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A whole-hog tradition from Umbria becomes a holiday roast
Milk Street Bowtie Fennel-Rosemary Porchetta

Fennel-Rosemary Porchetta

1½ days 30 minutes active

Free

Transforming a whole hog tradition into a home cook-friendly holiday pork roast was challenging. We tried a variety of cuts of meat. After testing recipes with pork loin (too dry) and pork belly (too fatty), we settled on a boneless pork butt roast. To replicate the bold flavors of fresh herbs, fennel and garlic used to season traditional porchetta, we made a seasoning paste with rosemary and oregano, as well as 20 cloves of garlic and more than ½ cup fennel seeds. Because the whole hog is used in Umbria, porchetta benefits from a blend of different cuts. To achieve this, we added pancetta (seasoned, un-smoked pork belly), which lent a richness to the filling and, along with butter, helped baste the roast from the inside out. A separate rub of brown sugar, salt and ground black pepper helped season the exterior as well as contribute some tasty browned bits. A simple jus of de-fatted pan drippings combined with fresh lemon juice, fruity olive oil and more pepper added extra flavor and moisture to the slices of perfectly seasoned, slow-roasted pork. To further drive home the fennel—a key flavoring of the dish in Italy—we used the time—as well as the pan—while the roasted pork rests to roast wedges of fresh fennel. Be sure to buy a boneless pork butt, not a boneless picnic roast; both are cut from the shoulder, but the butt comes from higher up on the animal and has better shape for this recipe. All told, you will need 10 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon ground fennel seed—the larger amount is used for the roast and the rest seasons the sauce. To be efficient, grind all of it at once by pulverizing 11 tablespoons in a spice grinder. The longer the pork rests, the easier it will be to slice. Porchetta leftovers make great sandwiches, thinly sliced and served on crusty bread or ciabatta rolls. Any leftover roasted fennel would be great on the sandwich, as well.

1 7- to 8-pound boneless pork butt
8 ounces pancetta, cut into ½-inch cubes
4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, room temperature
1 cup (1½ ounces) lightly packed fresh rosemary leaves
1 cup (1 ounce) fresh oregano leaves
20 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons ground fennel, divided
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
3/4 cup pan juices
1/3 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground fennel
Ingredients
  • 1

    7- to 8-pound boneless pork butt

  • 8

    ounces pancetta, cut into ½-inch cubes

  • 4

    tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, room temperature

  • 1

    cup (1½ ounces) lightly packed fresh rosemary leaves

  • 1

    cup (1 ounce) fresh oregano leaves

  • 20

    garlic cloves, peeled

  • 1

    tablespoon red pepper flakes

  • ½

    cup plus 2 tablespoons ground fennel, divided

  • Kosher salt

  • 2

    tablespoons packed light brown sugar

  • 2

    teaspoons ground black pepper

  • ¾

    cup pan juices

  • cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)

  • ¼

    cup water

  • 2

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2

    teaspoons ground black pepper

  • 1

    teaspoon ground fennel

Directions
  1. 01
    To prepare the roast, remove any twine or netting around the pork. Locate the cut made to remove the bone, then open up the roast. Using a sharp knife, continue the cut until the roast opens like a book; do not cut all the way through, as the meat must remain in one piece. Using the tip of a paring knife, make 1-inch-deep incisions into the pork, spaced about 1 inch apart; do not cut all the way through the meat. Set aside. In a food processor, pulse the pancetta until coarsely chopped, about 15 pulses. Add the butter, rosemary, oregano, garlic, pepper flakes, ½ cup of the ground fennel and 2 teaspoons salt. Process until the mixture forms a spreadable paste, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl as needed. Spread the paste evenly over the interior of the pork, pressing the paste into the cuts. Roll the roast into a tight cylinder, then set it seam side down.
  2. 02
    Cut 7 pieces of kitchen twine, each 15 inches long. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 2 tablespoons ground fennel, 1 tablespoon salt, the brown sugar and pepper. Rub this mixture over the top and sides of the roast. Using the twine, tie the roast at 1-inch intervals, seam side down; you may not need all of the twine. Wrap the roast tightly in plastic, transfer to a large baking dish and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 48 hours.
  3. 03
    Heat the oven to 300°F with a rack in the middle position. Set a roasting rack in a roasting pan and pour 4 cups water into the pan. Unwrap the roast and set it fat-side up on the rack. Roast until the center registers 195°F, 6 to 7 hours. Transfer the roast to a carving board and let rest, uncovered, for 1 hour. Reserve the liquid in the pan. While the roast rests, make the sauce. Pour the liquid in the roasting pan into a fat separator; if making roasted fennel, do not wash the roasting pan. Let the liquid settle for 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together ¾ cup of the juices, the lemon juice, water, olive oil, pepper and ground fennel.
  4. 04
    Cut the pork into thin slices, removing the twine as you slice. Serve with the pan sauce.
Tip: Don't cut short the porchetta's resting time. The roast is much easier to slice after it rests for the full hour.
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Fennel-Rosemary Porchetta

