This recipe is from Tuscany.
Arista is one of the great classics of Tuscan cuisine. People often assume that, considering it is consists of roast pork loin, the name is related to the Italian arrosto, meaning roast. The truth couldn’t be more different and, as with most Italian dishes, there’s a story. Here it is, as told by Pellegrino Artusi—you must know who he is by now, so I’m going to stop telling you. If this is your first time on my blog click here.
‘During the Council of 1430, which was held in Florence in order to settle some differences between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, this dish, which was already well-known at the time, was served to the Greek bishops and their retinues. Finding it to their taste, they began to say: arista, arista (tasty, tasty!), and this greek word is still used, after four and a half centuries, to mean a loin of pork cooked in this way.’
(Pellegrino Artusi (1893) La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene, Firenze: Giunti, pp. 279-280)
Of course, Artusi provides the recipe so that you too can cook pork ‘in this way’. As he observes, the name arista is used in Tuscany to refer to the cut of meat as well as the method of cooking and what you need is the loin. You then season it with cloves, garlic, rosemary, salt and black pepper and roast it at a medium temperature. Artusi stipulates that it be served cold ‘it being much better than hot’. He points out that you could save the copious juices to roast some potatoes or other vegetables.
Most modern recipes agree that it should be served cold, or at least tepid. One recipe I found from the Valtiberina says to add parboiled potatoes to the roasting dish after one hour and then to leave them in the oven when you take the meat out and they will be ready after the 15 minutes resting time. I’ve tried this and it works beautifully. The potatoes suck up all the juices and take on a very special flavour.
When the meat has rested for 15 minutes there a lot more juice will have collected underneath so be sure to use a dish. These then make a lovely gravy, poured over the meat. I agree with Artusi however, that it’s at its best cold and makes an amazing sandwich. He also notes that it lasts a long time. However, as in the pictures you could serve it with tomatoes, dressed with oil and balsamic vinegar for an amazing Easter Monday lunch.
The garlic and rosemary permeate every fibre of the meat and the cloves give a slightly exotic flavour, reminiscent of the dish’s medieval origins. Almost like the scent of incense at Easter Sunday mass. Extraordinary.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1hr 30 minutes
Resting time: 15 minutes
Total time: 2 hours
1.2kg (2 2/3 pounds) pork loin
4 cloves of garlic
fresh rosemary sprigs
1 tablespoon fleur de sel
pepper, to taste
- Heat the oven to 180°C (355°F).
- Take the pork and stick the garlic cloves into the top and the side.
- Peel the cloves of garlic and cut them in half. Then pierce holes in the pork with the point of a sharp knife and tuck the half garlic cloves inside.
- Make more holes with a knife and stick small spears of fresh rosemary inside.
- Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper. Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of a roasting dish and then place the meat inside. Roast for an hour and a half, basting it occasionally in its own juices.
- Cover the meat in tin foil and allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving in thin slices.