Spiedini alla Siciliana

This recipe for Spiedini alla Siciliana or Sicilian Spiedini is an old family recipes that is great for parties and always a crowd pleaser! This is the recipe I made on the Today Show!

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I'll never forget the first time I sat down at an Italian restaurant and saw "spiedini" written on the menu. My eyes widened as I remembered one of my favorite childhood dinners: thin slices of breaded meat wrapped around a filling of tomato, onion, breadcrumbs and cheese. My family called them spiedini and we ate them on a fairly regular basis. It had been ages since I'd even heard the word spiedini, let alone eaten them, and I always chalked them up to being the same as bysta sugu: a food that only people in my family have ever heard of.

But after I read the description, I realized what was being offered here wasn't even remotely close to the spiedini I grew up eating. We ordered it anyway. It was a long skewer with juicy grilled chunks of swordfish, and it was delicious.

But it wasn't spiedini. At least not in my eyes.

Beef stuffed with tomatoes on a plate next to green salad.

Turns out, "spiedini" translates to "skewers" in Italian and can refer to just about any food thats been cooked on a stick. Shish kebab? In Italy that's called spiedini. Chicken satay? Spiedini. A corndog? Spiedini. It's all spiedini.

But what about the spiedini I grew up with? Surely they have to be a thing somewhere other than my childhood home.

They are. These spiedini are known as Spiedini alla Siciliana; a Sicilian dish popular in my mom's birth town of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Very different from the more common Spiedini ala Romana, which are skewers of fried bread, cheese and anchovy.

I started to crave spiedini. My spiedini. It had been so long since I'd tasted them, and I was starting to wonder if they really were as good as I remembered. Maybe it was just the memories that I missed and the nostalgia I craved. It was time to find out.

I went to two different sources for a recipe, and since they differed a bit, I had to make them both ways to see which I preferred. The first person I sought out was Mary Ann Genovese, a Sicilian-American Gloucester native who's married to my Mom's cousin Paul. She's an enthusiastic cook who's become known in our extended family for her spiedini. She sent me her recipe, and after looking it over, I noticed some things were different than what I remembered. Since Mary Ann isn't a blood relative, it made sense that her recipe would differ a bit. So I called my Aunt Angela, my mom's younger sister, to find out how she makes hers.

Pounded thin beef steaks in a stack on a white plate.Thinly sliced beef wrapped around stuffed tomatoes in a baking dish.

Here's the lowdown:

Both consisted of the same basic ingredients: thin slices of top round beef (called "skinny meat" in our house) that have been lightly breaded and stuffed with a mixture of Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, tomato sauce, chopped onions, and pecorino Romano cheese.

Mary Ann's version uses a thin slice Genoa salami in addition to the other ingredients, sautés sliced onions, and tucks bay leaves between the bundles as they bake (an old trick she learned from her Nonna).

Ang's version, which is exactly like I remember, has no salami, uses raw minced onions and no bay leaves while baking (although we always use bay in our sauce).

The biggest difference really lies in how they're assembled: the version I remember from my childhood had you put a dollop of filling- cheese and all- in the center of the meat, then bunch it up with your hands and secure the top with two criss-crossing toothpicks. I'm guessing this is how they got the name spiedini.

Mary Ann's recipe has you place a slice of salami on the meat, then a dollop of the filling (breadcrumbs, onions and sauce only) on the edge, then a matchstick of cheese, then roll them up like a cigar. I suppose you could use a toothpick to secure the rolls, but it's really not necessary. This technique reminded me of how I make braciole.

Thinly sliced beef steak coated in bread crumbs.

Tomato filling placed on a breaded beef steak slice on a wooden cutting board.

Beef steak wrapped around tomato filling and skewered with a toothpick.

The verdict? After making and taste testing both versions side by side, Chaser and I found that, well, they're both good. Like, really good.

Ang's recipe was exactly as I remembered. Chaser and I both liked that the little bundles held a bit more filling than the rolled version. We're filling people. But on the downside, they were much more labor intensive, taking a bit more time to bunch up and skewer each one.

Mary Ann's were much easier to assemble and had slightly less filling, but were still just as tasty. I wasn't sure if I was going to like the addition of salami, but I did. I liked it a lot. It added a salty, slightly funky note that was barely discernible, but there. The bay leaves added the most beautiful perfume during cooking, but this came as no surprise since I adore the flavor of bay (bae!) in anything. I'll definitely be making my spiedini with salami and bay forever and ever until the end of time.

Everyone wins! High fives all around!

Rolling beef steak up around tomato filling on a wooden cutting board.

