Lemons, garlic, olive oil, and… pancetta. What savory dish couldn’t you make using these four ingredients?
Pancetta, one of Italy’s delectable salumis, is salt cured pork belly seasoned with pepper and varying regional spices that may include nutmeg, clove, fennel, and rosemary. Unlike bacon, which is smoked pork belly, pancetta’s essence is its subtly flavored meat and buttery fat that melts into any application it is introduced into. Who doesn’t love the alluring aroma and flavor of pasta carbonara that blooms with the essence of pancetta.
The recipe that follows is quite simple to prepare and turns out a superb meal that echos the gorgeous flavors of the Mediterranean’s lemons, garlic, olive oil, and Pancetta!
- Roast Pork Loin with Pancetta and Potatoes serves 4
18oz/500g pork loin
- 1 tablespoon sea salt + more for seasoning
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4 sprigs rosemary (or 2 teaspoons fresh or dried quills)
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- water to amply cover
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper
- 8 sliced strips (stesa/flat) pancetta
- 4-6 medium golden potatoes, unpeeled and cut into wedges
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 8 large garlic cloves, skin on
- ½ lemon
Prepare in advance; brining the pork
Place 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 sprigs rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried quills), 2 bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon black peppercorns in a large bowl. Boil a cup of water and pour over the ingredients and stir until the salt and sugar is dissolved. Then add several cups cold water and stir.
Add the pork loin to the brine and stir and add more cold water to completely cover the loin. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
Remove the brined pork from the refrigerator 1 hour before roasting. Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry with paper towels and set aside. Discard the brine.
Preheat the oven to 425F/220C
Using a large saucepan, add the wedged potatoes, a good pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon fresh or dried rosemary quills, 2 bay leaves, minced garlic, and enough water to just cover. Place over medium flame, partially cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the potatoes, uncovered, for about 15 minutes until soft, but not falling apart.
While the potatoes are cooking, rub the pork loin all over with olive oil and salt and pepper the loin, patting it onto the surface on all sides.
Select a roasting pan large enough to hold the pork loin and the potatoes. Drizzle a little olive oil into the pan and spread it around evenly. If you have a shallow mini roasting rack, place it in the center of the pan and place the prepared pork loin on top. Otherwise, place the loin in the bottom of the pan.
Lay the pancetta strips across the loin and tuck the ends underneath the loin to secure them while roasting.
Once the potatoes are done, drain in a colander set over a bowl to retain the cooking water. Distribute the potatoes evenly around the pork in the baking pan, adding any bits of rosemary, garlic, and bay leaves left in the colander. Drizzle with olive oil and season with freshly ground pepper. Tuck in the whole garlic cloves between the potatoes and the pork loin.
Add 1 cup of the reserved potato water into the bottom of the pan, squeeze the lemon juice over the pork loin and transfer to the oven and roast for 25 to 3o minutes or until the loin feels just firm, but not hard. Promptly remove the from the oven and loosely cover with foil topped with a kitchen towel and set aside for 10 minutes to rest.
Remove the roasted loin to a cutting board. Remove the rack (if used) and toss the potatoes with the pan juices and cover with foil.
Using a very sharp knife thinly slice the pork loin across the grain at a slight angle. Place slices on individual serving plates and spoon potatoes around the slices. Spoon pan juices over all and serve promptly.
Suggested: A garden salad with sage honey vinaigrette will compliment the flavors of the pork and potatoes nicely.