Step into the Italian countryside with this authentic Arrosticini recipe! Savour the enticing aroma and rich flavours of these traditional Abruzzo lamb skewers, grilled to perfection. Your culinary adventure starts here – let’s ignite the grill and create some magic!
About this Recipe
By: Silvana Lanzetta
As summer’s just around the corner, and I bet you can’t wait to get your barbecue going! But hey, while you’re at it, grilling sausages, chicken, and all those yummy meats, why not give the mouth-watering arrosticini from Abruzzo a go?
I stumbled upon this gem during a school trip to Gran Sasso. We were meant to study the Apennine ecosystem, but instead, we found ourselves drooling over the irresistible local grub. After hours of trekking, the sight and smell of barbecued meat were simply too tempting to resist.
Arrosticini grilling on the traditonal Fornacella
The Gran Sasso
Abruzzese Shepherd with his flock on the Gran Sasso
The Magic Lies in the Ingredients
Making arrosticini is a piece of cake: just grill lamb meat over coal and season with sea salt. That’s all there is to it! However, as with all Italian food, the magic lies in picking the right ingredients. And for this grilled recipe, that means the finest mutton or lamb meat.
The real deal arrosticini uses meat from a castrato (a castrated young mutton) or what the locals in Abruzzo call a ‘ciavarra’ – a young sheep that hasn’t given birth yet. The flavour and tenderness of these meats are out of this world.
The trick is to mix fatty cuts with lean cuts. Cut the meat into evenly-sized chunks, alternating super lean meat with bits of sheep fat. The fat plays a vital role in arrosticini, keeping the meat juicy during cooking and adding flavour. The fat droplets sizzling on the coals work wonders on the smoking process, giving off an amazing aroma.
This method needs top-notch meat to handle the longer cooking time.
How to serve your authentic arrosticini
When it comes to serving, there’s only one way to serve them: bundled up! They’re placed at the centre of the table in groups of 20 to 50 pieces, wrapped in foil to keep them warm. Some people in Abruzzo even use special containers for this.
Typically, it’s served with homemade bread drizzled with extra virgin olive oil (known as “pane ‘onde” locally) and maybe a touch of spicy chilli pepper. Remember, don’t toast or salt the bread, as the skewers are already generously salted.
Best wine pairing for arrosticini
No meal is complete without the perfect beverage to complement it, and arrosticini is no exception. A glass of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine goes down a treat with these lamb skewers. Or, if you fancy a more traditional option, try a mix of local red wine and soda water (three parts wine, one part soda).
Word has it that around 1930, two shepherds from Voltigno came up with the idea. They cubed an older sheep’s meat and skewered it on small wooden sticks, cooking it over coals in a makeshift brazier made from gutter bits. This clever method was originally designed to avoid wasting the meat of older sheep, no longer suitable for other dishes. From a humble, frugal meal, arrosticini has become a beloved delicacy enjoyed across Italy and beyond.
Arrosticini, a grilled mutton dish, is rich in protein but can also be high in saturated fats. Balance your meal with vegetables and complex carbs, avoid charring the meat, and consume in moderation for a healthy diet.
- Proteins 40% 40%
- Carbs 0% 0%
- Fats 60% 60%
Let’s make our delicious arrosticini
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 4 portions 1x
Arrosticini are traditional Italian skewers of mutton or lamb grilled over a flame and served hot. Originating from the Abruzzo region, they’re known for their rich, savoury flavour and tender texture. They are a popular street food and often enjoyed at social gatherings.
- 800 grams of mutton or lamb brisket
- 4 grams of sea salt
- Pepper to taste
- Cut the meat into roughly one-centimetre (0.4 inch) cubes. Don’t be overly concerned about precision here, as the charm of a homemade arrosticino lies in the variation of the pieces.
- Thread the meat onto the skewers, alternating between pieces of fatty and lean meat until you have a skewer that is about 20 cm (8 inch) in length.
- Now, it’s time to fire up your barbecue. Once it’s ready, place the lamb skewers onto the barbecue and cook them for approximately 10 minutes. Remember to turn them at least four times during the cooking process to ensure all sides are evenly cooked.
