Italian Pork Loin Braised in Milk (Arrosto Di Maiale al Latte)
Years ago my mother returned from one of her trips to Italy. She just raved with glowing accolades about a pork roast that my cousin Lara, from Modena, prepared ‘in milk’, known as Italian Pork Loin Braised in Milk. It is a very common, traditional, and classic technique to cook meat in sweet creamy milk throughout northern Italy, especially in Bologna. Milk’s lactic acid tenderizes the pork, breaks it down, making it very tender and receptive to soaking up the flavors in the sauce.
The process of cooking pork loin in milk not only results in a more tender roast, but also one that is extremely moist, delicate, and juicy. And it’s not just about the milk alone. There are oodles of olive oil, butter, garlic, onion, pancetta, capers and sage blending in the milk to make this pork so delicious. As the pork simmers together with the milk and a generous amount of perfect ingredients, a wonderfully rich, thick (yet satiny), golden/hazelnut brown sauce full of browned bits is created.
And we all know what those precious browned bits do to a sauce!
I have to warn you, this isn’t a beautiful entree to look at: The milk and additional ingredients cook into a curdled sauce as a result of the long, slow braising process. The onion’s and lemon zest’s acidity help the curdling which is the most desirable result of this brilliant Italian creation known as “Arrosto Di Maiale al Latte”. Italians just leave the curds in the sauce. It’s also important to use only whole milk (I also used a few cups of heavy cream) and never use any reduced-fat milk.
“WHAT did you say?” you may be asking of me as you read this recipe post. Pork that cooks in milk? I don’t blame you! I thought the very same thing!
Having never heard of this in the States, I thought that this sounded like such a strange way to prepare a pork loin! So I share your skepticism as you read the name of this recipe! But after preparing it tonight and savoring every incredible bite, I am now an enthusiastic fan. It truly does live up to its acclaimed reputation.
This is sheer culinary genius . . . who would have thought? The pork, with a deep, flavorful, nutty sweet cream sauce just melts in your mouth! And if you’re like us and prefer your pork ‘fork-tender’ that falls apart easily, than don’t trim the fat off of the loin. The fat contributes to the pork’s texture and of course, enhances the flavor.
On top of all of this, you won’t be believe how easy this is to prepare! The pork simply simmers quietly in the milk until all that remains is the thick creamy sauce with clusters of browned bits. OK, so you have to turn the pork occasionally, but that’s it! You can sit back and read, take care of the kids, enjoy some guests with a glass of wine or a cocktail or do anything during the hour and a half or so while the pork simmers on the stove.
You’ll want to serve this entree with some hearty artisanal bread to soak up every drop of this heavenly, creamy milk-sauce on your plate.
Without the bread, you’ll end up licking the sauce off of your plate!
Now before you read the recipe, I just have to share an email message written to me from Karen K. in November, 2016 . . . yes, 3 years after the original post of this pork recipe. Here’s what she said while the pork was cooking:
“Smeeeelllllllsssssssoooooo GOOD! I went and double-checked my North End Italian cookbook for anything like this recipe, (can’t ask G’ma, she’s gone), and found nothing. I was quite surprised since everything great is in that cookbook.”
and later here’s what Karen said to me after she served the pork in milk to her family:
“Well, everyone loved it! Just lovely. I didn’t change or “fix-up” the recipe, except for doubling the amounts indicated for the sauce. We were all glad I did! I was afraid someone was going to start picking at the pot. It did not disappoint.
I did have to engage in a brief, but victorious, tug-of-war with my family of four! I can’t be sure, but I think the girls growled at me…?!
I served it with steamed broccoli (no brainer), and I wanted to eat it over rice. My husband wanted egg noodles.
My son said “We need the large shell pasta so it can hold all the creamy gravy goodness…like an upside-down boat!” ?
Anyway, I can’t wait to make it again so I can devour more OF THAT DELICIOUS BROWNED-UP MILK-BITS SAUCE and succulent juicy pork!!! Yumm-mmmy! It was so delicious, it was voted a “Family Comfort Food Keeper For Life” in the “Mom’s Recipes Box”.
Thanks for sharing this, I hope others make this, it really is amazing when cooked properly.
Yours Truly, Karen K.”
And yes, this is amazing! I hope you try it and like Karen, welcome this recipe into your recipe box of family favorites! Plus, I think that Karen’s son has a great idea about the large shell pasta to scoop up the sauce!Print
Italian Pork Loin Braised in Milk
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- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 of a large onion, chopped finely
- 6 Tbsp. pancetta, chopped finely
- 1 2–lb. pork loin (select one with a nice amount of fat)
- Freshly grated sea salt
- Freshly grated black pepper
- 3 cups hot whole milk
- 2 cups hot heavy cream
- 1 Tbsp. capers, crushed
- 2 tsps. fresh sage, chopped
- 2 leaves fresh sage
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- In a large, deep, heavy pan, melt the olive oil and butter on low (do not burn).