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8

Servings

1½ days

30 minutes active

Tip

Don't cut short the porchetta's resting time. The roast is much easier to slice after it rests for the full hour.

Ingredients
  • 1

    7- to 8-pound boneless pork butt

  • 8

    ounces pancetta, cut into ½-inch cubes

  • 4

    tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, room temperature

  • 1

    cup (1½ ounces) lightly packed fresh rosemary leaves

  • 1

    cup (1 ounce) fresh oregano leaves

  • 20

    garlic cloves, peeled

  • 1

    tablespoon red pepper flakes

  • ½

    cup plus 2 tablespoons ground fennel, divided

  • Kosher salt

  • 2

    tablespoons packed light brown sugar

  • 2

    teaspoons ground black pepper

  • ¾

    cup pan juices

  • cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)

  • ¼

    cup water

  • 2

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2

    teaspoons ground black pepper

  • 1

    teaspoon ground fennel

Step 1 of 4

Prepare the roast and the paste

1
7- to 8-pound boneless pork butt
8
ounces pancetta, cut into ½-inch cubes
4
tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, room temperature
1
cup (1½ ounces) lightly packed fresh rosemary leaves
1
cup (1 ounce) fresh oregano leaves
20
garlic cloves, peeled
1
tablespoon red pepper flakes
½
cup ground fennel
2
teaspoons kosher salt

To prepare the roast, remove any twine or netting around the pork. Locate the cut made to remove the bone, then open up the roast. Using a sharp knife, continue the cut until the roast opens like a book; do not cut all the way through, as the meat must remain in one piece. Using the tip of a paring knife, make 1-inch-deep incisions into the pork, spaced about 1 inch apart; do not cut all the way through the meat. Set aside.


In a food processor, pulse the pancetta until coarsely chopped, about 15 pulses. Add the butter, rosemary, oregano, garlic, pepper flakes, ½ cup of the ground fennel and 2 teaspoons salt. Process until the mixture forms a spreadable paste, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl as needed.


Spread the paste evenly over the interior of the pork, pressing the paste into the cuts. Roll the roast into a tight cylinder, then set it seam side down.

Step 2 of 4

Prepare the spice mixture and refrigerate

2
tablespoons ground fennel
1
tablespoon salt
2
tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2
teaspoons ground black pepper

Cut 7 pieces of kitchen twine, each 15 inches long. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 2 tablespoons ground fennel, 1 tablespoon salt, the brown sugar and pepper. Rub this mixture over the top and sides of the roast. Using the twine, tie the roast at 1-inch intervals, seam side down; you may not need all of the twine. Wrap the roast tightly in plastic, transfer to a large baking dish and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 48 hours.

Step 3 of 4

Roast and make the sauce

¾
cup pan juices
cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
¼
cup water
2
teaspoons ground black pepper
1
teaspoon ground fennel

Heat the oven to 300°F with a rack in the middle position. Set a roasting rack in a roasting pan and pour 4 cups water into the pan. Unwrap the roast and set it fat-side up on the rack. Roast until the center registers 195°F, 6 to 7 hours.


Transfer the roast to a carving board and let rest, uncovered, for 1 hour. Reserve the liquid in the pan.


While the roast rests, make the sauce. Pour the liquid in the roasting pan into a fat separator; if making roasted fennel, do not wash the roasting pan. Let the liquid settle for 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together ¾ cup of the juices, the lemon juice, water, olive oil, pepper and ground fennel.

Step 4 of 4

Slice and serve

Cut the pork into thin slices, removing the twine as you slice. Serve with the pan sauce.

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