This Porchetta recipe is everything you hope it will be. Insanely delicious, incredibly easy, and impossibly simple. The fact that your family and friends will literally salivate the second it hits the table is a bonus. You may even find yourself becoming an overnight internet sensation from all of the photos and videos they’ll be sharing of it online. Seriously, it’s a showstopper.
What is Porchetta?
Porchetta is a classic, Italian preparation of slowly roasting a deboned and stuffed pork with the skin and fat still on. It is believed to have originated in central Italy, most likely in a Roman province. Traditionally, the pig is roasted whole, but it has since become more popular to just roast the belly of the pork.
Porchetta recipes vary depending on the region and household. Sometimes a pork belly is roasted with the loin still attached on one side. Other times a separate loin is placed in the middle of the belly, which is great if you want to have more of a meat-to-fat ration. And other times just the belly is roasted on its own.
It’s not as common to find pork belly with the loin attached in Toronto, where I live. Neither are whole slabs of pork belly. Chances are you’ll have to seek out a butcher or specialty store that can cater to your porchetta needs. If you’re in the GTA, you can visit my favourite butcher, Mario’s Meats in Woodbridge.
How to Season Porchetta
When it comes to flavour, Porchetta is most often seasoned and rubbed with a mixture of herbs, spices, and citrus. There are, of course, a number of different variations depending on the region or family recipe.
The usual suspects include fennel seed, garlic, citrus and fresh, woodsy herbs, such as sage, rosemary, and thyme. Variations will include things like vin santo, an Italian dessert wine, dried fruit, such as raisins, or even browned meat, such as sausage, which is used to stuff the porchetta. I’ve even seen recipes that call for a breadcrumb mixture.
What You Need for this Easy Porchetta Recipe
In this Porchetta recipe, I have kept things very simple. Not only to prevent the flavours from overpowering the pork, but also to make it as accessible as possible without losing the quintessential taste.
- Pork Belly: For the best taste and texture, look for a pork belly with the skin-on. As the fat renders and bastes the meat inside the porchetta, the skin will get crispy and crunchy. It’s truly a thing of beauty.
As mentioned, if you can find a pork belly with the loin attached and want more meat in your porchetta, then go for it! The recipe stays exactly the same in terms of ingredients, temperature and cooking time. The only difference is that you should butterfly the loin itself to increase the surface area, allowing more of the seasonings to penetrate the meat.
- Fennel Seed: For best flavour, lightly toast some fennel seed in a dry skillet for a couple of minutes before grinding it fresh in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Buying pre-ground fennel is an option if that’s all you can find. I’ve even seen a recipe that calls for using fennel pollen, which can get very expensive, very quickly.
- Fresh Herbs: Woodsy herbs, such as sage, rosemary and thyme are ideal here because they pair beautifully with the flavour of the pork. Feel free to mix and match as you desire.
- Fresh Garlic: I tend to be a more-is-more kinda guy when it comes to garlic and I make no exception in this easy porchetta recipe. I would say 10 cloves for a 5-pound belly is the bare minimum.
- Citrus Zest: Freshly zested citrus will impart some fruitiness and a tiny bit of acidity. I used a combination of orange and lemon zest here, but lime and grapefruit would also be wonderful. You can also squeeze in a bit of the juice if you so desire. However, keep in mind that you want to keep the skin of the pork as dry as possible before roasting it, so try to keep the juice on the meat only.
If you don’t have one, a microplane rasp grater (aka zester) is a fantastic tool to have.
- Dry Chili Flakes: A touch of chili flakes adds more depth of flavour than it does heat. Keep in mind that in this recipe, I only call for 1 teaspoon for a 5-pound belly. If you want to make it spicy, hit it with an acidic hot sauce or chili oil when serving.
Kitchen Tools You’ll Need
- Wire Rack: Normally, I don’t call out the cooking equipment needed in a recipe, but in this case it’s necessary. A wire rack is absolutely crucial because you want to be able to elevate the pork as it roasts. Otherwise, it will sit in a pool of rendered fat, preventing the skin from getting crispy. Not a good thing.
Just make sure the wire rack you use is oven-safe, because not all are.
- Deep Roasting Dish: Like the wire rack that sits atop it, a deep roasting dish is necessary here to catch any rendered fat as the porchetta cooks. I like to use a roasting dish or casserole dish because, unlike roasting trays, they don’t have handles that stick up. This way, the wire rack can rest flush on the dish.
I also like to add a couple of cups of water to the bottom of the roasting tray to help prevent the rendered fat from scorching as it cooks. The water will also create a humid environment that keeps the pork moist without compromising the crispiness of the skin.
Avoid a rimmed sheet pan because chances are your pork belly will render more fat than the sheet pan can hold. The absolute last thing you want is for hot pork fat to drip all over the bottom of your oven.