- Add the garlic,onion, and pancetta and saute’ for a minute or two (still on a low temperature setting).
- Do not trim the fat off of the pork loin.
- Generously (very generously) sprinkle sea salt all over the pork loin.
- Sprinkle black pepper all over the pork loin.
- Place the pork loin in the pan, fat side down and brown it thoroughly on all four sides on a low-temperature setting.
- Do not burn the olive oil and garlic!
- When browned nicely, add the hot milk, hot cream, capers, sage and lemon zest.
- Taste the sauce . . . add more salt to taste preferences.
- Partially cover the pan.
- Simmer on the a low-medium setting on the stove for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, turning the pork loin over occasionally.
- The milk sauce will bubble up, so stir it occasionally.
- Continually pour some of the sauce (baste) over the pork as it simmers.
- The color of the sauce should turn to a golden brown color; if not turn up the heat a little for a few minutes at the end.
- Taste the sauce and add more salt if necessary.
- After cooking time is finished, remove the pork.
- Thickly slice the pork and place it on individual plates.
- Pour the creamy, curdled sauce over the pork.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
This recipe has been featured in Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, and Saveur magazines. Each article shares glowing reviews of the decadent flavor while at the same time being honest about the unattractive appearance of the recipe. Looks are deceiving in this delicious pork entree!
From Bon Appetit:Pork Braised in Milk
From Food and Wine: Pork Braised in Milk
From Saveur:Pork Braised in Milk
I’ve got so many wonderful recipes for serving pork. Below I’m sharing some of my family’s classic favorites. Every one of these pork recipes is a winner-keeper recipe!
Here is another absolutely wonderful pork loin roast recipe that I know that you’ll enjoy! It’s a family favorite in my home from the genius of the beloved (deceased) New York Times food editor, Craig Claiborne:
Very intriguing. I never would have thought of cooking in milk. I’ve often brined a pork roast before cooking but this is something new to try. Thanks for paving the way, Roz. (And you certainly managed to make the dish look very appetizing!)
Rosemary, this was totally new to me as well, but my mother kept telling me about it so I found many recipes in cookbooks and on the web to come up with my version. It is mighty fine eating!
I have a similar recipe for pork braised in milk that I’ve done for years. It’s from Marcella Hazan and I was skeptical at first. However, Marcella had never failed me and she didn’t then. Your’s looks delicious.
I have the same Hazan cookbook (actually I finally collected all three) and it is from Marcella that I used her foundation of this recipe and made my changes / additions to amp it up a bit more. She is certainly a classic herself!
I have never heard of this before Roz, and I would be tempted to take use my immersion blender on the sauce, but boy oh boy is this ever tempting.
Val, I had read somewhere that some do just that and use a sieve to collect the clumps out. But either way, the flavor will still be there!
Wow, this is so interesting Roz! Great write up, anne
Oh thank you Anne! It was so different that I had a lot of explaining I think!
A hearty and delicious dinner. I love that garlic milk sauce.
Oh Angie, you will love this sauce! Love it!
I have a pork loin in the freezer that will be used for this recipe! I’ve never made a recipe like this and can’t wait to taste it.
Susan, PLEASE let me know what you think! I think it is better on the first day and then for superb sammies the next day or two!
My mom used to make a pork roast in milk similar to yours Roz. I guess it’s no wonder, since she was from Emilia Romagna, as your relatives are.
That is so interesting Linda! Is your mother here in the States or does she live in Italy! You must have grown up with outstanding cooking from your mother! Wow!
I’ve heard of this before but have always been a bit skeptical! good to know it’s actually quite tasty!
Thank Joanne! I reacted the very same that you did, but it really is a great entree!
You are really on a roll Roz and your description makes it impossible not to want to try this. The top of my try list is getting filled up with your dishes 🙂
I don’t know what’s gotten into me in the last two weeks, Larry. I think we were just extra hungry . . . must be from stress at work at the end of the semester! HA!
Pork tenderized with milk is brilliant. It’s like a V-8 moment. It seems so obvious in a way. As you can tell Roz, I’m not a skeptic but a fan. It’s not an accident that Italy is known for its superb cuisine =)
P.s. I agree with you – skip the two percent and go with the whole milk and creams =)
Wow Kim! You know so much about cooking! I’m so impressed with your knowledge!
Let me bow down before your mother, this looks fantastic! I can’t wait to try it myself.
Maureen, my mother was right . . . it’s delicious! If you make it please let me know what you think.
