Hello fellow cooks! Today we are going to talk about the famous arrosticini, a staple of Abruzzese cuisine as well as one of my all-time favorite foods… Arrosticini are such a big part of the region’s culinary tradition and yet they are still not very well known in the rest of Italy or internationally, so I’m hoping to change that…
For the uninitiated, arrosticini (also referred to as spiedini by locals) are skewers of castrated sheep’s meat cut in small bite-sized chunks. The preparation of the skewers is pretty much an art and gives arrosticini their unique flavour. The meat is traditionally cubed in 1 cm (almost half an inch) pieces and threaded onto wooden skewers which are 25 cm (about 10 inches) long and alternated with sheep’s fat. The small size and the fat content is key to keep the meat moist and tender during cooking.
There are 3 main things to remember for an authentic arrosticini experience.
First, you can’t grill them on a barbecue or grill pan because the skewers need to be turned very frequently and you would just burn your fingers attempting to do so. Trust me, I tried it myself because I had no other options, but hey I was sooooo hungry! And I just couldn’t tame my raging appetite, always a fault of mine… For a proper preparation you need a special brazier called furnacella, which is long enough to cook many at the same time, but with the exact width required to cook the meat alone (and not burn the wood or your fingers).
Second, cooking is not easy. Arrosticini need to be turned around continuously, one side at a time, and removed from fire immediately once ready or they will end up hard and chewy. Which means you always have to stick around the furnacella and check on them. Cooking time is pretty much a matter of experience, as with every barbecue preparation, but the positive side of it is…. you get to eat loads of skewers while cooking! Also, very important, leave seasoning at the very end or it will extract the moisture out of the meat. Original arrosticini are seasoned with salt only and, if desired, rubbed in chili oil.
Third, serving is just as important. Arrosticini are served a few at a time, hot as they come out of the furnacella, and accompanied by traditional home-made bread soaked in extra-virgin olive oil or bruschettas and a sip of Montepulciano or Cerasuolo wine. To finish off, my personal favorite is a glass of Ratafia, a sweet liqueur made with amarene (fresh cherries), to be serve slightly chilled. Awesome…
Last but not least, don’t ever eat them alone. Arrosticini are for celebrating good times with friends and family, so the more you are the better!
If you’re visiting Abruzzo, you just have to try them. Every restaurant will boast them on the menu, but if you want to try cooking them at home, you can find good quality arrosticini at Lucci’s shops all over the region (I personally love the one in Giulianova) or online at this link.
Check them out and spread the love!