Spiedini, Spiducci and Arrosticini Guide, Recipes and Grills
Now that the weather is warming up and the sun is coming out, our thoughts (and tastebuds) are gearing up for grilling season - and, here at Consiglio’s that means spiedini! Also commonly known as spiducci or arrosticini, these traditional Italian meat skewers are delicious crowd pleasers, and a great addition to any grilling feast. Check out our guide here to learn a little more about spiedini history, look at some of our favourite spiedini and arrosticini recipes, and learn how to make your own spiedini like a pro!
Spiedini, Spiducci and Arrosticini: A History
Whether you know them as spiedini, spiducci (also commonly spelled as speducci) or arrosticini is largely based on how your family’s own traditions and recipes have been passed down through generations - what these delicious Italian grilled skewers share, however, is a common origin story. Originating from Abruzzo, Italy’s mountainous region along the Adriatic coast known for its history of sheep herding and unique culinary traditions, arrosticini is traditionally prepared from “fixed” or castrated male sheep meat, cut into small chunks approximately 1 cm (0.4 inches) cubed, fed onto skewers roughly 10 cm (4 inches) long. The skewered meat is then grilled over a bed of charcoal in a specially designed spiedini or arrosticini grill, also known as a fornacella - the grill is designed to rest the skewers over the hot coals in such a way that the meat itself never touches the grill, allowing for an amazing grilled texture and flavour without the risk of the meat sticking during the cooking process.
While sheep’s meat is the Abruzzese culinary tradition, modern spiedini is commonly made from lamb, although both chicken and beef are also common. In staying with the classic arrosticini preparation, the meat is skewered and grilled without seasoning, and salted as soon as it comes off the grill. Those looking for more flavour occasionally baste the arrosticini with olive oil, applied with a sprig of fresh rosemary to add a bit of aromatics to the meat without detracting from its base flavour.
Spiedini and Spiducci Recipe Ideas: Variations
on the Traditional Arrosticini
As mentioned above, lamb is perhaps the most common meat used for modern spiedini or spiducci, especially in North America. When using lamb, it’s recommended to use cuts of meat with roughly 25% fat or marbling, to ensure that your spiedini come out tender and moist. If using more lean cuts, the layers of lamb can be alternated with thin layers of ovine or pork fat, which will serve to baste the lamb while it grills.
Traditional: If going for a traditional arrosticini or Abruzzo-inspired spiedini, keep your lamb unseasoned until it’s just coming off the grill. Sprinkle with coarse salt, and use fresh rosemary to baste with olive oil.
Marinated: To up the flavours from the traditional recipe, marinate your lamb before skewering by sealing it in a ziploc bag with some olive oil, rosemary sprigs and a bit of lemon juice. Let rest in a refrigerator (or ice cooler) for half an hour before making up your skewers.
Though not traditional, chicken is amazing when used for spiedini. Given that white chicken meat is much more lean (and thus drier) than lamb, marinating it before grilling will help to keep your final product tender and flavourful. You can keep with the traditional flavour profile above (olive oil, lemon, rosemary), though an Italian herb mixture (oregano, basil), garlic and olive oil is also incredible. For something slightly different, try lemon, olive oil and dill, and serve your chicken spiedini with a side of tzatziki for dipping - traditional? No. Delicious? Heck yes!
Veal, Beef, and Pork: The Possibilities are Endless!
Perhaps the most amazing thing about modern spiedini is its sheer versatility - though inspired by the classic Italian arrosticini, the spiedini technique can be applied to a huge array of meats, marinates and flavours with delicious results. Veal will make for amazing, tender spiedini, and using beef opens up the doors to a world of flavour - use your favourite bbq dry rub for a more North American barbeque flavour, or whip up a quick marinade of soy sauce, olive oil and chili flakes for a more Asian-inspired taste.
- If using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them before hand to prevent them from scorching while on the grill!
- If using a marinade, use sweet or saccharine sauces and liquids sparingly and with caution as the sugar can, and will, cause flare ups on the grill.
With so many tasty spiedini recipes and variations, the question becomes how to make your spiedini. While the end result is amazing, hand-feeding individual pieces of meat onto dozens of skewers is both tedious and time consuming. The answer? The Cubo Spiedini Maker - the magical (or, just practical) box that allows you to make batches of spiedini (usually 49, 100, or 169 skewers AT A TIME) without the need to hand-feed a single piece of meat!
How to Make Spiedini: the Cubo Spiedini Maker
For as delicious as they sound (and are!) the idea of hand-threading small cubes of meat onto dozens of skewers sounds tedious and work intensive - which, frankly, it is. The alternative? A true Italian Spiedini maker!
Made of high-quality stainless steel and food-grade nylon, the Cubo Spiedini Maker is designed to streamline the spiedini making process - simply layer the meat cuts of your choice (no need to pre-cube them!) inside of the box, and top with the removable nylon insert, and gently push your skewers through the evenly-spaced holes.
Once the last of your skewers are inserted, take a sharp knife, and insert into each of the vertical openings along the side of the spiedini maker, carefully cutting through each layer of your meat. Once every opening has been cut through, your spiedini (or arrosticini if using the traditional recipe) will be evenly skewered, sliced, and ready to grill!
Spiedini Maker Tips:
- If using a spiedini recipe that calls for a marinade, be sure to marinade your whole cuts of meat. When ready to prepare skewers, remove meat from the marinade and gently shake off any excess before layering in the Cubo Spiedini Maker.
- If using smaller pieces of meat (for example, chicken breast), arrange your meat in such a way that the division between pieces lines up with the lines you’ll be cutting - this will help prevent small pieces unattached from a skewer, and keep the meat layers even across your spiedini.The Cubo Spiedini Maker can also be used to layer vegetables throughout your meat skewers - simply slice to your desired thickness, and lay them in the spiedini maker. As with above, larger flat slices are recommended to ensure even distribution across skewers.
Spiedini Grills and Barbeques: The Fornacella
The traditional means of grilling spiedini and arrosticini, the fornacella is a charcoal barbeque specifically designed to accommodate the size and skewers of spiedini. A freestanding grill typically made of stainless steel, the fornacella has a trough-like shape designed to cradle the charcoal, with the spiedini skewers laying across the trough.
Although traditionally the charcoal would be started in the fornacella itself and stoked while it starts (with everything from a wood paddle or a modern electric hair dryer used to keep the charcoal going), we prefer to use a chimney charcoal starter to make the process easier, faster and ultimately more efficient.
Don’t have the space for a designated spiedini barbeque? There are now specially designed spiedini grill tops available that are compatible with either charcoal or propane barbeques! The stainless steel spiedini grill sits atop your standard bbq grate and holds your skewers, cooking them thoroughly while keeping them off your grill or sticking while cooking - there’s even notch cut aways to keep your skewers in place while they cook.