The nature, the landscape, the monuments, the history, the unique atmosphere are certainly all excellent reasons to visit Umbria and Todi, but these reasons also most certainly include the one-of-a-kind delicacies offered by the area, especially the porchetta.
Porchetta is a savoury, spiced slow roasted pork.
Today porchetta ranks among the best street-foods in the world, but the tradition linked to this delicacy dates back centuries.
In Umbria in particular it ranks among the best known and best loved typical products, and historically, along with Ariccia, Campli and other towns in the Marche, the city of Norcia has always been a contender of the original recipe.
Therefore if it is not possible to say with complete certainty that porchetta originates from Norcia, it is undoubtable that Umbrian porchetta – being crisp on the outside, and melting in your mouth on the inside, with fatty and lean parts, is an explosion of flavours – is extraordinarily tasty and for this reason known and highly appreciated in Italy and abroad.
It is no coincidence, therefore, that Umbria hosts Porchettiamo, the porchetta festival of Italy , one of the largest events dedicated to this speciality.
There are a great number of variations on porchetta that differ not only from one region to another, but also from one town to another or even based on the individual porchetta maker.
Umbrian porchetta is nevertheless distinguished by the use of wild fennel in the herbs and spices.
Sow meat is more commonly used for this recipe because it is leaner: once it has been cleaned and boned, the meat is stuffed with offal and cartilage and flavoured with many herbs and spices.
In Umbria it is nevertheless possible to prepare this recipe according to a very tasty variation that does not involve boning the meat before cooking: a process which is always slow and strictly in a wood burning oven.
The most famous towns in the region that produce this delicacy include Bevagna, Perugia, Costano and the unmissable Grutti, a hamlet in the municipality of Gualdo Cattaneo which is also famous for its cicotto: tripe, tongue, ears, trotters, hock and other offal are cleaned and boned and then cooked in a pan under the porchetta. The fat and condiments of the porchetta melt into the pan, giving the mixture a unique and exceptional flavour.
The are many and highly appreciated porchetta makers in Todi and according to the town’s tradition, Saturday is the day dedicated to this local speciality, when very early in the morning, the porchetta makers arrive at the weekly market in the Crocifisso area and in the historical centre, in their trucks: the unmistakeable scent attracts even anyone who was planning on having a salad for lunch, and just looking at the famous “panino” will bend the will of even the most steadfast dieter.
After all, if even the New York Times included it in the top five must-eat dishes in the world to try at least once in a lifetime, there must a reason, right?