Porchetta is an Italian classic usually made with a suckling pig and served at Christmas-time, weddings and large family/friends dinners. Our porchetta recipe uses a seasoned pork loin rolled inside of a slab of pork belly. A long slow roast time renders that pork belly into an amazingly moist pork loin center with a crisp, crackling outer pork belly skin.
My Italian cookbook has a porchetta recipe calling for a 35-pound suckling pig!! Holy Moly…that’s a whole lot of pork. You won’t need a suckling pig for this riff on their classic recipe. Try this fun porchetta project and it will be a wonderful main entree for a special dinner.
What is Porchetta?
This amazing roast pork originated in Italy and dates back to before Nero’s days. The Italians prepare a whole, head-on, suckling pig, with a stuffing made of garlic, onions, chopped apples, lots of fresh sage and day-old bread. It is usually cooked in an outdoor brick oven or a spit for six to eight hours. While it roasts it’s party time with music and lots of happy guests. The Italians serve their porchetta with an apple in the pig’s mouth and carve it with a cleaver into large chunks. What a spectacular way to entertain!
How we prepared our Porchetta:
Here in America, we make our porchetta with a thick slab of pork belly rolled around a center-cut pork loin. When roasted and served it may not be as spectacular as the Italian suckling pig but it will make an impressive presentation on your table!
Step 1: Order your pig parts.
You will need about a three-pound center-cut pork loin and a very large rectangular slab of pork belly. The pork belly needs to be large enough to enclose the pork loin when wrapped around the pork loin.
Usually you will not find a pre-cut pork belly that is large enough. Tell your butcher that you intend to roast a porchetta. Ask him to measure and cut the pork belly and a chunk of center-cut, trimmed pork loin to facilitate your plan.
Also ask the butcher to butterfly the pork loin for you. It will be opened like a book and the spice-herb mixture rubbed into the crevices. Our recipe card below gives easy instructions on how to butterfly the pork loin if you would rather do it yourself.
I’m pretty sure that any butcher will be happy to do this for you and it will save you time.
When you are ready to prepare your porchetta, lay the pork belly on a workspace skin side down and place the pork loin on top in the center. Do a trial roll to check for the correct size and get a feel for the process. What you want is to be able to roll the belly up over the loin so the two belly edges meet together. If there is excess belly just trim it off.
Step 2: Mix the Spices and Herbs.
Fennel seeds give the porchetta a unique flavor and toasting them lightly in a skillet brings out even more flavor. Toast them lightly along with a bit of red pepper flakes. Let the spices cool then grind them in a spice grinder, coffee mill or a mortar and pestle. Transfer the spices to a small bowl and mix in the chopped sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, garlic and olive oil. Set the mixture aside while preparing the pork belly.
Step 3: Prepare the pork belly.
Ok, here we go! Lay that slab of pork belly on a work surface, skin side up. The skin is tough so use some pressure. You will be puncturing the entire surface with a lot of holes. I found that a needle-type meat tenderizer is ideal, however, the tip of a sharp paring knife will also do the trick. The punctures should be about 1/8-inch deep and it will allow the fat to escape as it renders from the pork belly. This is what is going to give you that crunchy, crisp skin.
When the skin is completely covered in shallow punctures turn it over so it is flesh side up. With a sharp knife cut a crosshatch pattern about 1/3-inch deep over the flesh. The purpose of this crosshatching is to allow for even roasting. Sprinkle the flesh of the pork belly with salt and pepper. Use clean hands for this and rub it into all the cuts in the crosshatch.
Step 4: Prepare the Pork Loin and assemble the porchetta:
This pork loin is going to be slathered with those bright, savory mix of spices and herbs and taste amazing in the porchetta!
Lay the pork loin on the workspace and open it up like a book. Now, spread that flavor-packed spice/herb mix over the entire surface. Be sure to work it into all the crevices so the flavor will permeate the flesh. Using a microplane, zest the orange peel over the seasoned pork loin.
Next, roll the loin lengthwise, into a tight cylinder and place it on the center of the seasoned pork belly.
Wrap the pork belly around the loin so that the ends of the pork belly meet and fully enclose the pork loin. An extra set of hands can hold the compact roll in place while you use the meat needle and kitchen twine to sew along the edges. If you are doing this without an assistant you can insert long wooden skewers at intervals along the porchetta to hold it in place as you sew up the seam.