- As the arrosticini near completion, generously season them with salt and pepper and wrap them in foil to keep them hot.
- Serve the arrosticini alongside a slice of white bread drizzled with fine extra-virgin olive oil.
- Remember, arrosticini are best enjoyed using your hands, no need for a knife or fork!
Arrosticini is ideally made using forequarter cuts: belly, shoulder, neck, back, and brisket.
This dish is best enjoyed immediately after preparation. If necessary, it can be stored in a refrigerator within a sealed container for a maximum of two days.
Freezing is not recommended.
Take care not to overcook the meat, as it would result in a rubbery texture due to excessive fluid loss. During the cooking process of Arrosticini, ensure the flame is not too high to avoid burning or drying them out.
The meat for Arrosticini should contain a fat content equivalent to a quarter (25%) of its weight; this is crucial to prevent the meat from becoming overly dry and subsequently tough during cooking.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Meat
- Method: Barbeque
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: meat, traditional recipe, barbeque, summer recipe, grilled lamb
FAQs: Perfecting Your Arrosticini
Q: Can I make arrosticini using a different type of meat?
A: While arrosticini traditionally uses lamb or mutton, you can experiment with other meats such as beef or pork. However, keep in mind that the distinct flavours and tenderness of arrosticini come from using the finest cuts of lamb or mutton.
Q: Are there any vegetarian or vegan alternatives to arrosticini?
A: Arrosticini is primarily a meat-based dish. However, you can explore vegetarian or vegan alternatives by using plant-based proteins like tofu or seitan marinated with lemon juice, olive oil, rosemary, and garlic. Grilling these alternatives might provide a similar barbecued experience.
Q: Can I freeze arrosticini for later use?
A: Arrosticini is best enjoyed fresh off the grill. It’s recommended to consume arrosticini immediately after cooking for the best experience.
Q: Are there any gluten-free options for serving arrosticini?
A: Yes! If you have dietary restrictions, opt for gluten-free bread or serve arrosticini with gluten-free side dishes like grilled vegetables or a fresh salad.
Q: Can I marinate the meat before grilling arrosticini?
A: While authentic arrosticini don’t require marination, you can certainly experiment with different flavours by marinating the meat before grilling. Consider using a simple marinade of olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Allow the meat to marinate for at least 30 minutes to infuse it with additional flavours. However, keep in mind that marinating will alter the authentic taste of traditional arrosticini. Marinating the meat is especially useful when using the oven.
Q: Can I grill arrosticini on a gas barbecue instead of coal?
A: While coal grilling adds a unique smoky flavour to the arrosticini, you can still achieve delicious results on a gas barbecue. Just make sure to maintain a medium-high heat and adjust cooking times accordingly.
Q: How can I ensure the meat stays juicy and tender?
A: To keep the meat juicy and tender, it’s important not to overcook it. Lamb or mutton should be cooked to medium-rare or medium for the best texture. Avoid pressing down on the meat while grilling to retain its natural juices. Resting the cooked skewers for a few minutes before serving will also help to lock in the moisture.
Q: Can I use different seasonings or spices for arrosticini?
A: Absolutely! While the traditional seasoning for arrosticini is simply sea salt, you can experiment with various spices and seasonings to suit your taste preferences. Some popular options include paprika, cumin, oregano, or a sprinkle of chili flakes for a bit of heat. Feel free to get creative and customize the seasoning according to your palate.
Q: Can I make arrosticini indoors if I don't have access to a grill?
A: While the authentic smoky flavour of arrosticini comes from grilling over coals, you can still enjoy them indoors if you don’t have access to a grill. Preheat your oven to a high temperature and place the skewers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cook for about 10-12 minutes, turning occasionally, until the meat is cooked through and slightly browned.
Q: What other side dishes pair well with arrosticini?
A: While arrosticini shines as the star of the show, you can complement them with a variety of delicious side dishes. Grilled vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, or eggplant add a fresh and colorful touch. A simple green salad with a tangy vinaigrette or a Mediterranean-style couscous salad can also be great accompaniments. Feel free to get creative and tailor the side dishes to your preferences.