Baking dish filled with both rolled and bundled beef steak and tomato filling.

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As for the onions: to sauté or not to sauté? I say skip it. I thought using raw onions might be a little too harsh, but if minced finely, after baking in the oven they mellow out just enough. Plus, I actually like the little bit of bite they have left, it adds a nice textural contrast to the overall dish. The sautéed onions were totally fine too, but if I can get by without having to dirty another pan, I'm gonna go for it.

After making them this week, Chaser asked me why I'd been holding out on him all these years. I'm not really sure why I waited so long to make these, but they will now find themselves in our regular menu rotation. They're just so uniquely delicious.

Below is my own recipe for Spiedini alla Siciliana, a combination of my family's recipe and Mary Ann's Sanfilippo family recipe. The best of both worlds. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

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Top view of a plate of spiedini alla siciliana.
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Spiedini Alla Siciliana

This recipe for Spiedini alla Siciliana or Sicilian Spiedini is an old family recipes that is great for parties and always a crowd pleaser! This tasty dish is a favorite for family gatherings and festive occasions.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 5 servings
Calories: 765kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 lb beef cutlets very thinly sliced and pounded out (if needed) to be about ⅛-1/4 inch thick *
  • ¼ cup olive or vegetable oil or more as needed
  • 3 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs or more as needed
  • 2 cups tomato sauce any kind, though homemade is preferred
  • 1 large yellow onion finely minced
  • 4 oz pecorino Romano cheese cut into small chunks
  • 20 slices Genoa salami very thinly sliced (about 1 slice per cutlet), optional
  • Toothpicks optional
  • Dried bay leaves optional

Instructions

Bread the cutlets

  1. Arrange a work space by filling a medium, shallow bowl with oil and filling another medium, shallow bowl with about 2 cups of breadcrumbs. Working one at a time, dip each cutlet in oil, allowing the excess to drip off, and then dredge in breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Make the filing

  1. Mix together the tomato sauce, onions and cheese, then add a few handfuls of seasoned breadcrumbs a little at a time until the mixture is the consistency of runny oatmeal - but not too wet. If it’s too saucy it will ooze out when you roll these up.

Assemble the Spiedini

  1. Create an assembly line by placing a stack of breaded cutlets next to a stack of sliced salami (if using), and the bowl of filling. Place a few cutlets down on a cutting board, then lay a piece or two of salami (if using) on top. Place a heaping teaspoon of filling on top of the salami, being careful not to put too much. At this point, you can choose to roll them up like cigars or bunch the meat up into a pouch and use two toothpicks to hold it closed.
  2. Place the spiedini into a greased baking dish. Be sure to pack them in tight, as this will help them cook evenly. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  3. Once all the spiedini are made, spoon any extra sauce, onion, or breadcrumb mixture into any holes in the pan. Use it all up to help keep the spiedini moist, and not to waste any. If you don’t have any mixture left, you can mix together a little sauce and breadcrumbs. No need to chop more onions and cheese for this part if you don’t have any left.
  4. Break up some pieces of dried bay leaves and tuck them in between each spiedini. This is optional, but gives them a nice, subtle flavor.
  5. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes or so until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Serve hot or warm.

Notes

  • * I used eye round cutlets sold as "sandwich steaks" because that’s what they offer in my grocery store, but any cut will work as long as they are nice and thin
  • * Mary Ann's rule is that these should be finger food: 2-3 per person as an appetizer or 4-6 per person as an entree
  • If the cutlets are too large after pounding them out, you can cut them in half.
    For a spicy kick, you can add some red pepper flakes or black pepper to the cheese mixture filling.
  • Don't exaggerate with the filling, otherwise it will overflow during cooking.

Nutrition

Calories: 765kcal | Carbohydrates: 58g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 38g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 109mg | Sodium: 2564mg | Potassium: 955mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 658IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 413mg | Iron: 7mg

Spiedini Siciliana | My family's authentic Sicilian recipe for spiedini. Thinly sliced beef, breaded + stuffed with tomatoes, cheese and onions. Great holiday recipe! #easy #christmas #recipe #appetizer #holidays #beef #Sicilian | ColeyCooks.com

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46 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is very similar to the recipe I grew up with. My mother always used veal, but I was excited to try the beef. I used a cut called Milanese, which was already very thin. No salami, and I used chunks of mozzarella. When I rolled these, I fold in the edges and roll like an egg roll, securing with one toothpick on the top. I alternate slices of onion with bay leaf between the rolls and bake uncovered. My family loved this version and leftovers are even good cold. Thanks for bringing back some great memories.

