The Abruzzese specialties for main courses is lamb (sheep have been roaming the hill pastures for centuries in Central Italy and fish from the waters of the Adriatic.
Roast lamb, a tasty basic rustic dish, comes in a variety of dishes such as arrosticini (thin wooden skewers containing pieces of mutton cooked over embers), agnello al cotturo (lamb stuffed with mountain herbs) and agnello cacao e ovo.
The region of Abruzzo looks onto the Adriatic Sea that supplies raw material for a cuisine based on local, tasty fish. Pescara, Giulianova (TE), Ortona (CH) and Vasto (CH) are the most important ports. The waters abound in mackerel, sardines, anchovies and scorpion fish but the shellfish is also excellent. Out of local fish dishes, the Abruzzo version of Adriatic brodetto (fish stew), consisting of scorpion fish, prawns, octopus and angler fish, is particularly outstanding. There are three classical fish stew variations from Giulianova, Pescara and Vasto; the fish is cooked in earthenware pots with fresh tomatoes and various spices such as the usual hot chilli pepper.
The meat dish found all over Abruzzo and especially in the mountains and foothills is Arrosticini. They are prepared from mutton with a fat content of around 25%, cubed to 1cm square and threaded onto reed skewers. The fat content makes them tasty and tender. Immediately after butchering the meat is hung to mature and acidify in cold cells or, during winter, in cool premises, for at least three days but for no longer than a week. The end product consists of skewers of meat weighing 20-30g, with a red colour that varies in intensity according to the age of the animal; the meat may be seasoned with natural flavourings (chilli pepper, sage, onion) and may be mixed with pork or beef.
"Arrosticini” are grilled over oak or charcoal embers and are served hot. Sometimes the meat is drizzled with olive oil mixed with vinegar and salt. In the past the use of mutton as part of the staple diet of shepherds and the poorer classes was linked to shepherd culture. Nowadays, on the other hand, these little mutton kebabs are a highly popular dish. Their unique flavour has always been successful with consumers and that is why the “arrosticino” is counted as one of the most traditional, original and characteristic food items in Abruzzo.