I don’t remember exactly where I was in Italy when I first tried porchetta, but the taste is unforgettable. An in-the-know travel companion spotted a food truck selling porchetta and pulled us toward it, saying, “You have to try this.”
I will be forever grateful. The warm slivers of pork belly rolled around an herby filling were simultaneously crispy from the charred skin and tender from long, slow roasting. Piled high with juices dribbling, the porchetta could barely stay within the confines of two slices of fresh bread.
Porchetta (pronounced por-KET-uh) roughly means “little pig” in Italian. The dish is mainly associated with the Lazio and Umbria regions and is traditionally made with a deboned whole suckling pig stuffed with liver and herbs and slow-roasted over a wood fire. Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies recognized its cultural relevance by naming it a Traditional Agricultural Food Product.
Today, porchetta is a popular street food found throughout the country. It’s made from pork belly—the same cut as bacon—rubbed with spicy fennel seeds, lemon zest and rosemary, with regional twists on additional herbs and spices.
While making this “bacon roast” looks intimidating, it’s not. A foodie friend from the UK shared her go-to recipe, which served as the base for my culinary adventure. For me, the most difficult parts were finding the boneless pork belly (thank you, Costco!), rolling it up and waiting the 24-48 hours to start cooking it. A 10-lb. cut rolled lengthwise yields enough for two roasts. After rolling and tying with kitchen twine, you can freeze one for later. Many recipes omit the liver (I did—not a fan) or stuff it with pork tenderloin along with the seasonings. It takes about two hours to get the internal temperature of the meat up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit in a 300-degree oven. Then keep cooking for another couple of hours before turning up the heat to 500 to crisp up the skin.
You can try my recipe here: https://stirringupadventure.com/recipe/italian-style-porchetta-roast/
If you’re looking for an easy, impressive make-ahead centerpiece for a holiday or Sunday dinner, porchetta is it. The leftovers will haunt you from the fridge. Add a handful of chopped pieces to upgrade an omelet or mac-and-cheese. Or keep it simple and reheat for the Best. Sandwiches. Ever.