(with Bay’s Pork Belly)
This is one of the top three best things I’ve ever made. The recipe is a mash-up of multiple recipes I found, combining what I thought would be the best seasonings and techniques to get the signature crispy outer shell and tender, juicy meat. The flavors are so full and rich – it’s a perfectly balanced roast with herbaceous heat from the pan-toasted pepper and fennel seeds and is a show-stopper sandwich for game day. (But you have to prep a few days in advance!)
I bought my pork belly at Bay Food Market here in Lancaster, Ohio and, as always, got amazing quality meat and friendly service at the butcher counter.
Porchetta is actually sold as a cold sandwich in the region of Italy where it comes from but my favorite preparation is hot (after a light rest) from the oven. Porchetta is juicy thanks to the cut of meat and can actually deliver big flavor without need of any condiments. Some like to add a splash of chimichurri sauce, red pepper or garlic aioli. Served on a roll or like a steak, the perfect side is Yukon Gold baby potatoes, pan-roasted in the drippings right after the meat comes out of the oven.
How much time does it take? Prep time is about an hour or so. You can allow it to season in the fridge from 6 hours up to three days – the longer the fridge time, the deeper the flavor. Roasting is about 2-1/2 – 3-1/2 hours for a 7-8 lb. pork belly and a meat thermometer is recommended. I used the convection setting on my oven so my time leaned to the lower amount of hours. Check internal temp for 160-degrees and you’re done! It’s an adventure worth having!
Get yourself to Bay Food Market today and ask for a pork belly – they’ll even give you some butcher’s string!
7 – 8 lb. pork belly, skin-on (see additional notes in Tips & Riffs)
¼ C. olive oil
¼ C. chopped fresh rosemary
¼ C. chopped fresh fennel fronds
¼ C. chopped fresh sage
10 garlic cloves, ground into paste
1 T. + 2 tsp. rosemary salt
1 T. black peppercorns
1 T. fennel seeds
1 T. crushed red pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
Butcher’s string to tie the roast
Yukon Gold Baby Potatoes for roasting in pan drippings
ServingsA 7 - 8 lb. pork belly will deliver about 12 - 14 hearty sandwich slices
Prep the pork belly
Place the belly, meat side up, on your counter.
Make diagonal scoring cuts, about ½ inch deep and 1-inch apart.
Do the same in the opposite diagonal direction so you end up with diamond-shaped scoring across the meat side of the belly.
Flip over the belly and do the same on the skin side – be careful not to cut through to the meat side. You just want to open up the skin so it can become as crispy as possible.
When all scoring is done, flip the belly so the meat side is up again.
Prep the seasoning
Toast peppercorns and fennel seeds for 5 minutes in a pan. Allow to cool then grind together either in a food processor, grinder or using a mortar & pestle.
Crush the garlic cloves and grind into a paste.
Mix the garlic paste into the olive oil.
Stir the dry seasonings into the garlic olive oil. (Don’t add the fresh chopped herbs.)
Spread ¾ of the seasoning paste onto the meat side of the belly, being sure to rub into the scoring cuts, not just on top of the meat.
Sprinkle the chopped fresh herbs and finely-zested lemon rind across the seasoned, meat side of the belly.
Roll the belly
The belly was likely presented to you in a rectangular shape. You want as much of the skin exposed to heat, rather than rolled inside the roll, so it’s recommended that you roll from the long side, rather than short. If your pan is too short to accommodate a long roll, you can cut the roll in half once it’s been fully prepped and tied. (You can even freeze ½ the roll at this point to defrost and roast at another time!)
Place lengths of butcher’s string under the belly in 1-inch intervals, running from one long side to the other. Roll the belly starting from the long side. Tie the strings firmly to hold the roll intact, starting with the string in the middle of the roll as your first tie then work your way, tying each string. Spread the remaining garlic oil seasoning mixture over the outside of the roll, rubbing into the scoring cuts in the skin. You can also sprinkle a bit more rosemary salt over the outside of the roll to your taste.
Season overnight (or longer)
Wrap the roll(s) tightly in plastic wrap and place in a plastic bag (to prevent smells in your fridge). Place in the refrigerator to allow the seasonings to infuse the meat, at least 6 hours but preferably overnight. You can allow the seasoning to go up to three days in the fridge – more flavor develops the longer the seasoning time.
Pre-heat the oven to 425.
Take the meat out of the refrigerator and bring to room temperature – roughly one hour.
Roast uncovered at 425 degrees for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes, drop the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting for another 45 minutes. At the end of this second roasting period, pull out the pan and baste the porchetta with rendered fat from the pan.
Drop the oven temperature again, this time to 300 degrees, and continue roasting for another (final) 45 minutes. The good news about porchetta is that it’s really hard to dry out this meat – it’s being almost constantly bathed in its own fat.
Stop roasting when internal temperature reaches 160 degrees – you may want to check at 30 minutes in the final (third) round of roasting.
If your exterior is not looking crispy or browned enough, drain off most of the rendered fat, crank up the oven to 450-degrees and place the roast back in until it meets your spec. Using the broiler is an option, too.
When roasting is finished, allow the cooked porchetta to rest for 15 – 30 minutes.
Porchetta is served as a sandwich on a crusty roll or ciabatta. Condiments can be chimichurri, garlic mayonnaise, red pepper aioli – or a combination of those. The roasted meat is flavorful and tender enough that it can even be enjoyed without condiments.
Tips & Riffs
To make the pan-roasted Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-2 inch chunks/halves and parboil potatoes until they’re just starting to soften (about 10 – 15 minutes). Drain and smash them lightly in the roasting pan. Sprinkle with rosemary salt to your taste and put in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. Take out and toss around. Continue roasting until they’re as crispy as you’d like.
If you’re making this for sandwiches, any hardy roll will work. Ciabatta rolls are very good.