Sewing up the Porchetta:
To sew the seam of pork belly closed, for each stitch insert the needle at least 1/4-inch from the edge to ensure it doesn’t pull loose. The skin of the belly is tough and the tip of a knife is helpful to pierce the skin for the needle to enter. Pull the stitches tight to keep the edges of the belly close together. Sew the edges together from end to end.
Tie kitchen twine around the porchetta at 1-inch intervals, keeping the twine pulled tightly. Some folks like to have another wrap going lengthwise around the porchetta to create a tighter package. This would be an optional step but I have found that it is not necessary.
Rub coarse salt over the skin of the porchetta and place the roll on a wire-rimmed baking sheet as this will allow air to circulate around the pork. Set the baking sheet into the refrigerate, uncovered, overnight or up to 2 days to dry out the skin.
Roasting the Porchetta:
Roasted potatoes are an excellent accompaniment to this rich entree. Add the potatoes to the roasting pan during the last hour of the roasting time. If you choose to include this option you will need to set your wire rack over a deeper roasting pan. We used a 2-inch deep roasting pan with the wire rack set on top.
Roasting the porchetta slowly in a low 275° oven will render out the fat from the pork belly and keep the inner loin moist and delicious. Set the oven rack to the lower third position of the oven and transfer the baking sheet/roasting pan with the porchetta into the oven. During the first 40 minutes of the roast time, roll the porchetta 1/4 of a turn every 10 minutes to begin browning the belly skin evenly.
Roast the porchetta for 3 to 3-1/2 hours, turning the pan if it appears to be browning unevenly. Continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer reads 140°F. The outside of the porchetta will be a dark brown and it will be crisp with bubbly, crackly skin. If you like the skin to be more crackly you can turn the oven to 500°F for a couple more minutes.
When the porchetta reaches temperature, remove it from the oven and transfer it to a cutting board to rest for 20-30 minutes. Do not tent the porchetta with foil as that will create steam and soften the crisp, crunchy skin.
To Serve the Porchetta:
While the porchetta is resting you will have time to prepare a salad or the other side dishes. Our porchetta was served with roasted potatoes that we added to the porchetta roasting pan at the last hour of the roasting process. We also included roasted carrots, steamed green beans and a crisp green salad.
Roasting a porchetta is something that is to be enjoyed with family and friends on special occasions. I made this for our son’s 58th birthday at his special request. It is a two-day love- project. If I can do this, you can do it! You will be rewarded with a flavor-packed entree with a crackling, crispy pork rind. Enjoy! ❤️
SOME OTHER RECIPES WE ARE SURE YOU WILL LOVE:
- Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding: Roast beef with Yorkshire Pudding is a British classic, also known as the Sunday Roast. While the beef is resting, bake the Yorkshire Pudding and watch the simple batter magically transform. Serve with a rich beef gravy.
- Butterflied Herb-Roasted Leg of Lamb: The rich, succulent flavor of lamb is enhanced with a herb rub of rosemary, mint and garlic then roasted in a hot oven.
- Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Chicken: These bacon-wrapped stuffed chicken breasts bake up moist, juicy and cheesy. Best of all is that smoky bacon wrapped around each chicken breast! It is crisp, sweet, salty and makes an unbelievably delicious spooning sauce.
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For the Porchetta:
- 1 (3-pound) boneless, center-cut pork loin
- 1 (6-7 pound), rectangular piece fresh pork belly, skin on
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt such as Kosher
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Spice-Herb Rub:
- 3 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon (or up to 1 tablespoon) crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- One large orange
- Needle-type meat tenderizer (optional)
- Kitchen twine
- Meat trussing needle
- Wooden skewers, 6 to 8-inches long (optional)
To Butterfly the Pork Loin:
- Having the butcher butterfly the pork loin will save time for you, here is how to butterfly the pork loin yourself.
- Place the pork loin on a cutting board and slice lengthwise down the center but not completely in half. Press the loin open like a book.
Check for Proper Size:
- Lay the pork belly skin side down on a work space with the short end facing you, place the pork loin on the belly and roll it around the loin. There should be enough belly to enclose the pork loin. If there is excess belly, trim evenly. Unroll the belly and set aside.
