Ideas for an Italian Christmas

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Instead of the usual standing rib roast, Christmas ham or turkey, think “Italian” for your Christmas dinner; a crispy roast Porchetta is the perfect way to say Buona Natale. And to bring some of that European Christmas Market feel into your home, try some Gluhwein, a hot spiced wine cocktails.
Euro Trotter Mark Felice shows us how to have an Italian Christmas.


  • 5 to 6 lb. whole fresh bacon (pork belly), skin on – from your local butcher or you can also get from Pacific Ocean Market.
  • 6 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt; and more to coat the outside of the pork
  • 1 ½ Teaspoons Coarse Black Pepper, and more to coat the outside of the pork
  • 1 Teaspoons Hot Pepper Seeds
  • 2 Teaspoons Fennel Powder – you can find this at a good spice shop like Savory Spice (if you cannot find, simply omit this ingredient).  Note:  Ground whole fennel seeds are not the same as Fennel Powder.
  • ¼ cup good Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh Lemon Zest
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons fresh Sage, chopped
  • 2 Teaspoons fresh Thyme, chopped
  • Kitchen string
  • 1 cup dry White Wine (Chardonnay)



  • Allow the pork belly to sit uncovered, skin side up, in the refrigerator for 1-2 days to dry out the skin.
  • Before cooking, allow the pork belly to rest on the counter for 1 hour to get to room temperature.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 300°F.
  • Lay the pork belly skin side down on a clean work surface.
  • Carefully cut the pork belly running your knife lengthwise through the middle, leaving about an inch on the end (do not cut through the pork belly), when cut down the middle, it should open up like a book with two halves; you are not to cut it in half or create separate pieces, it will still be one piece.
  • With the pork belly opened like a book, season with the olive oil, hot pepper seeds, salt, pepper, fennel powder, sage, thyme, garlic, and lemon zest
  • Roll the one half up and then continue rolling into the other half until you have one whole roll.
  • Cut individual pieces of kitchen string (long enough to tie around the Porchetta cross-wise) and lay them on your work surface. Lay the Porchetta seam side down across the individual strings. Tie each end of the string tightly to bind the Porchetta together.
  • Rub the skin with a few cloves of mashed garlic to make the surface sticky and generously season with salt and pepper.
  • Place ¼ cup of the wine in a Dutch Oven and then set the pork belly seam side down.  Cover with a lid and roast for a total of 2 hours. Every 30 minutes, turn and baste the pork, adding another ¼ cup of wine. Roast to an internal temperature of 140°F to 145°F.
  • After cooking for the 2 hours, if the skin isn’t dark gold and crispy, turn the heat up to 500°F and roast the Porchetta for 10 – 15 minutes, turning frequently, to ensure all sides are crispy, browned and crackling.
  • After the Porchetta is finished, take it out of the Dutch oven and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
  • Remove the skin and break into pieces for garnish.
  • Slice the Porchetta thinly, no more than ¼” thick.  Serve with some tossed arugula and olive oil, a creamy parmesan polenta and a pork gravy from the pan juices.


The recipes for the Porchetta, Parmesan Polenta, Arugula Salad, Pan Jus Gravy and Gluhwein can be found on

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