Porchetta

Porchetta is the diminutive of porco, meaning pig. A porchetta is a pig which is halfway between a full grown pig and a suckling pig. In the area round Macerata on the east coast of central Italy, where this dish comes from, you can buy porchetta in every village and town. It is made for robust people, not weight watchers! The aroma of the garlic and herbs as the hot crackling pig is put on the wooden tables in the butchers’ shops is very tempting. Generally porchetta is eaten with unsalted bread. The fanners still keep their outside ovens to cook their porchettas in on special feast days. They stuff them with a certain type of wild fennel, the provenance of which is a feverishly guarded secret.

Ingredients

  • 1 small pig weighing about 12 kg/26 lb
  • salt
  • a little olive oil

Stuffing

  • good handful of rosemary
  • good handful of fennel fronds
  • 1 head garlic, peeled
  • 5 fillets pork
  • liver of the pig, chopped
  • salt and roughly ground black pepper

Method

Liberally season with salt the inside of the deboned pig (ask your butcher to do this for you, and take home the meat trimmings).

Chop up the herbs and garlic coarsely and put it with the whole pork fillets and trimmings along the cavity. Scatter the chopped liver over as well.

Sew up the pig, place it sewn-side down on an oiled roasting tray and liberally season the outside with salt. Roast the porchetta for 1 hour in an oven set at 250°C/475°F/gas 9 then reduce the heat to 190°C/375°F/gas 5 and cook for a further 30 minutes. After about the first 40 minutes of cooking, or when the pig is golden brown and brown juices have formed in the tin, add 600 ml/1 pt of water to the roasting tray. Do not allow any water to get on top of the pig–the steam from the water will help to crisp the skin. Watch that the juices do not dry up; if necessary, keep topping up with water but do not baste during cooking.

Skim the fat from the rich juices and serve as a sauce. When the porchetta is cooked leave it to rest for 15 minutes before cutting. Gut into 1.5 cm/¾ in slices and serve with homemade bread and a salad. Potatoes roasted in extra-virgin olive oil, rosemary, garlic and salt also go well with porchetta.

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