Perfect Porchetta


During the past three years while living in Umbria for six months each year, my husband and I have developed entirely new appreciation for the simple porchetta sandwich, one of Italy’s most popular street foods. Although we probably tasted our first porchetta panino over 20 years ago, we had really forgotten just how delicious this simple sandwich really is!

If you are unfamiliar with a traditional Italian porchetta panino you may be wondering why I could be so enamored with a pork sandwich. Porchetta however, is no simple pork roast, but is in fact a savory, fatty, moist boneless pork roast stuffed with herbs, placed on a spit and very slowly roasted over a wood burning stove for many, many hours. Sounds good doesn’t it?

Although you can buy porchetta in many stores or in even in your local macelleria (butcher shop), porchetta is most commonly sold out of small white trucks designed specifically for that purpose. Driving around anywhere in Italy, you can come across a “porchetta truck” just about everywhere. There is always at least one truck at every street market, and in fact Perugia’s large Saturday market boasts three different porchetta trucks, each from a different Umbrian town. There are also porchetta trucks at almost every sporting event or community celebration, and often, you can even find the trucks simply parked alongside the road, usually with a line of people out in front.

It is really interesting when you begin to compare the porchetta from one porchetta truck to another, and I have to be honest in the past three years we have had the experience to compare many (simply research of course!). Some porchetta sellers will enquire if you want your panino “magro” or “grasso”, (lean or fatty) and we found after consuming our share of these delicious treats, it best to get half and half. Too much fat creates a very rich panino, while all lean meat can be a tad dry. A good porchetta seller will also offer some crispy skin bits for your panino, and although that may sound odd, think of crispy bacon bits rather than “pig skin”. The owners of the porchetta truck at the Tuesday market in Deruta have come to know us now, and they seem to create the perfect balance of fat and lean meat and throw on just enough salt to to create a really good balance of flavor. They are also the only truck we have visited that offer pork liver on your panino as well. That is something I have always declined, and while my husband has tried it, he feels it just isn’t necessary. Why mess with perfection?

So….. my suggestion is that if you do visit Italy, and while driving around exploring you come across a small white truck with a line of people out in front, park your car and join them. You will have the opportunity to enjoy an unforgettable taste of one of Italy’s best loved street foods!
If you can’t get to Italy to enjoy a traditional porchetta panino, I am told they sell a delicious boneless porchetta roast at Costco now that is a decent alternative. Not having tried it myself, I am not recommending it personally, but simply passing on the information.  If you’d rather to try your hand at preparing something similar at home though, I have a recipe I make for my family when we have a craving for porchetta but cannot fly to Italy to buy the real thing.


Deborah Mele 2011


 

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