Last updated on November 17th, 2016
Written and photographed by Lara O’Brien
The smell of a roast in the oven is a scent that hits my memory banks harder than almost any other. Growing up, my mum rarely cooked meat, but when she did, it was usually a roast chicken on Sunday. I loved how the smell of that bird permeated the whole house—something the usual vegetarian chili and omnipresent tofu could never do. Call me a traditionalist, but somehow veggie fare doesn’t quite cut it on a Sunday night. So for this Sunday’s dinner, I decided to make a full-on porchetta.
Traditionally, porchetta is a whole deboned pig that is salted, stuffed, and then spit-roasted. When Danielle and I lived in Florence, we used to walk out of our way to a hole-in-the-wall spot that served porchetta sandwiches. The locals knew their stuff—the line would be out the door as people waited patiently for what could be the best sandwich in the history of meat and bread. And who knew that this simple combination would catch on a decade later in North America with cult favorite RoliRoti in San Francisco, chef Sara Jenkins’ Manhattan sandwich shop Porchetta, and Toronto’s own Porchetta & Co.?
I decided to embark on a smaller version of the traditional whole stuffed pig, given that I was only cooking for four people and I’m guessing there is some sort of Toronto bylaw that frowns upon open spit fires. To ensure porky success, I turned to Mario Batali’s recipe from Molto Italiano, which, I have to say, is one of the best Italian cookbooks I own. The recipes are authentic and sure, they can be time consuming—but they always deliver. The porchetta works great in a sandwich the next day with some fresh arugula on a ciabatta bun.
Adapted from Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours
Makes 8 servings
- 4 pounds boneless pork loin, butterflied to a 1-inch thickness
- >salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 fennel bulb, fronds chopped and reserved, bulb thinly sliced
- 2 pounds ground pork shoulder (you can use premade loose sausage if need be)
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 4 red onions, halved
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle the pork loin with salt and pepper and set aside.
In a large sauté pan or skillet, heat the olive oil until smoking. Add the onion and fennel bulb and cook over medium high heat until softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the ground pork, fennel seeds, pepper, rosemary, and garlic and cook until the mixture assumes a light color, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Add the reserved chopped fennel fronds and eggs and mix well.
Spread the filling evenly across the pork loin and roll up like a jelly roll. Truss with butchers’ twine. Spread the halved red onions evenly on the bottom of a roasting pan and place the trussed pork roast on top.
Roast for 2 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Remove and allow to rest for 10 to 20 minutes before slicing into 1 inch-thick pieces to serve.