The origin of Arrosticini is rooted in the pastoral traditions of the Abruzzo region in Italy, particularly among the shepherds who inhabited the mountainous areas. The dish’s history is quite interesting: (below the recipe)
It may seem quite a simple dish and it is, the flavour comes from the quality of the lamb and from experience that little char of the meat from the flame. It is the simplicity that makes this dish a tasty treat.
- Grill or BBQ
- 1 kg Lamb leg or shoulder cut into small cubes
- salt to taste
- Preparation of Meat: Trim any excess fat from the lamb and cut it into small, uniform cubes, about 1-2 cm each. This size ensures that the meat cooks quickly and evenly.
- Skewering: Thread the lamb cubes onto the skewers. Try to pack them tightly together. This helps in cooking the meat evenly. Each skewer should have enough meat for a few bites.
- Seasoning: Traditionally, Arrosticini are only seasoned with salt, but you can also brush them lightly with olive oil and sprinkle some rosemary for extra flavour.
- Grilling: Preheat your grill to a medium-high heat. Place the skewers on the grill, turning them occasionally to ensure even cooking. This should take about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the heat of your grill and your desired level of doneness.
- Serving: Once the meat is cooked to your liking, remove the skewers from the grill. It's traditional to eat Arrosticini straight off the skewer, accompanied by a piece of bread to help in handling them.
- Pairing: Serve with a side of salad, some crusty bread, and a glass of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wine for an authentic experience.
- The key to great Arrosticini is the quality of the lamb. Choose fresh, high-quality meat for the best flavour.
- Keep the seasoning simple to let the natural taste of the lamb shine.
- If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before threading the meat to prevent them from burning on the grill.
The History Of Arrosticini
Historically, shepherding was a common profession in Abruzzo. Shepherds would move their flocks between the highlands in summer and the lowlands in winter, a practice known as transhumance. This nomadic lifestyle required food that was easy to prepare and cook during their travels.
Use of Lamb:
Given their close association with sheep, it was natural for shepherds to use lamb as a primary food source. Lamb meat was both plentiful and practical for these shepherds.
The simplicity of Arrosticini reflects the conditions under which shepherds lived. They needed meals that were easy to prepare and cook in the open fields. Skewering small pieces of lamb and cooking them over an open flame was both convenient and required minimal equipment – just a fire and skewers.
The preparation and eating of Arrosticini also had a social element. It was common for shepherds to gather together around a fire, cook Arrosticini, and share meals as a communal activity. This not only provided nourishment but also a sense of camaraderie and connection.
Evolution and Popularity:
Over time, this traditional shepherd’s meal transitioned from a necessity of pastoral life to a popular regional dish, appreciated for its flavor and simplicity. It became a staple at local festivals and gatherings, eventually gaining popularity beyond the borders of Abruzzo.
The method of cooking small pieces of meat on skewers is a practice seen in various cultures around the world, but the specific preparation and tradition of Arrosticini are unique to the Abruzzo region, showcasing the blend of practicality and tradition in Italian culinary history.