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This Easter, wow guests with an Italian porchetta — simplified for home cooks

Elevate your menu with this classic roast and a spring vegetable panzanella from the cooks at Milk Street.

Fennel-Rosemary Porchettaconnie miller of CB Creatives

Celebrate the arrival of spring and impress your guests with a fresh approach to Easter brunch. For a centerpiece-worthy roast, we developed a home-cook-friendly version of the Italian classic porchetta. We balance the richness of succulent, slow-cooked pork with the bright notes of fennel and rosemary. And to serve with it, for a lighter, brighter take on a traditional bread salad, our asparagus panzanella combines crisp spring vegetables with crispy, cheesy, rustic croutons in a refreshing salad.

Fennel-Rosemary Porchetta

Makes 8 servings

Porchetta is a roasted whole hog, traditionally from the Italian region of Umbria. Turning it into a home-cook-friendly pork roast proved challenging. After testing recipes with pork loin (too dry) and pork belly (too fatty), we settled on a boneless pork butt roast. Be sure to buy a boneless pork butt, not a boneless picnic roast; both are cut from the shoulder, but the butt comes from higher up on the animal and has a better shape for this recipe.

Traditional porchetta is succulent and complex because almost all parts of the pig are used. For our scaled-down version, we add pancetta (seasoned and cured pork belly that has not been smoked), which lends a richness to the filling and helps baste the roast from the inside out.


Fennel is a key flavor of the dish, with ground fennel seeds incorporated into the seasoning rub. If you like, while the roasted pork rests, you can use the time (and the flavorful fond in the pan) to roast wedges of fresh fennel to serve alongside.

Make sure to rest the roast for the full hour, as this will make it much easier to slice.

Porchetta leftovers make great sandwiches, thinly sliced and served on crusty bread or ciabatta rolls.

For the roast:

7- to 8-pound boneless pork butt

8 ounces pancetta, cut into ½-inch cubes


4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, room temperature

1 cup (1½ ounces) lightly packed fresh rosemary leaves

1 cup (1 ounce) fresh oregano leaves

20 garlic cloves, peeled

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons ground fennel seeds, divided

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

For the sauce:

¾ cup pan juices

1/3 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground fennel

To prepare the roast, remove any twine or netting around the pork. Locate the cut made to remove the bone, then open up the roast. Using a sharp knife, continue the cut until the roast opens like a book; do not cut all the way through, as the meat must remain in one piece. Using the tip of a paring knife, make 1-inch-deep incisions into the pork, spaced about 1 inch apart; do not cut all the way through the meat. Set aside.

In a food processor, pulse the pancetta until coarsely chopped, about 15 pulses. Add the butter, rosemary, oregano, garlic, pepper flakes, ½ cup of the ground fennel, and 1 teaspoon salt. Process until the mixture forms a spreadable paste, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl as needed. Spread the paste evenly over the interior of the pork, pressing the paste into the cuts. Roll the roast into a tight cylinder, then set it seam side down.

Cut 7 to 9 pieces of kitchen twine, each 28 to 30 inches long. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 2 tablespoons ground fennel, 1½ teaspoons salt, and the brown sugar and pepper. Rub this mixture over the top and sides of the roast. Using the twine, tie the roast at 1-inch intervals; you may not need all of the twine. Trim the ends of the twine. Wrap the roast tightly in plastic, transfer to a large baking dish, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 48 hours.


Heat the oven to 300 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Set a roasting rack in a roasting pan and pour 4 cups water into the pan. Unwrap the roast and set it fat-side up on the rack. Roast until the center registers 195 degrees, about 6 to 7 hours.

Transfer the roast to a carving board and let rest, uncovered, for 1 hour. Reserve the liquid in the pan.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Pour the liquid in the roasting pan into a fat separator. Let the liquid settle for 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together ¾ cup of the juices, the lemon juice, ¼ cup water, the olive oil, pepper, and ground fennel.

Cut the pork into thin slices, removing the twine as you slice. Serve with the pan sauce.

Asparagus Panzanella With Parmesan, White Beans, and HerbsErika LaPresto

Asparagus Panzanella With Parmesan, White Beans, and Herbs

Makes 4 servings

Classic Italian panzanella is a salad that combines stale bread with ripe vegetables and an oil and vinegar dressing. With the bread as a sort of blank canvas, the dish lends itself to various ingredient combinations, including this mix of oven-toasted croutons with asparagus, white beans, herbs, and lemon juice. So the beans are tasty throughout, we microwave them with seasonings; they absorb flavor as they cool.


We use umami-rich Parmesan two ways. First, as grated cheese added to the bread midway through toasting to give the croutons crisp, lacy, golden-brown goodness. Then, shaved Parmesan is added just before serving, lending salty, savory intensity to contrast the sweet asparagus.

This salad is substantial enough to be a light main course, or it can be a side to chicken or our Easter roast.

Rather than cutting the bread into neat, tidy cubes, we suggest slicing the bread with a knife, then tearing the slices by hand into rough, craggy pieces that are a bit smaller than bite size. This creates rustic croutons that add more texture and visual appeal to the salad. Also, when sprinkling the grated Parmesan onto the partially toasted bread, don’t fret if some lands on the baking sheet. Those bits will toast into tasty cheesy wafers; be sure to scrape them up along with the croutons.

1 pound asparagus, trimmed and halved on the diagonal

8 ounces country-style bread, torn into small bite-size pieces (about 8 cups) (see headnote)

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus more to serve

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 medium garlic clove, finely grated

15½-ounce can great northern or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

¼ cup lemon juice

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 cup), plus shaved Parmesan cheese to serve


2 cups lightly packed fresh flat- leaf parsley, torn if large

1 cup lightly packed fresh mint, torn

½ cup lightly packed fresh dill

Heat the oven to 450 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Place the asparagus on one side of a rimmed baking sheet and the bread on the other side. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil over the asparagus and another 3 tablespoons oil over the bread; toss to coat, keeping the asparagus and bread separate. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper onto the asparagus and bread. Roast, without stirring, until the asparagus is lightly browned and tender-crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large microwave-safe bowl, stir together the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the garlic, 2 tablespoons water, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add the beans and toss. Cover and microwave on high until hot, 3 to 3½ minutes, stirring once about halfway through. Stir in the lemon juice and set aside.

When the asparagus is done, remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer only the asparagus to the bowl with the beans. Stir the bread, distribute it in an even layer, and sprinkle evenly with the grated Parmesan. Bake until golden brown and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool until barely warm to the touch, about 5 minutes.

Using a thin metal spatula, scrape the bread and any crisped cheese on the baking sheet into the bowl containing the beans and asparagus. Add the parsley, mint, and dill, then toss. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish, drizzle with additional oil, and top with shaved Parmesan.

Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.