Hog roast, Italian-style, is traditionally made with a whole suckling pig stuffed with herbs and slow roasted until soft and succulent and with a crisp, bronzed skin. Perhaps fortunately, few of us have the means to replicate this at home or we’d never find time to do anything else, but a smaller cut is dangerously doable.
Prep 25 min
Chill 8 hr+
Cook 4 hours 30 min
1 x rectangular piece boneless pork belly and 1 x piece pork loin of roughly the right size to be rolled up inside, skin left on – how much each piece weighs depends on the shape, but aim for a total weight of about 3½-4kg
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
50g garlic (about 10 cloves)
30g sea salt flakes
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or thyme leaves
1 tbsp lard or olive oil, at room temperature
200ml white wine (optional)
1 Choose your meat wisely
Though you can make porchetta from a single cut of boned pork belly or shoulder, a combination of fatty belly and lean, tender loin – with the skin left on the belly for maximum crisp – offers the best of both worlds. You’ll probably need to go to a butcher to make sure you get pieces of the right shape.
2 A note on portion control
Because the slice of belly has to be large enough to be rolled around the loin, it’s hard to make porchetta in small quantities, so if that’s a problem, cut it in half once assembled and freeze one piece to cook at a later date. Leftovers also make truly excellent sandwiches.
3 Grind the spices and garlic
Briefly heat the fennel seeds and chilli flakes, if using, in a dry frying pan until they smell toasty, then crush both to a powder.
Peel the garlic cloves and crush them, too; I add them to the mortar with the spices, though you could use a knife or a garlic crusher, if you prefer.
4 Add the herbs and season
Add the salt and chopped herbs (I prefer rosemary here, but you might consider thyme, sage, wild fennel or even flat-leaf parsley) to the spices and garlic …
… then mix in the soft lard or oil until you have a paste.
If you’re not using chilli, add a very generous grinding of black pepper.
5 Rub the paste into the meat
Unroll the pork belly and lay it skin side down on a clean surface.
Score the flesh all over with a sharp knife, being careful not to cut all the way through, then use your hands to rub the seasoning paste into the meat.
(Tip: if your hands still smell garlicky after washing, rub them with a cut lemon.)
6 Roll and tie
Place the piece of loin on top, at one end of the belly, with its longer side parallel to the shorter side of the belly, then roll up the belly tightly around it until it’s encased.
Secure it at roughly 5cm intervals, preferably with butcher’s string, though ordinary kitchen string will also work.
7 Chill to dehydrate
Put in a roasting tin and leave uncovered in the fridge for at least eight hours, to dehydrate the skin and encourage crisp crackling. Take out of the fridge an hour before cooking, and pat the skin dry with kitchen paper.
8 Roast the porchetta …
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. If you have a rack for your roasting tin, put the meat on that before putting the tin in the oven. Either way, roast it for four hours, then turn the oven up as high as it will go and roast for another 30 minutes, or until the crackling is golden brown (keep an eye on it, though, so it doesn’t burn).
9 … then rest for half an hour
Take out of the oven and leave to rest uncovered for 30 minutes. If you want a gravy, lift the meat and rack out of the tray, skim off the fat from the cooking juices, then add the wine, put the tray on a medium heat and stir until reduced to your liking. Season to taste. Slice the meat and serve, preferably in soft rolls.