I learned to cook arista, the first pork loin recipe in this series, from a maid at a farm house we rented one summer outside of Siena. Luisa liked me to accompany her into town as she shopped for provisions. I happily padded along after her, pleased to see the markets and meet her butcher, baker and vegetable seller. My job was to pay the bill after she made her selections. Luisa was an excellent cook, and she was willing to teach. “The Madonna (I was there with my toddler son) makes pasta!” she exclaimed after our first tutorial. Then she added “but it doesn’t taste Italian.”
According to the Gourmet Cookbook, “in 1430, the clergy of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches came together over a banquet to try to settle their differences. The convocation was a great success. The most impressive part of the banquet, the story goes, was a whole roast of pork with beautiful bronzed skin and succulent meat. Upon tasting the meat, the Greek prelate threw up his hands in delight and declared the pork arista, the best! Although the churches were at peace with each other only temporarily, Italians have been calling roast pork arista ever since.” And they’re right.
The arista recipe, and three more in this series, ask you to first brown the pork in a 425* oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325* and continue roasting for 1 hour and 45 minutes, for total of 2 hours in the oven. Once removed, the roast should sit, loosely covered with foil, for 20 to 30 minutes to reabsorb its juices before carving. Cutting the roast into individual chops will be easier if you’ve previously asked the butcher to cut the chine bones. If you’re looking for a more formal, elegant presentation, you also can ask your butcher to French the ribs (to scrape the meat away from the ends, exposing the bone).
The other two recipes tell you to roast the pork at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time. Remember that pork traditionally is cooked thoroughly (often to the point of dryness) to avoid parasites harmful to humans that can survive in undercooked pork. More recently, improved breeding techniques for hogs have made it possible to cook pork for shorter time periods and still maintain safety. Use an instant read thermometer, inserted into the thickest portion of the roast, but not touching any bones, and take the roast out of the oven when it registers 145*.