Sunday Starts: Pork Shoulder Porchetta

Put a Little Italy in Your Roast Pork

By Nick Malgieri
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, April 9, 2008

In Italy, everyone loves porchetta.

The Italian-style roast pork is common throughout the Marche, Lazio and Campania regions of central Italy. It starts with a whole suckling pig (as small as 10 to 20 pounds), a baby pig (up to 100 pounds) or a large roast, cooked over an open fire or in a wood-burning oven.

In Lazio and Campania, porchetta hawkers set up shop in spotless white trucks and dispense slices of highly seasoned pork that has been butchered so that the boneless meat from the spareribs and part of the belly is intact, wrapped around a layer of seasonings that surrounds the eye of the loin. They'll also pull up to a private home to cater a large party.

Whether the meat has come from a whole beast or a loin, the porchetta is served on a slab of bread or a roll. Because the meat is highly seasoned, no condiments accompany it.

My inspiration for the porchetta here comes from a recipe in "Paula Wolfert's World of Food," a 1988 book worth its weight in white truffles. Wolfert duplicated a Corsican porchetta recipe using pork shoulder, one of the least-expensive cuts of meat you can buy. I've adapted her method for slow-roasting the meat, but I'm using seasonings and a serving method that are more like the typical Italian version. If you want to turn Sunday night's porchetta into a party, serve it with a salad. (That won't be traditional, though.) Afterward, a fruit dessert -- something really simple, such as baked apples or a fruit crisp -- would be perfect.

While the pork is cooking, make a simple barbecue sauce; the one here comes from my friend and Kansas City native Lisa Lavagetto. Later in the week, shred the leftover meat and reheat it slowly in the sauce. Serve the pulled pork on buns with coleslaw on the side. That's another great Italian-American collaboration.

Nick Malgieri, cookbook author and former pastry chef, directs the baking program at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York.

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