Thank you Roz – What a fabulous recipe! I made this today, following your recipe exactly, except for the omission of the capers (just don’t like them…sorry). The whole family loved, loved, loved this dish. It’s amazing how tender the pork was, no knives required! The sauce was delectable (it’s gotta be that whole milk & cream…yum), and a beautiful amber color to boot. Looking forward to a pork sandwich tomorrow with the smidgen of leftovers remaining.
Can’t wait to see what’s next…my pots, pans and spatulas are standing by 😉
I can’t thank you enough for such a wonderful compliment that 1) you made this recipe and 2) that your family and you were as delighted as we were with this unusual (in the U.S.) recipe. Your family experienced exactly the same thing that we did: delicious and oh so fork-tender! I’m glad that my additions enhanced the flavor for your family’s enjoyment! I’ll try my best to continue to prepare and post ‘keeper’ recipes for you!
I wish you could email me with a contact address so that I can thank you directly! I understand though.
Dear Roz, This pork sounds delicious and looks beautiful. I know this is something I would enjoy greatly! Blessings my dear friend, Catherine xo
Happy Mother’s Day! It’s been so busy with the end of the spring semester and I’m just now able to respond to your comment! Yes, this is a super delicious northern Italian entree. . . rich . . . and delicious!
This looks delicious- I am going to Pin for the future. I think it would work great in a slow cooker.
Sherri, It is so delicious. I had another woman write and tell me how her family just loved it! It sounds weird, but it is really delicious! I’ll have to try it in a crockpot too, what a great idea!
Let me know what you think, please,
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I am making this right now. My family comes from Northern Italy (they are in the annals of Ellis Island and a couple books), and although I have MANY recipes, this milk braised pork has never surfaced. So…….you can imagine my excitement at finding it, AND the urgency to make it…NOW….Must. Try. This.
It smells delicious, I cannot wait for the rest of the family to get here for dinner!…
Smeeeelllllllsssssssoooooo GOOD! I went and double checked my North End Italian cook book for anything like this, (can’t ask Gma, she’s gone), found nothing. I was quite surprised, everything great is in that book…
Quote from Karen’s email to Roz:
“Well, everyone loved it! Just lovely. I didn’t change or “fix-up” the recipe, except for doubling the amounts indicated. We were all glad I did! I was afraid someone was going to start picking at the pot….They did not disappoint….
I did have to engage in a brief, but victorious, tug-of-war with my family of four! I can’t be sure, but I think the girl
growled at me…?!
I served it with steamed broccoli (no brainer), and…. I wanted to eat it over rice. My husband wanted egg noodles.
My son says, with a blue box in his hand, “We need the large shell pasta so it can hold all the gravy goodness…like an upside-down boat!” ???
Anyway, I can’t wait to make it again so I can devour more OF THAT DELICIOUS BROWNED-UP MILK-BITS SAUCE, and succulent juicy pork!!! Yumm-mmmy It was so delicious, it was voted a family Comfort Food Keeper For Life, in the “Mom’s Recipes Box”.
Thanks for sharing this, I hope others make this, it really is amazing when cooked properly.
Yours Truly, Karen K.”
I am just in the middle of making a ragu from a recipe in a book I bought in Italy. It makes the most delightful sauce. Using beef, pork and chicken livers, there is a stage before leaving to simmer where milk is added. I was always curious to know how that works. Apparently the lactic acid in the milk tenderises the meat. Great trick – now I add milk to white chilli made with pork and it is scrumptious.
I’ve heard of the dish but have never given it a try…I guess it was because of the curdled milk aspect. Looking at the pork and your description, I’ve definitely got to give it a try.
This is one of those recipes that people hear the name and just back away. It is so unusual for us in the States. But wow, it is really out of this world. The 2 men that prepared the video of me on my “About” page devoured it and asked for the recipe after I served this to them for lunch. You can see a small bit of me preparing the pork in the video as well. Please let me know if you make this. You’re a great cook and I’d love to know what you think.
I love your emoils, Roz!! We love pork around here and this is a must try!!! What a nice endorsement!!! xo
Hi Liz, Thanks so much! I know that my husband is just as picky as your husband, so he’ll be thrilled with this entree, especially if both of you enjoy pork. This cream sauce is very “Northern” Italian due to the close proximity to Austria and Germany.
What a delicious way to prepare a pork loin. going to give this recipe a try.
Well, I sold! Just looking at your pictures make me hungry. I bet the milk does make it tender and tasty as well with all those other yummy braising ingredients. Fabulous recipe Roz!
Beautiful ! Thank you for reminding me… haven’t done it for ages….
A classic regional specialty, thank you for posting a dish that represents this beautiful region.
I followed the directions for the milk braised pork loin. It turned out fantastic. My ? Is the sauce didn.t get “golden brown” per the directions. Was this because the butter didn.t get brown ed when cooking the onions garlic and browning the pork loin?