Recipe for Spadinis: A Sicilian Holiday Tradition

Spadinis (or “Spiedinis”) have been a tradition for the holidays in my family for the past five generations. If you’ve ever heard of a spadini before, chances are you’ve seen a recipe that is entirely different than what I’m sharing in this post. “Spadini” means “skewer” in Italian, so in terms of cooking pretty much anything on a skewer can be classified as a spadini.

My family’s spadini recipe does not use your typical skewer, rather we use toothpicks. There are some versions of spadinis out there that make the spadini a meal in itself. Where we “build” the spadini on a toothpick however ours is more of an appetizer, and it’s perfect to serve during the holidays as part of a spread of clams casino, antipasto, and arancini. My family’s spadinis are simple to make– cheese, bread, and a meatball mixture skewered with a toothpick, rolled in bread crumbs and fried– think mozzarella sticks if mozzarella sticks were also filled with meatballs.

Ingredients

1 lb hamburg, mixed according to your favorite meatball recipe
1 lb cheese, sliced thick from the deli counter
1 loaf of sliced white bread
1 dozen eggs
milk
seasoned italian breadcrumbs
(Makes approximately 2 dozen spadinis).

Preparation

First you’ll need to purchase all of the ingredients, including a cheese of your choice. I use provolone cheese, although my grandmother used American. The type of cheese you use is really up to, though I suggest staying away from mozzarella as it can get too stringy once they’re cooked. Do not use pre-sliced cheese; order the cheese at the deli counter so you can request that it be sliced thick.

Any meatball recipe works for the hamburg mixture, just be sure to use a mix and not already formed meatballs. (This means using frozen or pre-made meatballs is a no-go here. We use a large mixing bowl for the hamburg mix, and if we end up with meat left over we just use whatever is left to make some meatballs.

You’ll also want to purchase the bread at least a day or two ahead of time or be prepared to dry it out a bit in the oven. If the bread is too doughy and fresh it will make assembling it on the toothpicks difficult. (If you decide to use the oven to dry out the bread, be careful not to make it crunchy. The bread will be heated when the spadinis cook later).

Get started by cutting all of the cheese and bread into equal sized pieces, about the size of 1-inch squares. When you’re ready, grab a toothpick and start assembling in this order: bread, cheese, meat, cheese, bread, cheese, meat, cheese, bread. It should be assembled like a club sandwich with bread on the ends and an extra slice in the middle, and with a slice of cheese between each layer.

Once the spadinis are assembled, make a quick mix using the eggs and milk to use to batter them with bread crumbs. Do this by rolling each spadini in the egg mix then in the breadcrumbs, and repeat so each spadini is rolled through the breadcrumbs twice.

When you’re done with the breadcrumbs, add olive oil to a medium non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Once the oil is heated, add the spadinis, turning about every two minutes to avoid over-cooking. While the meat inside needs to cook they should not come out too dark– again think mozzarella sticks or chicken cutlets. You’ll know a spadini is done when you see some of the cheese start to seep out.

 

Tips

  • If you plan on making more than 2 dozen spadinis, enlist help from friends and family or at least do all of the prep work ahead of time. (We make over 100 spadinis each year the weekend before Thanksgiving. After finishing them with the breadcrumbs, we wrap them up and freeze them so they’re ready to go for each of the coming holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s. Even though it is an easy recipe, making this many of them is more than a one-person job).
  • Have a system if you enlist help from family. When we make spadinis each year, we have a couple of “assembly” stations set up on the kitchen table, and one person adding the breadcrumbs and frying. It isn’t a big deal if you’re making only 1 or 2 dozen spadinis, but if you plan on making more like we do having a system can go a long way.

  • Make sure to use a meatball recipe you really enjoy. I use my mom’s meatball recipe, and while she was happy to share the spadini recipe with the world we can’t strip an Italian mother of her meatball recipe too. She says to make sure the meatballs are well-seasoned and use parsley if that helps you any.
  • Serve by themselves or with sauce. My mom (and presumably my grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother) never served spadinis with sauce. In fact, no one in my family ever thought to do so until I happened to make some on the same day that I also made ravioli and I decided to try dipping them in the sauce. Because they’re so similar to mozzarella sticks, I think having marinara sauce to dip them in doesn’t hurt, but it’s not by any means necessary.
  • Don’t forget that there are toothpicks inside the spadinis when you go to serve them! We don’t bother removing the toothpicks because everyone in my family knows about them, but if I bring spadinis somewhere else I always remove the toothpicks first. You can do so after they’re cooking by pushing gently on one end and pulling the toothpick out the other side.

Because we have spadinis during the holidays, I don’t think there is necessarily a certain kind of wine that is the “right” wine to pair with them. We serve a couple of different reds and whites, and while I usually end up with a Riesling, any type of wine you choose will do.

I hope you enjoy trying my family’s spadini recipe! Spadinis are a delicious holiday appetizer and can even be a full lunch in themselves or a side dish to wings during a football game. If you try our recipe or have any questions let me know in the comments!