Buon Appetito in Italy: Porchetta’s a must-try — especially in Umbria

When in Italy, eat local! One of the must-trys for any meat lover is Porchetta.

The word Porchetta alone makes Italians salivate

When Italians hear the word porchetta, it will make them and their mouths salivate instantly.

And if you see Porchetta at an Italian farmer’s market or food truck, don’t even think about resisting the temptation to have some. Especially not if you love pork and you’ve never had this iconic roasted pig dish before.

Traditional recipes vary by regions

Porchetta is a traditional dish that originated in the Umbria region, but is also common in the regions of Lazio, Abruzzo and Le Marche. Recipes are passed on from generation to generation, and often kept a secret.

In Umbria, the meat for porchetta is traditionally flavored with garlic, wild fennel, salt and pepper while in Lazio and Abruzzo, rosemary and garlic are used, but no fennel. In Le Marche they sometimes baste the meat with white wine or cooked wine. In Sardegna, a similar dish is known as Porcheddu. On the island however, the local pork roast is flavored with lardo and myrtle. Plus, it is traditionally a spit-roasted suckling pig while porchetta usually roasts in wood-fired ovens or food trucks that are specifically outfitted for that very dish’s preparation.

Im Umbria, there’s a group of very dedicated porchetta producers that formed their own association and even created a small porchetta museum. “Its members are all experts in the art of making and selling this speciality: from the farmers skilled in rearing the pigs to a special weight to the porchettaro, whose itinerant kiosks can be found at many traditional gatherings such as village festivals and local farmers’ markets.  Small to medium sized pigs are used to produce porchetta. The meat is filled with aromatic herbs and spices, and cooked in wood-fired ovens for several hours. Thorough cooking is the only way to obtain the golden color on the outer rind, which must be crunchy, while ensuring that the meat inside is well-cooked. In Umbria, the area with the greatest tradition and highest skill when it comes to producing porchetta is Costano, near Assisi. Here, you’ll also find the “museum of porchetta”.  go as far as to tell you where their pigs are from and take pride in personally selecting the right ones for their dish.

Back to the porchetta of Umbria or Lazio which are the ones most visitors will come across. As humble of a dish as it is and in accordance mostly considered a street food or snack that you get a your local butcher shop (marcelleria), it’s one of the Italian classics that takes a lot of time and skill to prepare. To make porchetta, a whole pig is deboned and stuffed with the aforementioned spices that vary by region and family, with the exception of garlic which is always a must. More pork is added as well. Then everything’s tightly rolled and roasted until the skin is crunchy, and the meat is tender.

Experience Porchetta restaurants & festivals

Italians love this traditional roast pork dish so much that restaurants specialize in it exclusively — as do the food trucks that line the country roads from Rome to Frascati.

There are porchetta festivals known like other Italian food festivals as “Sagra” held during the summer time, again especially in Umbria and the region of Castelli Romani, but aso throughout central Italy: Here, local families and friends gather, often driving several hours, to meet up, eat porchetta as part of a picnic and to socialize.

Close-up look at a juicy Umbrian porchetta with traditional seasonings. Photos: Inside Europe and https://www.umbriatourism.it/

Originally a noble dish, now one of Italy’s most popular street foods

Fun fact: Originally, due to its elaborate preparation, porchetta was a meal reserved for Italian nobility.

Writing this sure made us hungry for a sliced roasted pork sandwich!

p.s. If you don’t have time to venture into the countryside for the full porchetta experiences, you’ll also find pretty tasty porchetta in both Rome and Florence. Our Inside Europe hosts are always happy to share their favorites and a few tasty sandwiches with you.

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