A quick internet search with the words "porchetta" or "pork belly porchetta" will reveal a whole world of pork aficionados you might not have even known existed. This happened to me a few years ago, when Worth and I were researching all the ways to cook every part of the venerable hog. We have been working on our techniques on porchetta since we found our first recipe, and although we are by no means masters yet, we are always excited to share this delicious and easy way to cook pork belly. It's so easy in fact, that I'll often recite the recipe multiple times during a single farmers market.
Porchetta is a basically a traditional Italian boneless pork roast, often eaten as a sandwich. In Italy, the porchetta is a whole pig deboned and stuffed with sausage and then slow cooked, then sliced and eaten on fresh bread. Or so I've read. What we make is a variation on the Italian theme and can be sliced and eaten on a sandwich, or in our household as a main, along with potatoes and greens.
So, as I said, this is not by any means, a true Italian whole-hog porchetta. This is a variation, which will easily be on the table in just a couple hours (cook time, with little prep time) and is versatile for a dinner main or lunch meat or whatever suits your style.
PORK BELLY PORCHETTA
2-3 pound pork belly
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp minced rosemary
Salt -- flaky salt is the best but any high quality salt will do
Pepper, fresh ground
Special equipment: a broiler pan and butcher twin (if you choose to roll/optional)
Preheat your oven to 300
Lay your belly flat on a broiler pan and generously rub the salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary all over -- on both sides.
With your butcher twine, roll or fold your belly and tie with the twine. The belly can be rolled either way, lengthwise or width-wise or flat. We usually go for the long roll. The belly pictured here is approximately 2 pounds and was rolled longways. Form as tight a roll as possible with the belly and wrap the twine around one end two to three times and tie off. Continue tying off the roll in one to two inch increments, tightening the roll as you go. You can use the continuous tie method by cutting off about two feet of string and hitching from one cinch to the next. You can also individually tie each cinch with a square knot. It may not look even and perfect as you go, but you after its all tied, you can even up the strings and make it look nicer. An extra set of hands is helpful to keep the roll tight and the ties from sliding out -- otherwise use toothpicks to keep the roll from unfurling.
its not beautuiful yet, but it will be!
Once the belly is tied up tightly, liberally salt and pepper the outside and its ready to go into the oven. Cook in the oven at 300 for 2-4 hours depending on the thickness -- a rolled belly will take longer than a flat one. The goal here is to render off some of the excess fat during the slow cook, which keeps the meat moist, and allows the herbs to thoroughly penetrate the meat, then crisp up the outer fat layer just before serving. Getting a crispy, browned exterior is an important step, so for the last 10 minutes or so, turn the heat up to 400 and sizzle. Monitor closely to not let it burn. Serve warm with a side of mashed potatoes and cooked bitter greens. When serving, slice in two-inch cross sections and be sure to look out for the twine and remove it!