Spiedini Alla Romana is a skewer of oozing mozzarella and crunchy bread drowning in a garlicky white wine and butter sauce. During the dinner party season, I’m always on the hunt for delicious first courses. It’s also the season when I test new recipes for Italian by Night on my unsuspecting guests. This one has been floating around in my brain for a couple of years so I thought it was time to give it a go.
I first tasted Spiedini alla Romana in Trastevere, Rome. Ralph and I love to venture off the beaten path when we travel, preferring to enjoy local life rather than live as a tourist. We found a tiny trattoria away from the main drag that smelled like the angels were cooking. I asked our waiter to bring us the gorgeous cheesy bread thing that seemed to be going to every table.
As we waited for our Spiedini alla Romana, we watched the Romans around us pull the warm, soft mozzarella laden toasted bread apart as they portioned it on their plates. Every drop of the buttery herb and caper sauce was ladled on top. I could hear the bread crunch as their eyes closed in ecstacy. We felt like voyeurs until ours arrived and we started to moan in unison. There are food moments in life when all your senses explode. This was mine.
Spiedini alla Romana is soft, crispy, salty, rich appetizer perfection. It couldn’t be easier to prepare and your guests will be licking their plates.
You can serve it as pictured above using whole slices of bread or your can cut the bread slices into quarters and serve each guest with their own skewer. Both presentations are glorious.
Like many humble Italian dishes, there are few ingredients but they must be good quality. Choose an artisan white bread with substantial texture and a tender crumb. I use Ace bread products when I don’t make my own bread, which is often. After you remove the crusts, you can allow them to dry out then whiz them up in your food processor to make your own bread crumbs. I never throw anything away.
It may seem superfluous to rub the toast with fresh garlic but once you do it you’ll understand how necessary this step is to the final flavour of your dish. The warm bread pulls the moisture from the cut garlic clove becoming completely and evenly garlic scented.
Use fresh mozzarella that’s suspended in a salty brine rather than the tasteless vac-packed blocks. Fresh mozzarella has a creamy texture and a rich subtle flavour.
Do your best to slice the bread and mozzarella to the same thickness. You’ll want an even ratio of cheese to bread.
Your skewer needs to be long enough to pierce the entire loaf with enough length on each end to create handles for you to use when turning the spiedini as it roasts. I used two skewers and divided the loaf of bread in half to fit my skewer length. To serve, I put the two halves back together on the platter, removed the skewers and made one long loaf.
If ever I needed you to trust me, now is the time. I waited until you were this far into the post before disclosing the secret ingredient in the sauce. Yep. Anchovies.
Wait! Don’t click off.
Anchovies are not used to add a fishy flavour to the sauce, they are used as a complex salt component. They will literally melt into the olive oil as you warm them leaving only a gorgeous saltiness behind.
Slice them finely to ensure they disappear. However, if you want your anchovies more forward in the sauce, you can chop them coarsely.
Dinner parties over the holidays are the perfect time to pull out all the stops. Spiedini alla Romana sounds fancy but is truthfully a simple first course to prepare yet spectacular to eat. You will have your guests food moaning at first bite!
I’d love to hear how you make out. Drop me a note in the comment section.
Thanks for reading. xo
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon portions
- 1 large shallot, chop fine
- 4 anchovy fillets, chop fine
- 1/4 cup dry white vermouth [ you can substitute dry white wine ]
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/4 cup capers, drained
- 8 large basil leaves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 loaf of artisan white bread
- 2 fat cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and cut in half lengthways
- 2 - 500 gram containers of fresh mozzarella in brine
- In a heavy bottomed skillet, warm 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat.
- Add chopped shallot and saute gently until translucent. [ about 2 minutes ]
- Add chopped anchovies and working with a fork mash them into the shallot and oil mixture for 2 minutes.
- Add the vermouth or white wine, bring to a boil and reduce by a quarter. Watch it closely so that you don't lose to much.
- Add chicken stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil continuing 2 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low then whisk in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time until the sauce completely combined.
- Add the capers, basil and parsley.
- Remove from heat and set aside.
- Slice the ends and sides off of the loaf to create a rectangle of bread.
- Slice the crustless loaf into 1/2 inch slices.
- Lightly toast the bread slices in your toaster then rub both sides of the warm toast with the cut side of the garlic cloves.
- Slice the mozzarella balls into similar thickness slices. You'll need 2 less slices of cheese than bread.
- Starting with a bread slice, skewer the bread followed by a cheese slice until all the cheese is used up. Finish with a bread slice.
- Place your skewer of bread and cheese on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Preheat oven to 450*F
- Place sauce over low heat to warm
- Roast skewer for 12 minutes, rotating every 3 minutes. You want the bread toasty on the outside and the cheese oozy but not liquid so watch it carefully.
- Remove from over, transfer to a serving platter and ladle sauce over the top.
- Serve immediately.
THE LOVE: Catching the perfect melt on the mozzarella is critical so don't get distracted. You need to stand guard as your spiedini alla Romana cooks!
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