About seven years ago The Professor and I traveled to Italy on a post-graduation trip abroad. We arrived tired and weary in Rome and out of idiocy and financial desperation we happened to be staying at what turned out to be a campground in the suburbs of Rome in a town I have diligently tried to erase from my memory.
We fell into what only can be described as our cots that night and arose the next morning starving and disoriented and decided to head out on foot to search for something to eat. This was not the beautiful Italy we had dreamed about, but rather a town built around The Autostrada—groupings of cinderblock structures basically huddled under the towering roadways.
The one golden moment on that dreadful first day was a lunch truck with a beautiful crackly-skinned stuffed pig rotating on a spit. Miraculously, in my horrendous Italian, I was able to order two panini stuffed to overflowing with the juicy, fennel-studded meat. I think the sandwiches cost something like 2 Euros and I remember handing the guy 20 Euro. He looked at me like I was insane and then while grumbling under his breath had to dig through his own pockets to find enough change, but I didn’t care, by that time I was enveloped in this incredible sandwich.
We went on to have many unbelievably good meals over the three months we spent traveling all over Italy, but I will never forget my first—that crippling good porchetta sandwich.
Porchetta-Style Pork Shoulder Recipe
Classic Italian porchetta-style pork shoulder rubbed with garlic, herbs, and lemon zest and either cooked indirectly over a low grill or roasted in the oven.
Adapted from Weber's Way To Grill
- 1 boneless pork shoulder, about 5 pounds
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- leaves from 3 sprigs rosemary
- 16 large basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
- olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Butterfly open the pork shoulder, making any additional cuts until the roast is of an even thickness. Trim off the thin pieces of meat on the ends of the pork shoulder and any excess fat to create a rectangular-shaped piece of meat. Ideally you will have about 8 to 10 ounces of meat and fat that you have trimmed off the roast. Cut this trimmed meat into 1-inch pieces.
- In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, combine the 1/2 cup olive oil, rosemary, basil, lemon zest, garlic, salt, fennel, and chile flakes. Process to a smooth puree. Add the trimmed meat and pulse until the mixture resembles ground sausage.
- Place the roast skin-side down on a work surface and evenly distribute the filling over the pork, leaving a 1-inch border around the sides so the filling doesn't fall out when you roll the meat. Press filling into any grooves.
- Roll up the meat working from one short end to the other, creating a compact cylinder. Using several pieces of butcher's twine, tie the roast both crosswise and lengthwise to secure closed. Rub roast on all sides with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and black pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while you prepare the grill.
- Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over medium heat, brush the cooking grates clean and grill the roast with the lid closed, until the internal temperature reaches 170°F, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
- Transfer roast to a cutting board and loosely tent with foil. Let rest 20 to 30 minutes before slicing. Remove twine and carve into thin slices.