Porchetta, pork roast stuffed with rosemary, sage, fennel and lots of garlic, is the glorious Italian pig on a spit. I don’t go the whole hog but prepare it with pork collar, the easiest cut to handle.
How to pronounce 'porchetta'?
Porchetta is usually shockingly mispronounced, like bruschetta: it isn’t porch, it’s pork, all right? It means ‘little pig’ and is the equivalent of English hog roast and Greek lamb roast – with the small difference of the latter being lamb.
It’s not just mispronounced outside Italy - it’s also often overstuffed. I’ve seen recipes involving breadcrumbs or even bacon - pig stuffed with pig or a go at reconstruction? For some reason, the English imagine it’s some kind of elaborate, fancy roast dish while in reality it’s pig. Half a pig. On a spit.
Which cut for porchetta?
Thus, also the discussion which pork cut makes the best porchetta is as moot as it’s academic: all of it. So, if you choose to cook at home a miniaturised porchetta - that will be porchettina perhaps? - it doesn’t matter which cut you go for as they are all there in the original.
But I personally prefer the fattier cuts – if presented with the whole hog (ha!), I’d go towards the belly and the neck (also, and technically more correct, known as collar) leaving the loin to those who like it lean and dry.
What is porchetta stuffed with?
And as I said above, there’s usually too much going on inside. The classic as classics tend to be is simple: herbs, whichever you prefer, often as not rosemary and sage plus lots of garlic; that’s where Samin Nosrat and I agree completely.
The seasoning however looks gorgeous if it’s swirled within the roast, and that’s where your butcher’s or your own butchering skills come into action.
It really isn’t hard as long as your knife is sharp: imagine the herby swirl in the end result and try cutting into the meat along that spiral line. Pork collar is handy because where the bone is removed, it’s the start of the flappy bit and you can continue the incision from there. See the video below.
Porchetta should be roasted wrapped in foil for 45 minutes at full blast of the oven. Afterwards it needs to be carefully unwrapped, sat back on the roasting rack and return to the, now much lower, oven. The second roasting takes an hour per a kilogram of the meat.
It isn’t and shouldn’t be meltingly tender like pulled pork: it is, remember, usually served cold as charcuterie or in sandwiches so the meat must keep its shape. And, of course, to look pretty!