tray with potatoes to catch the drippings) then lay the neatly tied pork on the rack.
- Roast at 450F for 20 minutes then lower the oven temperature to 300F. Continue roasting for about three hours. I follow the rule of 20 minutes of cooking for every pound of meat. You can use that as a guide or use a meat thermometer.
- Thirty minutes before cooking time is up, turn up the oven temperature to as high as it can go (mine goes up to 500F). This is the part when you brown the pork skin to make it crisp.
- Take the porchetta out of the oven, cover loosely with a sheet of foil and let the meat rest for about 20 minutes.
- Transfer the porchetta to a cutting board, cut and pull off the strings and start slicing and cutting.
- There are so many ways to serve porchetta. In fact, because it took us two days to finish all that pork, I served it in several ways. First, the meat was diced and used as tortilla filling. Second, I braised cubed porchetta and potatoes in cream. Third, I added cubed porchetta to a vegetable stir fry. Fourth, thin slices of porchetta became sandwich filling. Fifth… back to tortillas again.
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Cooking time: 4 hour(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8 to 10