Warning: this porchetta recipe is intended to feed a whole bunch of hungry people. And still have leftovers. It’s a party recipe, perfect for Christmas, New Year’s or a special birthday. It requires some planning ahead and possibly ordering a specific cut of meat, so this is not an easy weeknight dinner (although the leftovers can provide several days of delicious weeknight dinners). When I last made it, we served 20 people with healthy appetites.
We made scrapelle last week for a big group, which is a really lovely Italian crepe. As amazing as they are, they don’t quite make for a full meal. We needed something to serve as the second course, and porchetta is always a crowd-pleaser. And it did NOT fail this time! If you need some ringing endorsements, I overheard “This is the best pork I have ever eaten” and “I’ve never tried crack, but I imagine it’s something like this pork skin.” The skin is crispy tastes vaguely like the best pork rind you could ever possibly imagine. The pork is tender and rich, laced with roasted garlic, herbs and lemon zest. And it’s really, honestly, not hard to make at all. In fact, if you have to feed a crowd I would say that it’s one of the easiest dishes you can make.
There are a few things you need to keep in mind, however:
-Your average grocery store is probably not going to carry the skin-on pork belly that you need. And that’s really not something you can skip. I can’t really convey just how delicious those crispy, salty bits of golden-brown skin with a thin layer of fat and/or tender pork meat taste. See the “crack” comment above. And if you look at the first photo in the post, you can see the little pieces of skin we were sneaking as the pork rested. A grocery store can usually order the pork for you, or you may be able to find a good butcher in your area who can provide it for you (see more details on what you need in the recipe itself).
-There’s a bit of technique needed in trussing the roast. Here’s a helpful video, but if you really aren’t interested in trying your hand at trussing, just tie together lengths of string spaced a few inches apart.
-A good thermometer is key. There’s really no way to know when the inside is done without one.
I am SO SORRY about these pictures, you guys. I was so busy the night we made the meal that I didn’t get a chance to take good photos of the final product, so a few iPhone images will have to do! And there were hardly any leftovers, so my next-day photos were fairly limited and not nearly as impressive as they should be. Because this is an impressive dish.
Oh, and the parsley & caper sauce had turned a less-appetizing color by the time I got around to trying to photographing that, so I didn’t even bother. But trust me that it’s a really lovely, vibrant green sauce. It cuts through the richness of the pork beautifully, without overpowering the meat. You don’t NEED it, but it adds great balance to the dish.
What should you do with the leftovers? Make sandwiches with thinly sliced pieces of meat, topped with mozzarella, roasted red peppers and smear of the parsley sauce. Put porchetta in your preferred pasta (say that 3 times fast!). Add it to a calzone. Put it on top of a pizza, in an omelette, or in your scrambled eggs. So many options . . .
Update: I made this again for New Year’s Day dinner. This time with a rosemary and sage pesto that was even better than the original sauce. And we destroyed almost all of a 15.5 lb porchetta between about 25 people. It was impressive!
One Year Ago: Breaded & Fried Zucchini with Tomato Dipping Sauce. Oh man, I need to make this again.
- 5 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- 1.5 tablespoons sea salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 tablespoon to 1 tablespoon fennel seed (we love fennel in our family, so I used a full tablespoon)
- 2 teaspoons ground dried coriander
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- zest from 1 lemon
- 3/4 cups olive oil
- 3-4 lbs pork tenderloin (I used 2 thin tenderloins to get to just under 4 lbs, but you may be able to find 1 big one)
- 1 large slab of skin-on pork belly (also called a "fresh side" by my butcher!). It needs to be roughly as wide as the pork tenderloin and long enough to wrap around the tenderloin and meet on the other side. Mine weighed about 8 lbs and was just under 2 inches thick)
- a large roasting pan
- butcher's twine
- a meat thermometer
- Combine all of the ingredients for the herb paste into a small bowl.
- Place the pork belly skin-side up on a cutting board. Use a very sharp knife to cut a crosshatch pattern into the skin, cutting all the way through the skin to the layer of fat/meat below.
- Flip the pork belly over and spread 3/4 of the herb paste onto the belly side (not the skin side). Place the tenderloin on the belly and wrap the pork belly around it, using the butcher's twine to secure it into place. The skin side should be facing out.
- Rub the remaining herb paste on the outside of the pork skin.
- Cover and place in the refrigerator for 10-12 hours (you could probably leave it for longer if you needed to).
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Add the pork and cook until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F, which should take 4-5 hours. Leave the pork in the oven and raise the temperature to 450 degrees F. Roast until the skin is crisp and deep golden brown, 30-40 minutes from when you initially raised the temperature.
- Remove from the oven at let rest for 15 minutes. Slice thinly and serve with parsley and caper sauce (recipe below) and herb & garlic roasted potatoes. Or make sandwiches with ciabatta rolls.
- Use leftovers in carbonara, on pizza, in salads, on sandwiches or in omelettes. The possibilities are endless!
- Serves about 20 people with healthy appetites.
- 3 cups flat parsley, most of the stems removed
- 1/2 cup capers, rinsed (I used a 3.5 oz jar)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you would prefer a spicier sauce)
- Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until mixture forms a smooth paste. Serve with porchetta or spread on the bread for a porchetta sandwich.
- This cuts the richness of the porchetta with bright parsley, salty capers, acidic lemon and spicy pepper.
- This sauce would also be delicious on pork chops, shrimp, chicken, salmon or halibut.