- Traeger Grill: If you watch my Porchetta reel or episode of the LBCS (low-budget cooking show), you’ll notice I roasted my porchetta in my Traeger. Traegers work very similar to a convection oven, which is why the instructions for cooking on one are interchangeable here. The difference is they run on wood pellets that impart an amazing wood-fired flavour. If you have a Traeger, this easy porchetta recipe is an absolute must try.
If you try doing this on a conventional grill, you’ll have to setup up a two-zone burner with indirect heat. Otherwise, things will likely burn. Also, unless you’re going to be adding something like wood chips to create smoke, I’d say you’re better off just using your oven for more controlled heat.
Some Thoughts on Scoring the Skin
On my first go, I tested this porchetta recipe by scoring the skin rather deeply. I pierced all the way through to the layer of subcutaneous fat just below the surface of the tough skin. Although scoring the skin will allow for more fat to render out, resulting in a less greasy porchetta, it makes it much more difficult to carve once it’s done cooking. The skin just separates and breaks into shards.
I also found that scoring the skin deeply can result in less skin altogether. Not only because deeply scored skin has a tendency to break apart when carving, but also because depending on the direction you score the belly, there’s a chance there will be less skin altogether.
Let me explain…
If you score the belly parallel to the direction you are rolling it, it loosens the meat and creates more surface area. In turn, the belly becomes much easier to roll. While this definitely makes life easier when it comes time to tying the porchetta with butcher’s twine. it also means that you will have more skin that overlaps into the folds of your porchetta.
Think of the pork belly like a burrito with the skin being the tortilla. The difference is that any pork skin that does not make contact with hot air, will not render or dry out. This will inevitably result in a gelatinous, chewy, chunk of pork skin. Not desirable in the case of this porchetta recipe.
You can, of course, deeply score the skin perpendicular to the direction you intend to roll the belly. Nevertheless, it does not solve the problem of having the skin shatter into pieces when it comes time to carving.
The last thing we want is a greasy porchetta, so scoring is a good idea. Ultimately, you three options:
- Use a sharp paring knife to randomly poke some small holes into the skin. This will let the fat render out and keep the skin intact in most places.
- Using a very sharp knife, lightly score the skin in a cross-hatch pattern. Just be careful not to pierce through to the subcutaneous layer of fat.
- Do both.
Each of these methods will result in a less-greasy, yet very moist and juicy, porchetta with delicious, beautiful, crispy skin.
What to Serve With Porchetta
Some of my absolute favourite side dishes for porchetta are the Garlicky Rapini (a recipe that can be found in The Primal Gourmet Cookbook), some perfectly roasted potatoes and a classic, Italian-style Salsa Verde, a recipe that can also be found in my cookbook.
Leftover porchetta is also incredible when reheated and crisped up in a skillet. It will last around 5 days in the fridge. You can add it to a frittata or serve it with some fried eggs in the morning. For something a bit more indulgent, try making porchetta sandwiches in your favourite bread, gluten-free or otherwise.
Porchetta is the gift that keeps on giving.
Easy Porchetta Recipe – Paleo, Whole30
- roasting dish
- wire rack
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 5- pound boneless skin-on pork belly
- Kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
- 10 garlic cloves finely chopped or grated
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
- Zest of 1 orange
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Add the fennel seeds to a dry skillet and toast until fragrant over medium heat, around 2 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Set aside.
- Place the pork meat side-down and, using a very sharp knife, lightly score the skin in a cross-hatch pattern. Then, flip the pork so that it’s skin side-down and score the meat in a cross-hatch pattern, slicing around one quarter of an inch deep.
- Keeping the pork skin side-down, liberally season the meat with salt and pepper, then evenly distribute the ground fennel, chili flakes, garlic, sage, rosemary, thyme, orange zest and lemon zest. Using your hands, massage the seasonings into the crevices of the score marks.
- Tightly roll the pork so that it’s seam side-down and skin side-out and tie with butcher’s twine. Be sure to trim off any outer skin that overlaps as you roll the pork into a log. Skin that is not exposed to hot air will not dry out or get crispy.
- Line a sheet pan with a wire rack and place the pork on top, seam side-down. Season the skin with salt and refrigerate, uncovered, overnight or up to 48 hours.
- When ready to cook, preheat your oven or Traeger Grill to 350F. Transfer the wire rack and pork onto a 4”-deep roasting pan. Place in the lower half of the oven, or middle of the Traeger, and pour 2 cups of water into the roasting pan. Cook until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat reaches 160F, around 3 hours. If the water evaporates during the cooking process, add more.
- Remove the porchetta, tent it with foil, and increase the heat of the oven or Traeger to 500F. Pour the rendered fat into a sauce pan and place it over medium-high heat until it reaches 375F. Baste the porchetta with the hot fat and return it to the oven until the skin is blistered and crispy, around 25 minutes.
- Transfer the porchetta to a carving board, tent it with foil and let it rest 30 minutes before carving into 1/8-inch slices with a very sharp knife. Serve with condiments of choice, such as the Classic Salsa Verde from The Primal Gourmet Cookbook.