Serves a Crowd

Market Style Porchetta

April 25, 2011
1 Ratings
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

This is not one of the foods of my childhood (I don’t want to reimagine my childhood). This sandwich pre-dates LA’s invention of the food truck. Porchetta originated in Umbria where typically you will see a whole suckling pig (or part of one) spitted in back. The meat is sliced right off of the pig and handed to you on a crusty roll. I first tasted this in chilly, morning market squares and also outside of football stadiums in third division towns prior to going to sit or stand on a cold, concrete bench and watch two anemic teams kick a ball past their own players for 90 minutes with stoppage time added. I can’t tell you how much I love Rome or how much I miss it every day, but the origin is Umbria and not Lazio although on the outskirts of Rome you can find really great porchetta. Like Alberto Sordi I will be interred with an AS Roma scarf.

It literally took me years of work to get it right, but I finally figured out a good way to duplicate it at home without the entire Piggly Wiggly (who you might see smiling at you from the window of a butcher shop in Rome or Gubbio). One of the things I like about this preparation is that you get a toothsome bit of crispy skin with almost every slice. I’ve seen other recipes using pork loin and found them to be totally unsatisfactory. But a picnic shoulder works just mighty fine because you really need that crispy skin and unctuous pig fat.

Typically this is served without condiments (depending on where you happen to be). But I like to offer it to my guests with some salsa verde on the side. This is my “go to” dish when I have to cook for ten or twenty guests. - pierino

Test Kitchen Notes

When you want to make a spot-on porchetta sandwich look no further: Pierino has a winning rendition. The rosemary, fennel, garlic, and shallot rub make a perfect seasoning for the porky goodness of the picnic shoulder. I got my roast nicely oiled, rubbed, and tied, then popped it into the oven. It didn't take long for my kitchen to be filled with the delectable aroma of the herbs and meat. It took about an hour and a quarter for my roast to be perfectly cooked, the skin brown and crispy, and the meat juicy and unctuous. I allowed it to rest while I made the salsa verde, which was a perfect bright and zesty foil to the rich and fatty pork. Not being a fish lover I was reluctant to incorporate the anchovies, but Pierino convinced me to do so, and I'm glad I did. They did not add fishiness; they just made the salsa verde more tasty. The only change I will make next time I make this (and there most definitely will be a next time) is to trim some of the fat from the pork as it was a bit excessive for my taste. - hardlikearmour —hardlikearmour

What You'll Need
  • Porchetta (the pig)
  • Fresh pork picnic shoulder, bone in, about 5 pounds (you will bone it out or your butcher will do it for you). If you are reasonably deft with a boning knife it’s not difficult.
  • 1 fistful of sea salt
  • 1 TBS white pepper
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots minced
  • 2 TBS fennel pollen, or alternatively fennel seed finely ground in a spice grinder.
  • Several branches of fresh rosemary (tear the leaves off, and if possible pick the flowers if any). Finely chop the leaves and reserve the flowers whole.
  • 1 cup good olive oil and a little more for rubbing.
  • 1 ½ cups white wine for basting.
  • Many crusty rolls
  • Salsa Verde (Italian style)
  • 2 bunch flat leaf parsley, washed and chopped including the stems, equivalent to 1 cup
  • 5 flat anchovy filets (they have to be of good quality or you spoil the sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon, salt packed capers, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon Spanish sherry vinegar
  • 1 /2 cup olive oil
  1. Once you have boned out the ham* spread it open and slash the skin in a diamond shape pattern. Turn it over and slash some pockets into the meat, being careful not to cut all the way through to the skin and fat layer. Mix the herbs with all but about 1 tbs of olive oil. Rub about ¾ of the herb and olive oil mixture into the flesh. If you have the edible flowers add them now before the tie up part. Meanwhile preheat oven to 450F.
  2. Reform the ham and then tie it up like a salami or a fetish model, using one long piece of cooking twine. You know how to do that, right? Be sure to keep your seams aligned.
  3. Rub the tied up ham with olive oil and more coarse salt and then more of the herb/oil mix.
  4. Place in a roasting pan and after 20 minutes in the hot oven baste with white wine and turn heat down to about 350F. Baste every 20 minutes with more wine and pan juices until the internal temp reaches 145F. Allow to rest, covered for at least 10 minutes before slicing very thinly. Sandwich this up with crusty bread rolls---no other condiments are required, but I like to serve salsa verde---the Italian version.
  5. In a blender or food processor mix your salsa verde. Everything goes in at once, smoothiness to your own liking.
  6. *Note to cook: *If you have the butcher bone out your ham please do ask to keep the ham bone. Use it for a stock for beans or soup or whatever.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • thirschfeld
  • AntoniaJames
  • pierino
  • Waverly
  • boulangere
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.

