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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

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Fennel-Rosemary Porchetta

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Porchetta is a roasted whole hog tradition from the Italian region of Umbria. Turning it into a home cook–friendly pork roast proved challenging. After testing recipes with pork loin (too dry) and pork belly (too fatty), we settled on a boneless pork butt roast. Traditional porchetta is succulent and complex because almost all parts of the pig are used. For our scaled-down version, we added pancetta (seasoned and cured pork belly that has not been smoked), which lent a richness to the filling and helped baste the roast from the inside out. Fennel is a key flavor of the dish. We used ground fennel seeds in a seasoning rub and, while the roasted pork rested, we used the time (and the flavorful fond in the pan) 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 a better shape for this recipe. Porchetta leftovers make great sandwiches, thinly sliced and served on crusty bread or ciabatta rolls. Leftover roasted fennel is perfect for sandwiches, as well.

8

Servings

Tip

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

1½ days

30 minutes active

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
  • 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
  • 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 1 teaspoon 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, 1½ teaspoons 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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Reviews
Janice M.

I made this recipe over the weekend, having stuffed and rolled it 2 days ahead of the roasting. While the flavor was wonderful, and I will probably make this again some day, I have a few comments to make. The meat was difficult to cut into neat slices, as it rather fell apart. There was so much filling, that I found myself pushing it aside on my plate and not eating it due to its texture and strong flavor. Perhaps my rosemary was too old and intense? Finally, I felt the exterior coating could have benefited by the use of more salt. Thank you, 177milkstreet!

diane d.

Can you use boneless pork loin instead?

Lynn C.

Hi Diane -

No. This recipe calls for a boneless pork butt, which is a moderately tough cut of pork with a lot of connective tissue and fat. Because of this it needs to be cooked low and slow and to an internal temperature of 195 degrees to become tender. A boneless pork loin is a lean cut that should only be cooked to 135-140 degrees otherwise it becomes tough and chew.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Teresa F.

I'm confused by the temperature of 195? Isn't pork typically done at 145?

Lynn C.

Hi Teresa -

This recipe calls for a boneless pork butt, which is a moderately tough cut of pork with a lot of connective tissue and fat. Because of this it needs to be cooked low and slow and to an internal temperature of 195 degrees to become tender. A boneless pork loin, tenderloin or chops are lean cuts that should only be cooked to 135-140 degrees otherwise it becomes tough and chew.

Best,
The Milk Street Team


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Fennel-Rosemary Porchetta

Get Ready to Cook

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
  • 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
  • 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
1
teaspoon 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 1 teaspoon 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
teaspoons 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, 1½ teaspoons 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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