If you’re looking for an easy, impressive roast, porchetta is just what you need.
Golden brown crackling, juicy meat, and fresh herbs are all tied up into a neat roll. Savory, delicious, and a mix of crunchy and tender, porchetta is everything you’ve ever wanted in a roasted pork dish.
What is porchetta?
Porchetta is a classic Italian roast pork. The word “porchetta“ literally means little pig in Italian. Traditionally, an entire deboned pig, rolled up with fresh herbs, roasts over an open wood fire. The resulting roast is incredibly savory and delicious. It’s beloved all across Italy, served at celebrations, as a main dish at home, and as street food.
In North America, most porchetta is a cut of pork that consists of slab pork belly still attached to pork loin. It emulates the different cuts you find in a whole pig roast porchetta. You’ll also see porchetta made with pork belly and tenderloin or all pork belly.
How to make porchetta
- Make two spice rubs. Toast fresh rosemary needles and whole fennel seeds in a dry pan over low heat until fragrant and toasty. Remove from the heat and chop into a rough spice mix. Mix together with flakey sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Divide the spice mix in two, then add fresh lemon zest and freshly chopped flat leaf parsley to one portion.
- Prep the pork belly. Scoring the meaty side of pork belly with a sharp knife helps it roll up into a neat, even log. Place the pork belly skin side down on a large cutting board and lightly score on a diagonal, about 1/4 of an inch deep, with lines 1 inch apart. Rotate the knife 90 degrees and score lines again, 1 inch apart, to create a diamond pattern.
- Season the meat. Rub the spice mix with the lemon zest and flat leaf parsley into the meaty part of the pork belly, making sure to rub into the scored cuts.
- Tie the porchetta. Lay out several pieces of string on the cutting board, 1-2 inches apart. Lay the pork belly on top of the string and place the tenderloin (if using), into the middle of the pork belly. If needed, trim the tenderloin in length so it fits neatly inside the belly. Roll the pork up tightly and use the strings to tie into a tight, neat roll.
- Season the skin. Use the remaining spice mix and evenly rub onto the skin of the pork belly.
- Roast. Place the rolled porchetta, seam side down, into a deep roasting rack. Slow roast, basting every so often, in a low oven, until the pork is tender, juicy, and yielding.
- Render. Blast the heat on high to render out some of the fat in the skin to create a crispy, crunchy, golden crackling.
- Rest. When the crackling is deeply golden and burnished, remove the porchetta from the oven. Let your golden porchetta rest for a minimum of 15 minutes. Resting will let the juices redistribute and remain in the roast. Enjoy!
- pork belly – a 3 to 3.5 lb square or rectangular slab of skin on pork belly is large enough to roll around a small pork tenderloin. You can also make an all belly porchetta and skip the tenderloin. Try to get a slab that is an even thickness throughout the entire pice so it cooks and rolls evenly. Most butchers or meat departments have larger slabs of pork belly in the back, so don’t be afraid to ask. Also, if you have an Asian grocery store nearby, they will most definitely carry large slabs of pork belly.
- pork tenderloin – if your going with a pork tenderloin, look for a small, thin, even diameter tenderloin so its easy to wrap the belly around it. Pork tenderloins come quite small, look for one that’s 1-2 lbs and around 3 inches in diameter. You might need to trim it if its too long to fit the length of your pork belly.
- seasoning and spices – a mix of classic Italian flavors is what is going to give your porchetta incredible flavor: fresh rosemary, toasted fennel seeds, lemon zest, fresh flat leaf parsley, crushed red pepper flakes, flakey sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
Porchetta is classically seasoned with salt, pepper, fennel seed, rosemary, lemon zest, and fresh rosemary. Most use toasted fennel seeds, but if you have fennel pollen, this is the dish you’ll want to use it in.
- To make a porchetta rub, start with fresh rosemary. Wash the sprigs, remove the needles and lightly toast them in a dry pan to release their piney aromatics. Chop the cooled rosemary pine needs to further release their flavor.
- Similar to the rosemary, whole fennel seeds should be lightly toasted for maximum toasty, warm, earthy anise flavor. Crush the cooled, toasted fennel seeds and mix with the chopped rosemary, flakey sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.
- Divide the spice mix in two. Add fresh lemon zest and chopped flat leaf parsley for a bright citrusy green freshness to one portion. The lemon rub is for the meat side of the porchetta and the spice rub is for the skin.
What does porchetta taste like?
Think of the most amazing pork belly you’ve ever had. Now think of the best pork chop you’ve ever eaten. Add crispy, crunchy, golden pork crackling, savory pork juices, a hint of lemon, earthy rosemary, bright and fresh flat leaf parsley, and the warm and toasty flavors of fennel seeds. All those flavors, textures, and juices explode in your mouth in a symphony of salty, fatty, balanced flavor. A perfect bite of porchetta is simply amazing.