For the Pork Belly:
- Lay the pork belly on the work surface, skin side up. With a needle-type meat tenderizer or the tip of a small knife, poke dozens of 1/8-inch deep holes over the entire skin. The skin is tough and will require some pressure to pierce.
- Turn the pork belly over and with a sharp knife, make a 1/3-inch deep crosshatch pattern over the flesh. This will help the roast cook evenly. Sprinkle the flesh side of the pork belly with the salt and pepper, rubbing it into the crosshatch cuts.
Prepare the Spices and Herb Rub:
- In a small skillet set over medium heat, toast the fennel seed and red pepper until fragrant. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then grind the spices in a spice mill or a mortar and pestle.
- Transfer the spices to a small bowl and add the sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, garlic, salt and olive oil. Stir to combine the mixture, set aside.
Prepare the Pork Loin and Assemble the Porchetta:
- Place the pork loin on the work space and open it up like a book. Spread the spice/herb mix over the entire surface. Be sure to work it into all the crevices so the flavor will permeate the flesh. Using a microplane, zest the orange peel over the seasoned pork loin.
- Roll the loin lengthwise, into a tight cylinder and place it on the center of the seasoned pork belly. Beginning at the short end closest to you, wrap the pork belly around the loin into a tight roll to meet at the opposite edge.
Tie the Porchetta:
- With the kitchen twine and a meat needle, sew the bork belly edges along the length of the cylinder to close the pork roll and retain its shape. If necessary use the tip of a paring knife to puncture a starting hole for each stitch. (See Notes) You may need an extra set of hands for this part to keep the pork from unrolling while you sew it up. Long wooden skewers placed through the pork roll will also be helpful to keep the roll intact while sewing the edges. Tie additional twine around the cylinder at 1-inch intervals and trim off any ends of the twine.
- Season the rind with course salt then transfer the pork belly to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, overnight or up to 2 days to dry out the pork belly skin.
To Roast the Porchetta:
- Preheat the oven to 275°F and arrange the oven rack to the lower third position.
- Transfer the porchetta, (still on the rack over the baking sheet) to the oven and roast the porchetta for 3 to 3-1/2 hours, rotating the pan occasionally to keep the browning even, until an instant-read thermometer reads 140°F. *See Notes
- Remove the porchetta from the oven and increase the temperature to 500°F, then transfer the porchetta back to the oven and roast until the pork skin is a deep brown, bubbly and crisp.
- Remove the porchetta to a cutting board and let rest for 30 minutes. Do not tent with foil.
To Serve the Porchetta:
- Remove the stitching and the kitchen twine. Slice the porchetta with a serrated knife into 1/2-inch slices.
- Ask the butcher at the meat counter to butterfly the pork loin for you.
- You will most likely need to order a large rectangular piece of pork belly. Tell the butcher you plan to roast a porchetta so he will cut the pork belly the correct size to enclose the pork loin.
- Increasing the portion of red pepper is optional. When toasting the spices, the red pepper gives off a fragrance that will take your breath away!
- Puncturing the pork belly skin will release the fat as it roasts and will help crisp up the skin.
- The pork skin is tough, making a puncture with the tip of a paring knife will be helpful when inserting the needle for the sewing process.
- Sewing along the seam is optional as the roll can be tied tightly with twine around the porchetta.
- Stitching and tying the kitchen twine around the rolled porchetta without help can be a challenge. Inserting several long skewers through the roll in several places will keep the porchetta from unrolling while you tie the roll with twine.
- A serrated knife is ideal to cut through the crispy skin.
- If you are planning to serve potatoes roasted in the pan drippings you will need a 2-inch roasting pan with the wire rack set over the rim. The potatoes should be added to the pan for the last hour of roasting time and rolled in the drippings after 30 minutes. To do this, remove the porchetta from the oven and set it on a platter. Add the potatoes, and toss in the drippings/fat, season them well and replace the wire rack and porchetta. Continue with the roasting process.
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Serving Size1/2-inch slice
Amount Per Serving Calories 1007 Total Fat 57.4g Saturated Fat 23.6g Trans Fat 0g Cholesterol 270mg Sodium 1.2mg Carbohydrates 1.8g Net Carbohydrates 0g Sugar Alcohols 0g Protein 103.4g