Just in time for Easter, I've come up with a recipe for porchetta that reminds me of Nonni's. If you don't know what a porchetta is (pronounced por-ketta), it's a pork roast rubbed with garlic, fennel seeds, black pepper, salt, and whatever else you fancy (I like rosemary). It's popular in the Marches region of Italy, except I hear they do a whole pig roast over there. I'd probably burn the whole neighborhood down if I tried that, so we just do a boneless shoulder.
Nonni bought her porchettas pre-rubbed from the local butcher in her later years, so a recipe never got passed down. A few years back, I tried the recipe in the Zuni Café Cookbook, which was delicious but wasn't quite the same. This is my attempt to recreate the flavor of those New Haven-style porchettas using the amazing pork from our Chestnut Farms meat CSA. And, for the record, I LOVE our meat CSA. Husband took one bite of this and said it was the best pork he ever had in his life!
Here's the secret: let the meat sit with the rub for 2-3 days in the refrigerator before roasting. (If you start now, it'll be done by Sunday!) The other not-so-secret secret: don't overcook the pork.
3-4 lb. boneless pork roast (or you can debone it yourself)
5 garlic cloves, peeled, minced fine
1-1/2 Tbsp. dried rosemary
1 Tbsp. fennel seeds, crushed
1 Tbsp. ground black peppercorns
2 tsp. kosher salt
In a small bowl, mix together the garlic cloves, rosemary, fennel seeds, pepper, and salt. If your roast is tied, untie it or remove the netting. Open up the meat to expose all of its inner surfaces and rub the inside with half of the garlic-herb rub. Close it up and retie it with kitchen string (2 or 3 pieces should do it). Rub remaining garlic-herb mixture on the outside of the roast, coating all sides. Cover roast tightly with plastic wrap and set in a pie plate or other dish to catch any juices that might seep out. Let sit in refrigerator 2-3 days.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove plastic. In a large pan, roast until internal temperature reaches 170°F and juices run clear (2- to 2-1/2 hours). Let rest 10-15 minutes. Slice and serve with roasted potatoes, roasted asparagus, and stuffed artichokes. Leftovers, by the way, make great sandwiches, quesadillas, and burritos.