  2. 5 stars
    Your Aunt Angela's version sounds a lot like my family's version! We thinly eye of round, pound it thin, cover in breadcrumbs seasoned with oregano and romano cheese, put a little dollop of ammoghiu and a bit of slivered onion in the middle, roll them up, then put them on skewers with bay leaves between every few rolls. We grill or broil them (depending on the season) and top with ammoghiu while the second side cooks. SO DELICIOUS!

    I haven't tried your recipe, but was just excited to see how similar it is to my family's and wanted to comment 🙂 We're in metro Detroit where there's a pretty big number of Sicilians and you can get this kind of spiedini at a lot of our Italian produce shops, which are mostly Sicilian owned.

    As a side note, my grandmother's step family (I'm not sure if they're Sicilian or Italian) put together a family cookbook and their recipe for spiedini is like big cubes of chicken in a casserole dish. I was like wtf is this? Where is the rolled up beef??? At the time, I had no idea there were tons of variations lol!

    1. I'd never heard of ammoghiu before reading your comment, but after googling it now I have to try it!! I'd love to try your recipe for spiedini as well. Thank you for sharing your family's version. It's so fun to learn about them all!!

  3. 5 stars
    This recipe was so delicious and brought me back to my days watching my Grandma Mary in the kitchen!!!!

      1. 5 stars
        I Fed 4 families with this and included angel hair pasta with herbed olive oil and Parmesan and a salad. Being shut in with the Covid19 scare, these were a comforting delivery for all!

        1. 5 stars
          OMG!
          I haven’t had these since I was a child!
          I loved them and have not seen a recipe since I grew up! These are exactly how my Mom made them except she sliced a tomato in small wedges and placed a wedge in the center! No salami but pretty much everything else is the same!
          All recipes I have seen used a sauce but I like it with out!
          Thanks for bringing back all those memories!

          1. Oh, I'm so glad! Thanks for your comment, Mary! Just curious, what part of the US do you live in? Is your family Sicilian? I love hearing about all the regional differences!

  4. 5 stars
    Just made these last night for my husband and my 2 boys. They loved them!! These are very similar to how I remember them looking and tasting when my great grandma Zena used to make them. She was born in Licata, Sicily . Thanks so much!

    1. I love that, Nicole! Thank you for your comment - I love hearing about how this recipe is similar to ones made by other Sicilian Americans!

  5. 5 stars
    I am of Sicilian descent and grew up eating spiedini as well. Two differences in our family recipe is that we used veal cutlets instead of beef and we used the toothpicks (2/roll) and skewered a bay leaf on each side. It was that look that gave them the Americanized name of veal birds because the bay leafs looked like wings. We then broiled them which was a fairly quick cook. The other difference was our stuffing used strips of tomatoes cut from canned san marzano tomatoes, instead of sauce. Our onions were thin stips often cut on a mandolin.

    1. 5 stars
      Omg second generation Italian Canadian here...my parents from Veneto....ossilini scampati was what my mom called them....veal or pork cutlets pounded thin with sage leaf wrapped in half slice of bacon with toothpick holding things together.....fried in fry pan and always served with mashed potatoes and warm green beans with fried onions and bacon pieces and parsley drizzled with olive oil and red wine vinegar....childhood memories even for my kids.....gonna make these soon!!

  6. 5 stars
    I used to help my mom make these as a kid in the 1970,s.. we used bacon.. and I remember using dollops of crisco on the baking sheet.
    I think we cooked them in wine as well..

  7. 5 stars
    I am so excited to have stumbled across your recipe and the essay accompanying it that I have forgotten what I was doing that landed me here!
    Spiedini was a very special Sunday meal when I was growing up. My mother's parents were both from Sciacca, Sicily. They met and married here so Gtandma's and Mom's cooking was a real mix of Italian, Sicilian, American. I could never figure out what came from where or where to find recipes or even what they would be called by others.
    Fortunately my Mom is still around although, at 97, her memory isn't always as sharp as it was. But she can still often point me in the right direction to find details for some of my sketchy memories. This particular dish is one we both remember but one I never tried to recreate.
    Until recently I was working full time while taking care of Mom by myself and spiedini was a meal that was too labor intensive to try. Our version is made with veal pounded very thin. The filling is mostly seasoned breadcrumbs browned in butter and they are rolled then sealed with a toothpick.
    A major reason I never tried to make them is that I never knew they could be baked. Growing up we always had a big precursor to the toaster oven. It broiled, roasted, baked, and had a self-rotating spit. That's what we used for the spiedini. My brother and I used to stand there and watch the tine spiedini rolls turning on the spit and listen to the sizzle of the juices.
    When the old broiler/spit went away, we never had spiedini again. Now I'm so excited to try the baking method. Thank you for giving us back a sepcial memory. I'll definitely be back to visit your site.