What cut of meat is porchetta?
In Italy, there are still places where they make porchetta with an entire deboned suckling pig. In North America, most porchetta is a cut of pork that consists of slab pork belly still attached to pork loin. Most home cooks make porchetta with pork belly and tenderloin or just pork belly.
What is pork belly?
Pork belly is just as the name implies, the belly of a pig. It’s a boneless, fatty cut of meat sold in a slab.
What is pork loin/tenderloin?
Pork loin is a tender, lean cut of meat cut from the loin muscle of a pig. Loin is large and rectangular, cut from the near the back, mid section of the pig.
Tenderloin, or pork filet, is a thin, long, boneless rectangular cut from the same loin muscle as pork loin. Tenderloin comes from near the spine and is especially tender and lean.
All belly porchetta
It’s definitely more common to see porchetta made from just pork belly. The reason being, its much simpler to make an all belly porchetta, both in regards to sourcing and rolling/tying.
Easy unrolled porchetta
If you don’t have kitchen string or don’t want to roll your porchetta into a roll, make a flat all belly porchetta. Rub the belly with the salt and herbs and roast the belly flat. Since you’re not rolling, you can make a smaller roast as well, making this ideal for smaller eaters.
Find a small baking vessel that’s about the same size as your belly and snuggle it in, so its a tight fit. The fat will render out and surround the meat, much in the same way rolling the belly together protects and bastes the meat at the same time. Essentially its a cheater’s pork confit.
Roast the belly in a 275°F for 2 hours or until the pork reaches 160°F and is tender and yielding. Blast the heat up to 450°F for 20-30 minutes or until the sling becomes crisp, golden, and crackly. Let rest, slice, and enjoy.
How to serve
Typically, porchetta comes sliced, chopped, and served on a crusty soft bread roll. A porchetta panino is one of life’s perfect sandwiches. Non traditionally, you can also serve porchetta as a roast with sides, with pasta, on pizza, anything you can dream — just don’t tell the Italian nonni! Here are some sides you can make alongside with:
- soft and fluffy garlic rolls – there’s no garlic in porchetta and Italians feel like garlic is incredibly overpowering, but my North American tastebuds LOVE porchetta tucked into a soft and fluffy garlic butter roll.
- red wine spaghetti – ubriachi is rich and creamy and so good. Some chopped up porchetta on to would be amazingly delicious.
- roasted potatoes – you can never go wrong with pork and potatoes and these roasties are crisp and crunchy on the outside and creamy and fluffy on the inside.
- burrata and kale – sale quickly sautéed with tomatoes and topped with burrata makes a fast yet luxe side.
Happy porchetta-ing! I hope this amazing roast graces your table at your next dinner party or date night 🙂
Golden brown crackling, juicy meat, and fresh herbs are all tied up into a neat roll.
- 2.5 tbsp fresh rosemary needles only
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 tsp flaky sea salt
- 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp red pepper flakes optional
- 1 lemon zest only
- 2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley roughly chopped
- 3-3.5 lb pork belly skin on, ~approx 12in x 12in
- 1-2 lb pork tenderloin ~approx 3 inches in diameter, optional
In a small frying pan, lightly toast 2 tsp of rosemary needles along with the fennel seeds over low heat, shaking constantly, until fragrant, about 30 second to 1 minute. Let cool and roughly chop into a rough spice blend. Add the fennel and rosemary to a small bowl along with the sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and crushed red pepper (if using). Mix well. In another small bowl, mix the lemon zest and flat leaf parsley together.
Place the pork belly skin side down on a cutting board and lightly score the meat in a diamond pattern. Sprinkle on half of the salt rub. Top generously with all of the herb rub. If using, place the tenderloin in the centre of the belly.
Tightly roll the belly, skin side out, around the tenderloin and tie together with kitchen twine. Rub the skin generously with the remaining salt rub. Make ahead: tightly wrap the porchetta in plastic wrap, place in a dish, and put in the fridge overnight.
Heat the oven to 275°F. Make sure the surface of the porchetta is dry; pat with paper towels if needed. Lightly rub with neutral oil. Place the roll on a rack in a deep roasting pan, seam side down. Roast on the centre rack of the oven for 2-3 hours, basing with pan drippings every 30 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the belly reaches 160°F, which is optimal juicy pork belly temp.
Blast the heat up to 450°F and continue to roast for 20-25 minutes, until the crackling turns golden brown and crispy, checking every 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, let rest for 15-20 minutes, slice and enjoy!
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 550
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 20.3g127%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.