36 Reviews

thirschfeld November 15, 2011
Making this right now. Picked up a beautiful pastured picnic.
pierino November 15, 2011
Thanks Bro T, let me know how it works out. I always want to improve without wandering off too far. It's great that you were able to find a nice picnic cut. This is one of my own favorites as Fall begins to shrink into Winter.
AntoniaJames September 6, 2011
Made this again, over the weekend. Cooked it on a bed of thickly sliced red onion (what I had on hand) for the first half hour. Didn't have any wine (?!!!) but I had some concentrated, "killer" chicken stock made from backs that was thick like jelly, which I used. I added it after a half an hour, to let the onions caramelize a bit. I put the onions on top for the next 60 minutes of cooking. I turn the roast over after the first half hour, then cook it with the onions for an hour, then turn the roast every half hour after that. Served it with Alice Waters' Ratatouille. Making a Cuban for Mr. T with some of the leftovers. One of my all-time favorite pork shoulder recipes!! So, so good. ;o)
pierino September 6, 2011
Sounds fantastic. Myself, I try not to stray to far from the Italian model where they just whack off a slice of pig and hand it to you on a roll. But please keep adapting to your tastes and what you have on hand.
AntoniaJames September 6, 2011
Thank you, pierino. I did mention to Mr. T when serving this that I was not sure you'd approve of a non-Umbrian side. But it was dinner, and in our house, that means a minimum of three thoughtfully-prepared dishes on the table . . . . . We put it on Cubans a few weeks ago. The fennel + rosemary really transform that sandwich. There's a photo on my "The Cuban" recipe. ;o)
pierino August 5, 2011
AJ you can find fennel pollen at Surfas in Culver City but ground fennel seed is an adequate substitute. Thanks for your interest. Of all the recipes I've turned in to 52 this is my personal favorite, and I think the one that is most "durable" as in hard core authentic.
AntoniaJames August 5, 2011
Making this first thing tomorrow, to put on the Cuban rolls I'll be making at the same time. (The dough will rise overnight and go into the hot oven at the same time as the pork.) What a great recipe!! ;o)
hardlikearmour August 5, 2011
I can safely say you and your boys are going to LOVE this!
AntoniaJames August 5, 2011
HLA, did you use fennel pollen? I don't have any (but of course I have plenty of regular fennel seeds), so I'm trying to figure out if it's worth the effort trying to run the pollen down. I've never seen it when shopping; as usual, my time is limited. Thanks! ;o)
hardlikearmour August 5, 2011
I did use fennel pollen, but would say the ground fennel seeds should be a good substitute.
AntoniaJames August 5, 2011
sdebrango, I hope to post the recipe for the Cuban rolls this weekend. I made some earlier in the week and they were declared a success by my sons and Mr. T, but the crumb was a bit more dense than I wanted, so I'm going to test it again using Mrs. Child's method for making baguettes. When I used that for my Epi Rolls (posted here last December), it worked perfectly to get the soft inside, just barely crispy outside that I'm seeking with the Cubans. Stay tuned . . . . .;o)
Waverly June 16, 2011
This sounds fantastic. YUM!
boulangere June 4, 2011
Oh, man, Keith would love this.
mrslarkin June 3, 2011
hooray for pig!
pierino June 3, 2011
Yeah, we're bringing Pig Love back to the street. Now I just have to fit in Keith Richards...
Bevi May 3, 2011
pierino, I was thinking of you and your recipe when I had a delicious porchetta sandwich at the Brooklyn flea this past weekend.
ibbeachnana April 28, 2011
I've tried many porchetta so-so recipes and yours sounds wonderful and its on the menu for this weekend, thanks for posting.

Fetish model, you make me laugh.

I needed a refresher course in classic roast tying and found it on Epicurious...
pierino April 28, 2011
Actually Merrill recently put up a video on roast tying. It's essentially the same technique I use for roasts and girlfriends.
ibbeachnana May 1, 2011
pierino, I accidentally dumped my reply and if it show up again it is an unfinished reply. In any event, I did find that video after wandering a bit. You can tell I'm new here.

I made your recipe last night and it was fabulous, a keeper recipe. I have a nice chunk left and will wrap it tightly, food sealer bag and freeze for sandwiches another day.

I'll get the hang of the place, you all seem to be a nice group and I enjoy a good sense of humor. I stand to learn a lot from all of you. I'm certainly not a professional, but I love to cook and I love a challenge.

Thanks again for the recipe.
Burnt O. April 27, 2011
This speaks to me - and it's talkin dirty....YUM
healthierkitchen April 27, 2011
Love some porchetta off the truck on market day. Will have to try this!
Bevi April 26, 2011
This looks perfect for a party in the park I have in mind. As always, your story entertains! Fetish model really resonates.
drbabs April 26, 2011
I'm not much of a pork eater, but I'm really moved by your story and your sharing yourself with us.
gingerroot April 26, 2011
I started Monday reading this recipe and here I am again (it's actually Tuesday now) ending my day with this recipe. This sounds amazing, pierino. I hope to try this soon. Thanks for sharing such a terrific recipe.
pierino April 26, 2011
When you are shopping for the pork look for one with a good amount of skin. There is a nice layer of unctuous fat underneath which will help develop the flavor. The problem I've always had with recipes calling for pork loin is that most of the skin and fat has already been trimmed off. It's not the other white meat.
kmartinelli April 26, 2011
Porchetta always seemed unrealistic to replicate at home but your recipe makes it seem downright doable. Thanks for sharing!
cookinginvictoria April 26, 2011
Love your head note (such a lovely homage to Italy), and your recipe sounds so wonderful that I can almost taste it. I hope to try it out soon. Thanks for sharing, Pierino!
betteirene April 25, 2011
pierino, I must tell you how much I love a man who can make me laugh and drool at the same time. If it weren't for that fact that your idea of futbol is different from my idea of football (Go Bears!) (and if ever get my left knee and my right hip replaced), I'd let you truss my carcass any day.
pierino April 26, 2011
No drooling on the keyboard. And in Italy it's calcio not futbol. The great thing about the real football is that it's played in real time, not five seconds of action followed by thirty seconds of chat. Meanwhile, go Blackhawks.
hardlikearmour April 25, 2011
My brother will die and go to heaven if I make this for him. My rosemary is blooming now, too, so it seems like kismet! I can definitely see this as Pierino's legacy; nicely done!
SKK April 25, 2011
Incredible! I am with wssmom - love this is so do-able and will be an adventure at the same time. Love the backstory!
Cook T. April 25, 2011
"Fetish model!" That cracked me up. The recipe sounds amazing too. Thanks for sharing it!