    1. Thanks for leaving such an awesome comment! I loved reading this. What an amazing memory. I hope you try my family's version of spiedini and let me know what you think! <3

    1. oh, yum! I like anything with prosciutto, so you're probably right! Thanks for the tip, I'm going to try it next time I make them.

  8. 5 stars
    In my family spedini are mini personalized braciole and neither of them equal heaven to me if they do not have the boiled egg. In spiedini the egg is diced and placed inside the rolled toothpicked meat along with diced cheese, salami (or no salami) and ofcourse breadcrumbs.
    We also cook our spiedini in sauce, I have had as you put it the "dry" version and really prefer it cooked in the sauce; it just melts in the mouth. Thank you for sharing your recipe - I always love to find other people's recipes because it may inspire me to add something new to a dish I adore.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment!! I love hearing about all the different variations of Spiedini out there. Just curious, where are you from??

      1. 5 stars
        My grandfather grandpa's parents came to the US from Palermo they made a life in Milwaukee Wisconsin which honestly has a very dense and large population
        of Italian/Sicilian Americans. I grew up going to a deli that imported so many cheeses, salamis, meets canned goods and etc. Kiddy corner from the deli is the most delicious and divine bakery filled with only Italian sweets. Milwaukee is pretty awesome because as soon as summer comes we have ethnic festivals that are held on the grounds of the largest music festival in the world summerfest. Ofcourse my favorite has always been
        festaitaliana.com
        It pulls in the most people at roughly double the amount of attendees to Milwaukee's other ethnic festivals. In fact my son was even able to join the childrens Italian dance group because funds are provided thru the Italian community center to make sure the next generationsare able to not only learn about the Italian culture but also participate in the culture.
        🙂

        1. Thanks for the background, I love it! I also had no idea there was such a big Italian/Sicilian presence in Milwaukee. It sounds like I need to take a little trip this summer! 🙂

          1. 5 stars
            My grandfather taught me how to make these. He was from Lercara Friddi, Palermo. We made this dish on special Holidays and it has always been my favorite. We use thin sliced veal, and for filling: breadcrumbs mixed with Romano grated cheese, garlic powder, and parsley. Each slice has a small piece of bacon and tab of butter. Roll and skewer 3 pieces together with toothpicks. If I have any leftover filling, I sprinkle on top of spiedini (I always spelled it spattini). I enjoyed reading all the variations.

          2. 5 stars
            So interesting to see all the variations. My mother and father-in-law were both from Palazzo Adriano in Sicily. Their spiedinis were a bit different from the last post that I read, using tomatoes breadcrumbs, garlic and Romano cheese. We also used veal when it wasn't too expensive and the rest of the time beef! We also had them for special holidays.

          3. 5 stars
            My mother always made spedini, I am making it for Christmas, I have made it often . I make it with chicken cutlets. I enjoyed reading about it.

          4. 5 stars
            I am from Milwaukee and I am German. My best friend is Italian. I have learned alot about Italian cooking from her and also have forever attended Italianfest! We make our spiedini on a scewer and fry in olive oil with bay leaves. The spiedini is dipped in Italian bread crumbs. On keto diet so making some dipped in almond flour. Will see how that turns out.. We serve with a homemade tomato sauce. Just scrumptious!!! Making some spiedini to celebrate Christmas.

  9. 5 stars
    Can these be frozen either cooked or uncooked
    Thanks for this recipe
    I had something like this about 40years ago and have wanted to try to make them since then but never found a good recipe

    1. Hmm.. I've never tried freezing them, but I imagine they'd hold up alright. I'd probably cook them first and the freeze, and just reheat in the oven. If you try it, let me know how they turn out!

      1. 5 stars
        It works great. The mark of great Italian food is thst is gets better the next day. Freezing only intensifies the favors. I wouldnt freeze them with onion slices though. Bay leaves no problem. In Sicily there are a number of combinations, region to town....
        many family recipies became subject to The availability of ingredients and cost control . My Nonna’s were Depression era simplicity breadcrumbs cheese and sauce for filling. However the best Speidini I’ve ever encountered or made Inc. similar flavors but used fresh ingredients. Try adding softened white raisins and pine nuts to fresh tomato, cacciacavallo, sautéed onion and Seasoned breadcrumbs. Superior! Once you have mastered rolling beef then take it up to the next level and try swordfish. Simply ftom the heavens.

