Pork Loin in Pancetta

Whether you're looking for an "I do" or just a "good lord", this recipe will deliver every time. The technique is called roulade — you'll flatten out then roll a pork loin around the most herbaceous, bright, and delicious paste you'll ever taste. As if that's not enough, you'll then cover the whole thing in pancetta (bacon would work marvelously too) and roast it to perfection, which is virtually fool-proof. As you slice the roast to reveal a beautiful spiral and expert doneness, only you'll know how easy it was to put together. And if that's still not enough to convince you to make this, think of the leftover slices on toasted slider buns with lots of cheese and toppings. You're welcome. Yield 8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • One 5 to 5½ pound boneless pork loin
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 recipe Verdi Pestate
  • 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided 4, 2, and 2
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 pound pancetta, sliced thinly

Hardware:

  • A very sharp knife
  • A very clean work space
  • Plastic wrap
  • Meat pounder
  • Butcher's twine
  • Roasting pan with rack
  • Aluminum foil
  • A fabulous serving dish

Instructions:

  1. Start by butterflying the pork loin. Place the loin so that the bony ridge is facing up and on the right hand side; use it as a starting point. With your knife at an angle pointed down and to the left, make a long incision down the length of the loin about a half inch deep. Hold the loose flap with your left hand, and make another angled incision under the flap, at the site of the last incision. Continue cutting and pulling, angling your knife more and more horizontally with each cut. The idea is to unroll the loin to make it flat and relatively even. Just go ahead and watch a couple videos and you'll get the hang of it.
  2. Cover the butterflied loin with a couple sheets of plastic wrap and pound it out. Pound out to an even thickness, paying careful attention to the middle. If anything, you want the middle to be thinner than the edges. Also be careful not to pound a hole (which is easy to do) as it will lead to problems later on.
  3. Mix ¾ of the yield of Verdi Pestate with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the brown sugar; this is for the loin. Mix the remaining pestate with 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) olive oil and set aside to serve with the finished loin.
  4. Sprinkle an even layer of salt and pepper on the loin, then massage into the meat. Spread the Verdi Pestate across the flattened out loin, leaving an inch margin on the left, top, and bottom sides. Spread the paste as evenly as you possibly can.
  5. Preheat an oven to 450°F with a rack in the bottom third position.
  6. Take a hold of the right side and turn it ninety degrees to your left so it's now opposite you. Working slowly, roll what is now the top side of the loin toward you. As you roll, tuck the meat down so that it forms as tight of a roll as possible. If any pestate is pushed out of the side, add it back to the middle and continue rolling. Hold for a few seconds so the roll stays tight; the seam side should be down on the counter. If you can't quite get the hang of it, don't worry — just unroll, re-spread the pestate, and try again.
  7. Carefully shingle the pancetta slices along the length of the rolled loin, starting low on the side toward you. You want to end up with at least 3 rows of shingles down the length. Overlap the slices by a quarter to a half an inch, whatever looks best. Do not use ripped slices if you can avoid it, as you want a neat appearance.
  8. Cut 5 lengths of butcher's twine that will fit around the circumference of the loin — cut a test length just to be sure. Starting in the middle, tie a slip knot (again, Google is your friend here) or a butcher's knot, but don't tighten it all the way yet or the loin will splay. Then tie knots around each end, about an inch from the end; tighten these all the way. Then go back and tighten the center knot. Tie two more to either side of the center, evenly spaced from the ends. If your loin is particularly long, you may need to tie two more. Finally, cut a length of twine to go around the entire length of the loin, knot, and tighten. Snip any dangling twine.
  9. Transfer to a rack set in a roasting pan and gently rub all over with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350°F.
  10. Roast for 50 to 60 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the center reads 150°F. Once done, remove from the oven and cover with aluminum foil. Rest for 15 minutes.
  11. Once well rested, move to a cutting board and slice as thinly as you can. Serve with the reserved pestate and oil. Marvel at your accomplishment.