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Tuscan-style Pork Roast

If you’ve ever roasted a pork loin (not the tenderloin) and ended up with a tough piece of meat on your plate, this post is for you. Except for an outside layer, the pork loin has no fat and is easy to overcook. But this recipe, adapted from “America’s Test Kitchen,”  gives you a circular interior roll of marbling that adds lots of juicy flavor.

I started out with what I thought was one five pound roast, but when I untied the butcher’s string, I discovered a couple of two and a half pound roasts instead.  I needed only one of these roasts for my book club’s dinner earlier this week, and cooked the second one the following night.

Take a long, sharp knife and cut through the roast, slicing to open the piece of meat so it lies flat, trying to get an even thickness. After cutting, pound it with a meat press (keeping a piece of plastic over the meat) to help make it flatter and more even. Then season liberally on both sides with salt, pepper and fennel pollen (or fennel seed pulverized with a grinder or mortar and pestle). Set aside.

Place some chopped garlic, minced rosemary, red pepper flakes and lemon zest in a cold pan with olive oil and cook gently for a few minutes, until the garlic starts to sizzle. Drain through a strainer, reserving the oil, and placing the solids in a food processor.

Chop some pancetta and add to the mixture in the food processor.

Blend until a paste. If your pancetta is too lean (as mine was), add a little olive oil.

Spread the paste over the flattened meat.

Roll up and tie with butcher’s twine.Season the meat again on the outside with salt, pepper and fennel pollen (or crushed fennel seed).

Place on a rack and roast at 275 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours, or until a thermometer reads 125 to 130 degrees. You can still end up with a tough, dry roast if it reaches too high a temperature, so keep a close watch on it.

Remove from the oven (it will not have much of a browned appearance – yet) and let rest, covered with aluminum foil for 20 minutes.

While the roast is resting, sear lemons in a hot skillet and make the lemon-olive oil sauce (recipe below).

After the roast has rested for 20 minutes or so, heat a bit of olive oil in a cast iron pan, or a heavy skillet, and sear it until the fatty side takes on a nice browned color.

Slice and serve with a lemon-olive oil sauce (recipe below).

Tuscan-style Pork Roast
 
 
Ingredients
  • Adapted from America's Test Kitchen:
  • For Two Pork Loins (2½ pounds each)
  • 16 cloves garlic (yes, that's right)
  • ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • zest of one lemon, grated
  • 2 tablespoons minced rosemary
  • 5-6 ounces pancetta (not too lean)
  • salt, pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fennel pollen (or ground fennel seed)
Instructions
  1. Put the garlic, red pepper flakes and lemon zest in a cold pan with the olive oil.
  2. Heat on low to medium for about 3 minutes or until the garlic starts to sizzle.
  3. Add the minced rosemary and stir for about 30 seconds.
  4. Pour everything (over a bowl) through a fine mesh strainer, pressing to get as much liquid through as possible. Set the olive oil aside.
  5. Cut the pancetta into small pieces and put into a food processor, along with the lemon garlic mixture (not the olive oil).
  6. Pulse about 30 seconds or until you have a paste, adding some olive oil if needed.
  7. Take a long, sharp knife and cut into the pork loin, about 1 inch from the edge, and staying even, cut it open in a "book" fashion, until the roast is one long flat piece.
  8. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the meat and pound even.
  9. Season liberally with salt, pepper and the fennel pollen.
  10. Spread the paste evenly over the inside of the roast and roll back up.
  11. Tie it with butcher's twine and place on a rack.
  12. Put it in the refrigerator at least one hour, or even overnight to allow flavors to meld into the meat.
  13. Roast in a 275 degree oven for 1½ to 2 hours, or until an internal temperature of 125 degrees to 130 degrees. The temperature will continue to rise while it's resting.
  14. Cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for twenty minutes to a half hour.
  15. Meanwhile, make the lemon olive oil sauce by cutting two lemons in half and searing the cut ends in a very hot cast iron skillet.
  16. Remove the lemons from the heat, and squeeze out the juice.
  17. Add the juice to the reserved olive oil mixture and whisk.
  18. Using a heavy skillet, heat it over high flame and pour about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil into it.
  19. Sear the fatty side of the roast in the olive oil.
  20. Slice and serve with the lemon-olive oil sauce.
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Summer Veggie Pizza

Summer Veggie Pizza

There are so many reasons I love summer, including the delicious sweet corn that grows prolifically here in New Jersey. We’ve been eating it at least once a week, just boiled in water for three or four minutes.
With one of the leftover ears, I was inspired to make a summer pizza using more terrific Jersey produce – (we are the “Garden State” after all!) after seeing something similar on my friend Stacey’s blog. 
The first time I tried it, I also added some zucchini and a bit of anchovy – just enough to give it a zing.
I can just hear those of you who are anchovy averse turning off at this point. But wait – the second time I made it, I added small cherry tomatoes and pancetta in addition to the corn and zucchini. In both cases, I used fresh oregano and basil (and mozzarella cheese of course).
For all you vegetarians, you can skip the anchovies or the pancetta and it will still be delicious, provided you have sweet corn in season.

