Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dirty Little Secrets...


Arrosticini is a simple, yet delicious, dish that comes from the Abruzzo region of Italy. Typically served as a second course of meat or fish, it is most commonly made with lamb. The meat is cut into small pieces and pierced with a skewer, alternating fat and cubes of meat, to help keep the lamb juicy and tender. The skewers are then cooked over an open fire on a specially built grill, burning wood or charcoal, or even more traditionally, kindling from the local brush, such as grape vines or olive branches. The lamb has a mild flavor and, when cooked properly, will melt in your mouth. Like many Italian dishes, the meat is minimally seasoned, commonly with lemon, olive oil, and rosemary, and usually comes from a local source; sometimes, the cooks’ very own cattle. Most people serve arrosticini with other traditional dishes, like homemade sliced bread that has been soaked in extra virgin olive oil and, again in typical Italian tradition, accompanied by a glass of wine. Arrosticini are meant to be eaten with your hands, and pulled off the skewers with your teeth. The fresh, rustic taste of local ingredients keep this meal simple, but the clean, mild flavor of arrosticini is not to be underestimated. Due to its simplicity, arrosticini is now being produced both commercially, and in homemade fashion, outside of Abruzzo, and can even be found in few markets throughout Europe and North America. Once you get a taste of mouth watering arrosticini, you’ll find yourself craving it all of the time! To fulfill that craving, try out the recipe below:


If you do not have a grill or barbecue, arrosticini can be cooked on a griddle or in the oven, provided they be well seasoned with oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Here's how:

-A minimum of 800 grams (4 cups) lean lamb, diced

-Extra virgin olive oil

-Rosemary sprigs

-Salt & pepper

-The juice of 1/2 lemon

Start your coals or light the heat under your griddle, and keep at a medium temperature, for the cooking.

Skewer the meat cubes neatly on well-oiled metal skewers or tiny disposable wooden kebab sticks (which you’ll have soaked briefly in water, so the heat won’t burn the wood). Marinate your kebabs in olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Turn them over to ensure all sides soak up the flavors. Dribble over the lemon juice and roast them on the barbecue quickly, 2-3 minutes, turning a couple of times to ensure even cooking, while basting the arrosticini with more olive oil, using your rosemary sprig.

The shepherd’s tip:

Cosimo, my new shepherd friend from Calascio, tells me that arrosticini meat should not be too lean, the fat marbling should be about 25% of the total used, this will avoid the preparation to become too dry and toughen on the chew during roasting. Arrosticini should be mild flavored, not "muttony", and if properly cooked, will melt in your mouth. Also maintain the flames (or the heat) low so that the arrosticini won’t char. And always keep a bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo handy when grilling arrosticini...

*Photo from

*Recipe from

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