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Aside from maccheroni alla chitarra, if there’s one dish that’s synonymous
with Abruzzo, it’s arrosticini, succulent skewers of lamb cooked over an open fire. Called rustelle or arrustelle in the local dialect, arrosticini are part of the foods that shepherds ate while they were leading their flocks along the transumanza – the seasonal migration of sheep from the high pastures to the lowlands closer to the sea. Perhaps that’s why the lamb is typically cut into small pieces. Shepherds didn’t have many resources available to them and smaller pieces of meat would be more tender and cook more quickly.
You can find arrosticini in many of the mountainous villages and towns throughout the region, especially near the Gran Sasso mountain.
I’ve eaten arrosticini in many places in Abruzzo and I’ve always wondered how the pieces are cut so uniformly.
 I found out a few days ago when I asked the owner of “Lu Gattone” in Manoppello, who showed me the implement used in creating the skewers. The lamb meat is first layered into a square metal contraption, alternating occasionally with layers of fat. All parts of the lamb are used, he said, from the shoulder to the leg. Leave the skinny sheep out to pasture, since they don’t contain enough marbling to ensure juiciness. Traditionally, castrated sheep were used, but that’s not always the case today.
After the meat is stuffed up to the brim of the container, wooden skewers are inserted. A knife is run down through the slots, slicing the meat into uniform skewers. The plastic lid is raised and slid away from the meat and what remains are 225 perfect skewers of lamb.
I haven’t taken a survey across Abruzzo, but each time I’ve asked the restaurant owner if he marinated the arrosticini first, the answer was always “no.” Just a little salt is added and that’s it. They’ve always been tender and succulent, but if you want to marinate them first to ensure success, the arrosticini police won’t come after you.
They’re cooked outdoors over hot coals, but at home you won’t have one of the square gizmos for cutting the meat, so improvise as needed. Use a knife to cut the lamb into small pieces by hand, and thread the pieces through wooden skewers that have first been soaked in water. A gas grill will work just as well as charcoal, but make sure the temperature is really good and hot, since they should take only a couple of minutes on each side. This narrow grill – called a “canale” because it resembles a gutter, allows the skewers to stay off the heat while the meat cooks, and is typical of what you see at large gatherings and restaurants. This photo was taken as our lunch was prepared one day at the “Let’s Blog Abruzzo” conference in Santo Stefano di Sessanio.
The traditional way to eat arrosticini is to just pick up a skewer and bite, as these two women are demonstrating. No forks or knives needed.
Just add a good glass of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo wine.
 Buon Appetito!


Cut small pieces of lamb, from a piece of meat that has some marbling. Otherwise, thread the lamb alternately with pieces of fat, on skewers that have been soaked in water. Grill over a hot fire for a couple of minutes on each side. Season to taste with salt. Serve with bread drizzled with olive oil and a good glass of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo wine.

This Post Has 22 Comments
  1. Che buoni gli arrosticini, accompagnati ad un grande vino, diventano un piatto irresistibile. un abbraccio, buona giornata Daniela.

  2. Wonderful post, Linda! I don't agree on one point, though- if you marinate them, the arrosticini police WILL come after you! 😉

  3. I can't believe your friends are wearing jackets, it's in the 90's here and humid!
    The arrosticini look beautiful, as does everything about your trip.
    It seems like you have been gone so long. Glad you are enjoying. xo

  4. You sure are living the good life Linda. Good food, wine and beauty all around you and memories to last a life time!
    Now when are you coming back to reality? Or are you??

  5. Great article! Our local arrosticini place also does a great variation ….fegato, cipolla e pancetta. Lightly sprinkled with peperoncino flakes and cooked in the same way as the lamb version. It is fantastic. PS. Just one tip as a seasoned arrositici eater myself. Don't bite the meat and pull from stick. Think old fashioned carriage typewriters (if you are old enough to remember these). Take the end piece of meat between teeth and slide skewer away to leave the meat in your mouth. WARNING: Not recommended if you wear dentures 🙂

  6. Wonderful pictures – I have never heard of arrosticini before but they look absolutely wonderful – hard to believe that all that is needed to flavor them is a bit of salt but the meat must be so tasty just the way it is – nice to learn something new about local foods that are enjoyed in Abruzzo! Enjoyed this post very much!
    Have a lovely Sunday!

  7. My children call arrosticini meat lollipops and they can't wait to get their fill this summer. I've so enjoyed following your adventures in Abruzzo. Safe travels home.

  8. I'd love to bite into several of those Linda! How interesting how they are prepared! Love the photos showing us! Great wine selection too! SALUTE' !


  9. Roasted arrosticini look delicious, <Linda! I could probably eat a dozen 🙂 They look so special cut perfectly by that box.

    I know I'd love the Abruzzo wine — I love a hearty, flavorful red!

  10. We were at Farmer's Market yesterday and were wondering about a summer recipe for lamb – and here you are! I'd never be able to make them uniform (no fine motor skills). But I do want to make them – such a simple summer treat. I looked at the jackets on the two women and wondered about that – very Minnesotan!

  11. Love your arrosticini pics, Linda. I can't wait to head over there later this month and chow down on a few skewers myself. A few years ago we went to one place in which the owner took great pride in the fact that he still hand-cut his arrosticini. Either way, they are a work of art, with the marbled patterns running the length of the lined up skewers. The place we went to on the Gran Sasso did not marinate them, just seasoned with salt. But at the very end of grilling, the grill master picked up a soda bottle filled with his special marinade and just dressed the skewers with a few shakes. Heaven.

  12. I will be in Abruzzo near Gran Sasso in August. We love to be with my parents during the summer half term. Arrosticini e maccheroni alla chitarra are on my wishing list!!

  13. I will be in Abruzzo near Gran Sasso in August. We love to be with my parents during the summer half term. Arrosticini e maccheroni alla chitarra are on my wishing list!!

  14. Bella risegna, Bravo your explanation about the Arrosticini couldn’t be better. I grow up in SULMONA, Abruzzo and my father from Torre da’Passeri, just to give you an idea how much a missed my Arrosticini a specially been so faraway. I was very lucky to meet this person from Pratola Peligna which he make the original Rustella for arrosticini and the cubes to make them too, now once an while I make my own arrosticini. Thank you to ROSTIGRILL.US Arrivederci

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