Pork Belly “Porchetta”

Porchetta Sandwich with Salsa Verde and Verdicchio

Porchetta, the real deal, served off the back of trucks and at food festivals, is one of the great food delights of Italy. Traditional porchetta originated in the Lazio region of Italy but is now available all over Italy and made with unique local recipes and ingredients.

The basic idea is to take a whole pig that’s been dressed and deboned, fill it with spices and ground meats, roll it up into a spiral, and spit roast it for hours until the skin is crispy. It’s then sliced and served on a crusty local bread with perhaps Italian salsa verde. There’s nothing better than pairing this with an ice cold Italian beer or a crisp Italian white wine like Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi!

Making a home version of this wonderful roast in America is difficult but not impossible. I’ve seen plenty of recipes that have you start with skin-on pork belly, which would give you that crispy skin. Unfortunately, skin-on pork belly is difficult to come by. Instead, pork belly without the skin is easily found at Korean and other Asian markets. If you have a good butcher to work with, all the better.

This recipe takes at least 2 days to prepare so start a little early. Some cold porchetta sitting in the fridge is a very nice thing to have for a quick lunch or an afternoon snack.

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Pork Belly “Porchetta”


Ingredients

Scale
  • Approx. 3lb skinless pork belly
  • 6 sprigs of rosemary, leaves removed from stems
  • 6 peeled cloves garlic, divided
  • 1 tbsp fennel seed
  • 1 tbsp course salt
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 fennel bulb

Instructions

  1. Lay the pork belly, fat down, on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, make a wide cross-hash pattern on the pork meat.
  2. In a spice grinder, add the rosemary, 4 garlic cloves, fennel seed, salt and pepper. Grind until you have a thick paste. Add about 1/4 cup olive oil and mix further in the spice grinder to make a rub. You want enough rub to work into the knife slices of the pork so add more herbs and olive oil as needed.
  3. Rub the mixture on to the prepared pork belly and work into the slices. Move to a sheet pan and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
  4. Refrigerate at least overnight and up to 3 days.
  5. When ready to prepare, remove the pork from the refrigerator and let warm up at room temperature for 1 hour. This will make it easier to roll.
  6. Slice the fennel bulb into thin slices and place in a pot with a lid. Smash the 2 remaining garlic cloves and add to the pot. Fill with water to just cover the fennel. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until the fennel is very soft. Let cool.
  7. Preheat the oven to 275ºF.
  8. Fish out the fennel from the pot with your hands and squeeze most of the water out. Spread evenly over the pork. Discard the simmered garlic but retain the fennel water to use to baste the pork.
  9. Now comes the part where you need a friend to help you roll up the pork belly and secure it. Depending on the length and width of the pork you have, you’ll need to figure out which edge makes the most sense to start with. Start with the shorter edge but if that’s too difficult to make a complete a complete roll, use the other edge.
  10. Once you have a roll in your 2 hands, ask your assistant to tightly tie one edge with twine and then tightly wrap the whole roll with twine as shown in the picture. Secure the end with a final knot. Push any filling that fell out back into the center of the roll.
  11. Place the roll seam side down in a glass baking dish. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the pork roll and rub all over the meat. Pour 1 cup of dry white Italian wine over the pork roll.
  12. Slow roast in the oven, occasionally checking the center with a meat thermometer until the pork roll reaches 150ºF. The roasting pan will dry out during the roasting so check frequently and baste the roast with the fennel water and the accumulated juices.
  13. When the roast reaches an internal temperature of 150ºF, crank the oven up to 500ºF.  Carefully monitoring the roast, roast at this high heat until the outer fat is nicely browned. Carefully remove the oven and let cool to remove temperature.
  14. Move the roast to a cutting board and snip off the twine with scissors.
  15. At this point you can serve the roast immediately or place in a sealed container and cool in the refrigerator overnight. The taste will improve the next day.
  16. Thinly slice and serve on crusty bread as a sandwich dressed with traditional Italian salsa verde.

Notes

Special equipement:

  • Spice grinder
  • Kitchen twine
  • Sheet pan
  • Meat thermomoter 
  • A friend to help
  • Glass roasting dish

Join the Conversation

  1. Yum! Porchetta is one of the things I most miss about Italy. This actually doesn’t sound too terribly difficult to make at home—may give it a whirl for 4th of July…

    1. Let us know how it comes out Frank! And a very happy summer and 4th to you!

  2. Great spices! Thank you, that was relatively easy and you are right that skinless is the only option around here






    1. Thanks so much!!

  3. Kathleen Hall says:

    So question is if I can find skin on, basically same recipe. I am trying to remember my grandfather. He poured wine over it and basted with garlic water.






    1. Yes, same basic recipe. It may not get as crispy without the skin. I love the idea of pouring wine over it. That sounds great! Joe

  4. This is a great recipe, but I see recipes that have a pice of loin inside, what’s the tradicional way?

    1. Aldo.. this is a bit complicated. In Italy, the traditional way is to take a whole pig body, remove the guts and bones, season it with A LOT of herbs, tie it and slow roast till cooked and the skin is crispy. So anything a home cook does is an approximation. My thinking is pork loin is really lean (especially on pork in the US) so it’s going to dry out when cooked very long so that’s why I like just using pork belly. However, my local butcher shop sells porchetta with the loin attached ready to cook. Since pork is cheap, I’d try it both ways and see what you like better…

      Good luck! Joe

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