Maiale al Latte

This classic Italian braised pork in milk dish is so simple to make, and so delicious. It comes from the Emilio-Romagna region, and the slow cooked pork becomes incredibly tender. The milk proteins tenderize the pork, and add a bit of savory-sweetness to the amazingly flavorful sauce.

Milk Braised Pork

What Kind of Pork to Use in Milk Braised Pork

This is a great question.  It is traditionally made with pork loin, but traditionally pork was not bred to be as lean as it is today. So the pork loins of yesteryear had more fat in it, which is what you want.  Look for pork loin that has been sustainably raised from a small producer, perhaps a heritage pig.  This pork will be more like the cuts of pork loin used to make this dish in Italy, and you will get a very tender braised pork dish.  Commercially raised pork might end up being on the drier side.  

You can also use a small pork shoulder, which will have a generous amount of fat.  If you go that route you may need to let the sauce sit at the end, and skim off any excess fat that rises to the top before serving or pureeing the sauce.

Milk Braised Pork: This classic Italian pork dish is cooked until fork-tender and served in a milk-based sauce with a wonderfully rich flavor.

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Milk Braised Pork

Why Does the Sauce Separate?

The milk slowly caramelizes during the braising process, enhancing the natural sugars in the milk.  The natural lactic helps to break down the pork, making it enticingly tender.  The sauce will likely start to break apart, or curdle – it’s supposed to! This may not look so pretty, but it’s those curds that add so much flavor to the sauce and the dish. 

However, you may also choose to blend the sauce in a blender or food processor to emulsify it, and make it smoother.  (Many Italian Grandmas might be made at you for this, but you decide!). I did that, so that the generous amount of leeks I used in the braise could be incorporated into the sauce. The sauce was just amazing, and you should make sure to serve this with something starchy and also some crusty bread so you don’t waste a drop of it.

Milk Braised Pork

How to Make Milk Braised Pork

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.  Season the pork loin with salt and pepper.  

Heat the oil in a large pot with a lid over medium-high heat.  Add the pork and brown for about 10 minutes total, turning it every two minutes or so as the underside browns.  Transfer it to a plate. Pour off any fat from the pan.

Return the pan to medium high heat and add the butter.  When the butter is melted add the leeks.  Sauté for 5 minutes until the leeks start to soften.  Add the crushed garlic cloves and leeks, and sauté for 2 minutes until the cloves turn lightly golden.  Pour in the warm milk and add the lemon zest, sage, thyme and bay leaves.  Bring to a simmer, tuck the pork back into the sauce fat side up.  

Cover and transfer the pot to the oven, turning the pork every 45 minutes or so, for 2 ½ hours. Remove the lid and continue to cook, uncovered for about 30 minutes or so until the pork and leeks are very tender.  The internal temperature of the pork should read 140°F on an instant read thermometer.

Milk Braised Pork

Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.  While the pork is resting, remove and discard the zest and herbs, and continue to simmer the sauce in the pot over medium high heat until it becomes a thick sauce.  The sauce may look slightly broken or curdled; this is fine, that what happens when dairy is cooked for a long while.  If you prefer (and that’s what I did) you can pour the sauce into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  If the sauce looks appealing as is, you can skip that step, and just leave the vegetables intact in the sauce.

Milk Braised Pork

Thinly slice the pork and serve warm with the sauce.

What to Serve with Milk Braised Pork:

Milk Braised Pork

Other Italian Pork Dishes:

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Milk Braised Pork

This classic Italian pork dish is cooked until fork-tender and served in a milk-based sauce with a wonderfully rich flavor.
Yield: 8 people
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours
Diet: Gluten Free

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (3 ⅓ pound) pork loin
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 leeks , trimmed and sliced (use the white and very light green parts only; save the rest for stock)
  • 10 cloves garlic , peeled and crushed (see Note)
  • 3 cups whole milk , warmed
  • 4 strips lemon zest
  • 3 sprigs fresh sage
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 275°F. Season the pork loin with salt and pepper.
  • Heat the oil in a large pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the pork and brown for about 10 minutes total, turning it every two minutes or so as the underside browns. Transfer it to a plate. Pour off any excess fat from the pan.
  • Return the pan to medium high heat and add the butter. When the butter is melted add the leeks. Sauté for 5 minutes until the leeks start to soften. Add the crushed garlic cloves and leeks, and sauté for 2 minutes until the cloves turn lightly golden. Pour in the warm milk and add the lemon zest, sage, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, tuck the pork back into the sauce fat side up (the sauce should come about two-thirds the sides of the pork). Cover and transfer the pot to the oven, turning the pork every 45 minutes or so, for 2 ½ hours. Remove the lid and continue to cook, uncovered for about 30 minutes or so until the pork and leeks are very tender. The internal temperature of the pork should read 140°F on an instant read thermometer.
  • Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. While the pork is resting, remove and discard the zest and herbs, and continue to simmer the sauce in the pot over medium high heat until it becomes a thick sauce. The sauce may look slightly broken or curdled; this is fine, that what happens when dairy is cooked for a long while. If you prefer (and that’s what I did) you can pour the sauce into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. If the sauce looks appealing as is, you can skip that step, and just leave the vegetables intact in the sauce.
  • Thinly slice the pork, and serve warm with the sauce.

Notes

To crush garlic simply place it on a cutting board and place the side of a large heavy chef’s knife on a couple of cloves at a time. Use the bottom of your fist to smack the side of the knife so that the blade crushed the garlic beneath. Repeat with the rest of the cloves.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 501kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 41g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 136mg | Sodium: 134mg | Potassium: 863mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 640IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 170mg | Iron: 2mg

The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.

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