Although I used a perforated pizza pan to bake the pizzas at a high temperature, the bottom crust just wasn’t getting browned enough. So after about 12 minutes at 475 degrees, I slipped the pizza off the pan and slid it directly onto the lowest of the oven’s wire racks for a few more minutes. Keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.

It worked beautifully and created a crispy, crunchy bottom crust, without burning the toppings.

So take your pick and choose either surf (anchovies):

or turf (pancetta). In either case, you’ll want to try this corn pizza while fresh corn is at its peak.
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I’m cooking up each day.
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter.
Summer Veggie Pizza
pizza dough (your own recipe or store-bought)
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (or several balls of fresh mozzarella, sliced)
1 ear of corn, kernels scraped (either raw or leftover boiled)
1 small zucchini (or half of a large zucchini), sliced thinly and salted
either – 2 anchovies in oil or 6 thin slices of pancetta, fried until crispy
8-10 red or yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half
fresh basil
fresh oregano
black pepper
olive oil
Whether using your own homemade dough, or store-purchased dough, put it in a bowl smeared with oil and let it come to room temperature and rest for about an hour. Punch it down and spread it out over a large perforated pizza pan.
Scatter the mozzarella over the dough, then place the zucchini and corn kernels and/or cherry tomatoes on top .
If using anchovies, lay them in a few places across the pizza. Do the same if using the pancetta.
Sprinkle with the fresh herbs and black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Bake at 475 degrees for 10-12 minutes. If the dough is not browning on the bottom, slide the pizza from the pan directly onto the lowest rack of the oven. Let it bake for another 3-5 minutes, checking to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Bucatini All’Amatriciana

Bucatini All’Amatriciana

After that last post on how pecorino cheese is made, it didn’t seem fair to leave you without a recipe, and I couldn’t think of any recipe more associated with pecorino cheese than this pasta dish.  The recipe is frought with controversy – Romans claim it as their own (it’s on the menu of nearly all Roman eateries), but it originated in Amatrice, a town that was once in Abruzzo, but that was annexed in 1927 to the region of Lazio, where Rome is located.
Romans prefer to add onions to the sauce, something that’s heresy in Amatrice. Some recipes call for pancetta, but purists will use only guanciale (pork jowls).  Because the ingredients are so few, each one makes a crucial contribution to the flavor. Pancetta has less fat than guanciale and comes from the midsection of the pig (pancia means belly), while guanciale comes from the cheeks (guancia means cheek). The flavor from the fat that’s rendered becomes an integral part of the dish, and while pancetta fat is good, guanciale fat is better. That said, if you live in an area where guanciale is impossible to find, I’ll give you a perdonanza for using pancetta.

 

 

By the way, you’ll also see pasta “alla gricia” on nearly every Roman menu too. It’s the same recipe as pasta “all’amatriciana” but without the tomatoes.
The traditional pasta used is bucatini – a thick pasta so named because of the hole (buco) down the center of each strand. But it’s also not unusual to see the dish served with rigatoni, paccheri or penne either.

 

One thing you should not substitute however, is the cheese you grate on top. It HAS to be pecorino cheese, not parmigiano, not grana padano. Years ago, I ordered this dish in one of the hill towns outside of Rome, but asked the waiter to bring me parmigiano instead of the pecorino I later learned was the classic topping. Big mistake. “Parmigiano?” the waiter said incredulously to my request, as if I’d just asked him to dance naked in the Roman Forum.  “Sei sicura che vuoi parmigiano?” he asked. “Yes, I’m sure I want parmigiano,” I replied. And the service went downhill from there. Something about “When in Rome….” came to mind at that point and from then on, I have always ordered bucatini all’amatriciana with pecorino.

So please, take liberties and use onions if you like, switch up the fat and buy pancetta if you must, go non-traditional and cook up conchiglie pasta if need be, but don’t sprinkle anything but real pecorino on top!

Bucatini All’Amatriciana

printable recipe here 

Serves four to six, depending on appetites.

1/4 pound of guanciale, cut into lardons
1 28-ounce can tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
1/4 tsp. (or more if you like) red pepper flakes
abundant pecorino cheese, grated

1 pound bucatini pasta

Place the lardons of guanciale in a saucepan on medium heat and slowly let the fat render. The lardons should not crisp up, but should remain a little chewy. Remove the lardons with a slotted spoon, and add the tomatoes, breaking up with your hands or with a spoon. Put the lardons back in, add the red pepper flakes and cook together with the tomatoes, on a low simmer, for about 1/2 hour.

Meantime, when the sauce has cooked about 15 minutes, get the water boiling and throw in the pasta. Bucatini takes a while to cook, depending on the brand. Cook until a little firmer than al dente, then drain the pasta with a slotted spoon or fork and place into the pan with the sauce. Don’t worry if a little pasta water makes its way into the sauce. Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce for the last couple of minutes. Serve immediately while it’s hot, with ample pecorino cheese grated on top.

Bucatini