It was only a matter of time before I brought you an Italian porchetta recipe – I’m just surprised it took me 4 years. It’s a prerequisite of any trip to Rome to ensure you try porchetta from a street vendor served piping hot and in a panino (bread roll). It is truly a flavour explosion with impossibly juicy meat combined with an aromatic fennel and garlic filling and a shattering crackling. When you couple that with the incredible sights of Historic Rome, the experience is other wordly.
Quite simply, porchetta is a large boneless suckling pig which is rolled with garlic and fennel (often with rosemary and other herbs, or even mince and sweetbreads in some places) and then roasted in a wood fired oven. While few of us have wood fired ovens at home (I don’t… but I will one day), attempting to roast a whole boneless suckling pig at home is slightly daunting, so I’ve taken the flavour profile of a curbside porchetta and used a much more managable 6kg pork shoulder which you’ll find much easier at home.
Hearing I had been reminiscing about my Italian holidays and was thinking about making porchetta, my old friends at Murray Valley Pork sent me this 6kg boneless pork shoulder to use (they are quite literally my porky godmothers). A list of butchers who sell Murray Valley Pork products in Australia is included for you at the end of this post.
Now, a little note about a crisp pork crackling: Many of the tricks that people swear by to ensure they have crisp crackling is not necessary when you are roasting a cut of pork weighing in at 6kg. The length of time you need to cook such a large cut of meat will ensure the skin has enough time to crackle. That being said, there are still a few things though that I will always do to ensure success:
- The day before cooking I pat the skin dry of all moisture, then place it on a rack skin side up and put in the fridge overnight so that the skin is dry.
- Just before cooking I ensure that the skin is rubbed with olive oil and a generous amount of sea salt.
- The first 20 minutes of cooking time is done at 220° Celsius (430° Fahrenheit) which gives the skin a blast of heat at the beginning to give your crackling a head start.
Fennel really is the star of a porchetta, but unlike most fennel recipes this one omits the fennel bulb altogether and uses fennel fronds, stalks and pollen – you can save the bulbs for a fennel and orange salad to accompany the porchetta if you like. You will need to buy fennel with the stalks and fronds attached so it is probably best to buy the fennel from a farmers market as the major supermarkets always remove these parts (much to my chagrin as fennel frond salt is the best thing ever). For the pollen, you can omit this if you can’t find it, or if in Australia you can buy it from Herbies Spices online.
- 6kg pork shoulder, boned and rolled with rind on*
- Sea salt flakes
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon fennel pollen (or 1 tablespoon fennel seeds if you can't find pollen)
- Fresh fennel fronds from the top of two fennel bulbs
- 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- 10 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 10 tender fennel branches
- 1 bottle dry white wine
- 2 cups water
The day before you are wanting to cook the pork, unroll the shoulder and place rind side up on a large board. Pat the rind dry and score it at 2cm intervals diagonally ensuring you don't cut down to the flesh (or the juices of the pork will escape when cooking and it will dry out your pork).
Turn over and season the flesh with two handfuls of sea salt flakes and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Dot the 10 garlic cloves on the flesh, pushing them into the flesh where possible. Sprinkle all over with fennel pollen, dried chilli flakes and fennel fronds (in that order).
Gently and tightly re-roll the shoulder (noting that it will be harder to roll with the filling) and tie with butchers twine (or re-use the elastic twine if your pork came with it). Place on a rack, lightly cover with cling film, and place in your fridge overnight. The reason you are leaving it overnight is to ensure the skin dries out which makes it easier to achieve maximum crackly on your rind.
Remove the pork from the fridge two hours before you are ready to start cooking. You want the pork to come to room temperature as it relaxes the meat and will result in a more tender final product.
30 minutes before your pork goes into the oven, preheat it to 220° Celsius (430° Fahrenheit).
Once at room temperature, drizzle the olive oil on the pork 1 tablespoon at a time and massage it into the scoring. Then, taking 2-3 generous handfuls of sea salt flakes and press it into the rind ensuring you have a visible layer of salt on the rind (as per the photos above).Ensure you have a roasting tray with a roasting rack large enough for your pork. Cut your fennel branches in half, then lay them on the roasting rack making a bed for your pork, and transfer the pork to the tray. Into the bottom of the tray pour 2 cups wine and 1 cup water.
Place in the oven and bake at 220° Celsius (430° Fahrenheit) for 20 minutes (this blast of heat at the beginning with get your crackling off to the best possible start). After 20 minutes, turn down the oven temperature to 180° Celsius (350° Fahrenheit) and roast for 40 minutes per kilogram - for the 6 kg pork shoulder it will take 4 hours - turning it around every hour or so and adding the remaining wine and water halfway through.
Remove from oven and transfer the pork to a large board. Cover with aluminium foil and rest for 30 minutes before serving. To serve, cut off the twine and remove the crackling, breaking it up into pieces. Slice the pork in large rounds and serve with the pan juices (which are incredible).
Chew Town was not paid to develop this recipe, but was gifted the Pork from Murray Valley Pork with thanks. Visit here for a list of Murray Valley Pork butchers. To read Chew Town’s disclosure policy please visit the About page.