Succulent and juicy with a layer of crisp crackling, it is impossible to resist the siren call of freshly roasted porchetta. Though the dish has since spread throughout the country, it originated from central Italy, where it is ubiquitous in butcher’s shops, and commonly sold on the streets. During holiday fairs and festivals, large crowds of people will queue in front of food trucks for a porchetta panino, or bring porchetta slices along for a summer picnic.
To make porchetta, the inner organs and bones are removed from a whole pig, then the meat is rolled, heavily salted, and layered with aromatic herbs—usually rosemary, fennel and garlic. Next, the roll of meat is bound and roasted on a spit in an oven. Traditionally, porchetta is cooked in a wood-burning oven, but this is more difficult to clean and results in uneven cooking, so nowadays stainless steel ovens are popular. After cooking, the porchetta is put on display to attract the attention of passerbyers yearning for a taste.
Fans could argue all day about who offers the best porchetta, or even what region the boasts the best style of porchetta, but the town most frequently associated with the meat is Ariccia, located in the foothills southeast of Rome. Every fall, during the first weekend of September, Ariccia hosts a Sagra della Porchetta, or Porchetta Festival. The fair has been taking place annually since 1950, and offers a packed program of concerts, street performers, fireworks, and of course, all the porchetta you can eat.
Next time you pass a butcher’s shop with a sign labeled “porchetta oggi” (porchetta today), be sure to stop in for a fragrant slice of porcine candy!
Sagra della Porchetta
September (first weekend)