A few weeks ago when we were reviewing the add-on options for our meat delivery, I saw pork belly as one of the options and immediately thought of porchetta. I had never made it before, but had memories of eating delicious porchetta sandwiches from food stalls in London years ago and decided it was about time I gave it a go. So, the pork belly was ordered and a plan was hatched. After doing a bit of research, it’s another of those old recipes that has many variations, so I came up with the following that tries to make the most of the tasty herb and fennel filling/marinade without being too complicated. It was certainly incredibly delicious and fed us with tasty sandwiches for days (in fact we still have some leftovers in the freezer).
How it’s made
On the face of it, it might seem like a bit of work to make porchetta because of the time involved, but there really isn’t that much hands-on time as you rub the pork, tie it up and leave it overnight, then the next day it’s a long low roast followed by a short high burst to crisp it up. Only the first and last parts really involve you paying that much attention. If you need a bit more help with tying the pork, see pictures and lengthier description in my Spanish-style stuffed pork tenderloin which uses the same technique.
Much as I love pork belly (as I explain in my delicious crisped pork belly with whisky-soy sauce), for this recipe it’s best in partnership. After looking at a few options on making porchetta, I decided the best way to make it was with both a pork belly and a pork tenderloin, to be most like the cut originally used in traditional recipes. This gives a good balance of both fatty and less fatty cuts to balance fattiness, meatiness and flavor, without you having to do a home butchering job as some recipes I saw would have you doing. It also makes a more reasonable size of roast for a small to medium-sized crowd.
It’s important to give a blast of the hotter oven at the end as this crisps up the skin. However keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn. And look how beautiful it becomes! It’s also incredibly tasty, thanks to that rub. And the fact it’s crisped pork belly which I think is always good, even if it isn’t that great for you. But everything in moderation, right?
As you can see there’s a whole lot of delicious meat in there too, and it also takes on all that tasty flavor. This is a great dish that you definitely need to try at least once. It makes a great main for a party – some simple sides like roast potatoes and greens would work well. And while big, it’s just as good if there are less of you, since as I say the leftovers are great in sandwiches and you can freeze it. I might just have to order a pork belly again soon to make again.
An Italian way to roast pork that's so full of flavor (and makes fantastic sandwiches!)
- 2 lb pork belly 900g, 1 slab, approx
- 1 pork tenderloin around 1-2lb/450-900g
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 cloves garlic or 3, depending on size, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp fennel fronds
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh sage chopped
- 2 tsp fresh thyme chopped
- 1 lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp salt divided
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Pat the pork belly dry to remove any excess moisture. Score the fat side of the belly in a wide cross pattern, cutting into the fat but not as far as the meat. Turn belly so meat side is up. Lay tenderloin on top and trim the end if it hangs over the end - you want it about the same length. You can either tuck the chopped off piece in any thinner bit inside or use for something else. Alternatively you can cut and lay two pieces side by side if it is very long (as I did).
Toast the fennel seeds a minute in a dry skillet/frying pan until fragrant. Crush them with a pestle and mortar and add all other ingredients. Start with the garlic, which should be roughly chopped then crushed with the seeds. Only use 1tsp salt at this stage. Alternatively, add all ingredients to a small food processor and pulse. Either way, you want a relatively smooth paste.
Spread about 3/4 of the paste over the meat side of the belly and around the tenderloin pieces so they are evenly coated.
Tie up the belly by rolling the belly around the tenderloin and tying at one end, then using the long end of the string, move along about 1-2in and loop again by threading through and keep repeating until you reach the other end, then tie off at the other end. Each time you loop/tie, pull the string tight so it's against the meat but not too tight that it squeezes the loin out.
Rub the remaining herb paste over the outside of the belly along with the additional 1/2tsp of salt.
Refrigerate at least a day uncovered. Dab once or twice to remove any excess moisture.
On day of cooking, preheat oven to 275F/135C
Roast for approx 2hrs. (Note this is time if both tenderloin and belly are about 2lb each; give a bit less or more if smaller/larger). You're looking to cook until a meat thermometer gives internal temp of 150F/65C.
Increase oven temperature to 450F/230C and roast until the skin is brown and crisp but not burnt - keep a close eye on it. This will be around 15-25min.