        1. Thanks Jimmy! I'm definitely going to have to experiment with some different types of spiedini. I'm so intrigued! My husband's favorite fish is swordfish, so I might have to try that for his birthday this year. Thanks for the idea!

  10. 5 stars
    Your story began just like my experience. Eyes wide, so excited someone else, menu also in my case, knew what a Spiedini was. At that restaurant it was fried cheese? Not even on a skewer but still yum anyhow.

    My family puts them on skewers and onto the grill/BBQ. They look more like Mary Ann's. Rolled up with the filling spread thinly across the whole slice and quarters of onion and bay leaves are alternated between the meat. But man adding salami and a matchstick of cheese sounds amazing! And baking them would be awesome in winter. These are generally made for Easter and Christmas in my family. Love, Love Spiedini!

    1. I loved receiving this comment! It's been so interesting to learn about the different interpretations of this dish. I'm curious where you're from? Someone from New York e-mailed me his family's recipe and it sounds like yours. I want to try that version next! I hope you love my recipe. 🙂

  11. 5 stars
    Came across your page while looking for the spelling of spiedini. I'm making this tonight for my son's birthday dinner and it has been a family recipe for generations. My family originally hails from Augusta, Sicily and we have been making spiedini as you describe it here for ever *you are not alone* 🙂

    ps (we also say "bysta" rather than pasta and "sugo" rather than sauce).

    Good work here.

  12. 5 stars
    I came across your website when trying to determine if bra hole and spiedini were the same thing (I still don't know). My big, Sicilian, St. Louis family makes spiedini for almost ever occasion (but most certainly for Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day). Our recipe is similar to your Aunt Angela's. Oh I miss a good spiedini! But your added touch with the salami sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing your recipe. And BTW, I know what bysta sugo is (we pronounce it basta Sugo). Most people I know have no idea what it is either but once they taste it, it's a meal they never forget!

    1. Hey Christi! Thank you so much for this comment. I'm so excited to hear that your family has so many food similarities to mine! In regard to spiedini vs. braciole, thought hey are very similar, there is definitely a difference. For me anyway, braciole is rolled up, then braised in tomato sauce (usually with wine) until it's really tender, and then served with the sauce and sometimes pasta. Spiedini on the other hand are breaded and baked,and don't get served with a sauce other than whats used to moisten the filling. Spiedini can be eaten as finger food, while braciole requires a knife and fork. I see braciole as being a wet dish and spiedini as being a dry dish, if that makes sense, lol.

      1. 5 stars
        I married into a Sicilian family in St. Louis and our spiedinis are quite similar excep no onion - just garlic. They are grilled outside which to me is the best way possible! Nothing like them in the article it mentions crunching them together or using toothpicks. We assembled them as you would a diaper and put the seam side down. Never a problem. Bottom piece up over bread crumb mixture-then the two sides flapped in. Gently roll over from bottom.

      2. 5 stars
        Do you know off there's one that's made where three rolls are put in a pic, then dredged in egg and crumbs and pan fried? The other ingredients sound about right but no tomato sauce, what I remember was more like a finger food... and eaten dry...

        1. I have heard of these but not ever had them before. This is how my family makes them - they are like a finger food too. They sound delicious though!

          1. 5 stars
            I'm Sicilian and have been making "Spatinis" (my family's pronunciation) since I was very young, making them with my Gramps. We only use thin sliced beef, breadcrumbs (seasoned w/garlic, Romano cheese, parsley, ground pepper), a small piece of bacon and a tab of butter. They are rolled and toothpicked in sets of 3. Extra butter is melted and poured on top along with the extra breadcrumbs. Baked at 350 for about 12-15 minutes, turning once halfway. We don't eat them with sauce, although, our braciole is made similar to your recipe. Sometimes I mix the leftover breadcrumb mixture with eggs to form a thick batter and fry them by the spoonful. These make great finger foods too!

          2. Cathy, thank you so much for leaving this comment! I absolutely love hearing about other Sicilian-American families' versions of this dish. Just curious, where in America is your family from, and where in Sicily is your family from? It's so fun to make these connections!!

  13. 5 stars
    I was looking up recipes for spiedini since it was such a childhood favorite though I've yet to make them. My mom used to buy them at Trupiano's in Gloucester, yes, gloucester born & still here. That store closed so long ago & trying to find spiedini made the way they made them is near impossible. They made them with the salami & it's the only way I'll eat them especially since eating them any other way just doesn't do it for me. Thanks so much for sharing your families recipes!

  14. 5 stars
    omfg my site is 10 years old and this post is longer than all my posts combined. And no, I am not sure if that is a compliment or an insult.

    Rating: Long Place!