It is fall and I am craving grilled or smoked meat and autumn produce. I am dreaming of pork, kale, apples, cranberries, and squash. I was trying to think up a new pork recipe other than chops or tenderloin – something really juicy and infused with the herbs that I am harvesting from my garden before there is a frost. While looking up recipes, I came across a few for porchetta, which intrigued me. I never considered making this at home before.
The origins of porchetta appear to be linked to Ariccia, a city outside of Rome. Ariccia is the only town to earn the designation of porchetta as a “prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale”. This is a prized list of revered traditional Italian foods.
The true recipe involves deboning a whole young hog, seasoning it, placing minced offal and herbs in the cavity, rolling it up, and cooking it over coals in an underground pit. This method of cooking pork dates back to the 15th century. To be sure, this way of cooking porchetta takes a long time. Today, this popular Italian dish is roasted on a spit over an open fire.
Modern recipes call for seasoning and rolling a skin-on pork belly around pork loin with plenty of herbs and spices. The offal is omitted. The rolled pork is then roasted in an oven. Many casual restaurants and food trucks sell porchetta Panini sandwiches.
What about cooking this delicious pork roll in your Masterbuilt Smoker? The recipe here does just that. The results are amazing. You will need butcher’s or kitchen twine for tying around the porchetta to hold it together. I also recommend having a foil lined sheet pan to place on the rack below the porchetta to catch the drippings.
Smoked Porchetta with Fresh Herbs
- 5 lb pork belly, skin on
- 2 lb boneless center cut pork loin, trimmed of silver skin and excess fat
- 3 TBS fennel seeds
- 2 TBS minced fresh sage leaves
- 2 TBS minced fresh rosemary leaves
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Zest of 1 orange
- 2 tsps sea salt
- 1-1/2 tsps freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper for seasoning the outside of the roll
- Apple wood chips
- Water and orange slices
Total time:4 hour – Prep time:30 min + 12 hours of air-drying – Smoke time:3 hour 30 min – Serves:10 people
1. Place the pork belly, skin side up, on a wire rack inserted into a sheet pan. Place the belly in the refrigerator uncovered overnight to allow it to air dry. Take the belly and loin out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before assembling the porchetta.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the fennel seeds, sage, rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, orange zest, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Set this aside.
3. Pat the pork belly of any surface moisture with paper towels. Place the pork belly skin side up on a clean cutting board. With a sharp knife, score the skin in a 1” wide crosshatch pattern. Turn the belly over and cover the flesh side evenly with 2/3 of the herb mixture. Place the pork loin in the center of the belly and coat with the remaining herb mixture.
4. Roll the pork belly tightly around the loin until the edges of the belly meet or overlap slightly. Tie the roll with kitchen twine at 1 inch intervals. Take a rack out of your smoker and place the porchetta on it, seam side down. Set aside while you prepare your smoker.
5. Place water and orange slices in the bowl of the smoker. Add wood chips to the side tray. Place a foil lined sheet pan on the rack below the porchetta rack to catch drippings. Set the temperature to 235°F and preheat with the top vent open.
6. Place the rack with the porchetta in the preheated smoker. Close the door and cook for 3 to 4 hours until the internal temperature at the center of the pork reaches 145°F and the skin has crisped and browned. Start checking at approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes. Remember to check the water bowl and wood chip tray periodically. Refill each as needed.
7. Remove the smoked porchetta to a clean cutting board and loosely cover it with foil. Allow it to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.
8. Slice the porchetta into 1/4 inch thick slices and serve with a hardy salad. Or, slice the porchetta as thinly as possible and serve on a grilled crusty roll with grainy mustard and shredded lettuce or pickled onions. A kale and dandelion greens salad recipe follows.
Reminder: Don’t forget to remove the twine as you slice the porchetta. No one wants to chew on a string.
Kale and Dandelion Salad with Apples
- 5 cups kale, washed and torn into small pieces
- 5 cups dandelion greens, washed and torn into small pieces (can substitute arugula)
- 2 crisp apples (Fuji or Granny Smith or both)
- 1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 2 TBS apple cider vinegar
- 2 shallots, minced
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup shaved pecorino-romano cheese
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
- 2 to 3 TBS dried cranberries
Total time: 19 min – Prep time: 15 min – Smoke time: 4 min – Serves: 8 people
1. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the EVOO and vinegar. Stir in the shallots. Add salt and pepper to taste.
2. In a large bowl, combine the kale and dandelion greens. Pour the vinaigrette over the greens and toss to coat. Set aside so the greens can soak up the dressing.
3. Chop and toast your hazelnuts, being careful not to burn them. Shave the cheese with a vegetable peeler if not purchased already shaved. Remove both ends of the apples, cut them in half, and remove the cores. Slice the apple halves as thinly as possible.
4. Immediately toss the apples in the dressed salad so they don’t turn brown. Place the salad on a large serving platter.
5. Top the salad with the cheese, nuts, and cranberries. Serve with salad spoons or tongs next to a platter of sliced porchetta.
Porchetta without the Pork Belly
If you are looking for a porchetta recipe that has less fat and less calories, you can make a really good smoked porchetta with just a pork loin. Here is how to make a healthier version of a porchetta.
Start with a 3 pound center cut boneless pork loin and 1/2 of same herb mixture described above with a little EVOO mixed in to form a paste. You will also need EVOO for coating the rolled pork.
Place the pork loin on a cutting board. Insert a sharp knife into the lower portion of the loin, about 3/4 inch above the cutting board. Taking your time, slice the loin in a spiral motion maintaining the 3/4 inch thickness until the loin can be spread out flat.
Spread the herb paste evenly on the inside face of the pork. Roll and tie the pork, as described in the above recipe. Coat the exterior of the porchetta generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Smoke as directed in the recipe.
Leftover porchetta will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. You can use it cold in sandwiches or fry it in EVOO for a quick entrée.