La Bombetta Pugliese: Street Food at Its Finest

  • 01 of 04

    What Is a Bombetta Pugliese?

    A container of bombetta pugliese
    Kyle Phillips

    La Bombetta Pugliese is a specialty of the Valle D'Itria, south of Bari. The folks at the Bombetta Pugliese stand in the street foods section of Torino's Salone del Gusto didn't mince words: "It's not healthy!" they cried, and indeed there isn't much healthy in a well-seasoned pork braciola swapped around a piece of cheese and grilled.

    "But it's good!" They shouted. And people came, also drawn by the music they were playing and the wonderful aromas rising from their grill: they couldn't keep up with demand.

    In short, Bombette Pugliesi are classic street food. Although, this hasn't always been the case: historically bombette were the meat enjoyed (rarely) by people struggling with poverty and food insecurity, including sharecroppers who took the trimmings nobody else wanted. If it was fatty, so much the better because fat meant calories, and calories meant energy. They wrapped it around bits of cheese and cooked them in the communal ovens butchers kept lit for their poorer clients. Even their size is rooted in poverty: they are small because it will cook faster, requiring less fuel.

    Of course, that was then.

    Now bombette are a fixture at country fairs, and people cook them over the coals when they have friends over.

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  • 02 of 04

    To Make Bombette Pugliesi: What You'll Need

    Rows upon rows of uncooked Bombetta Pugliese
    Kyle Phillips

    To make Bombette Pugliesi you will need nicely marbled pork shoulder butt; the butchers of the Valle D'Itria say the animal should weight between 160 and 180 k (350-400 pounds) and not be the result of intensive farming because the meat will be better marbled. The cheese is up to personal taste; some prefer Parmigiano or Grana, others pecorino (Sardo, not Romano, which is sharper and saltier), and others still Fontina, which melts. The important thing is to use cheese of good quality.

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  • 03 of 04

    Making Bombette Pugliesi: How to Prepare Them

    A set of Bombetta Pugliese being put in a grill
    Kyle Phillips

    The preparation of Bombette Pugliesi is straightforward. Assuming you have a pound of meat, you will want about 3/4 pound of cheese, as well as salt, pepper, finely chopped rosemary needles, minced parsley, and -- if you want -- a hint of red pepper. Some people also add a bit of salami to their Bombette.

    Crumble or finely dice the cheese and put it in a bowl with salt, pepper, parsley, and rosemary (go easy on the rosemary because it is powerful; I would figure a scant teaspoon of freshly chopped needles for this volume) to taste. Mix well.

    Finely slice the shoulder butt to make pork braciole. Put them between slices of oven parchment and pound them with a meat pounder or the flat of a knife to thin them, and season them to taste with salt and pepper.

    Put an equal amount of filling on each slice, together with a piece of salami if you want, and roll the bombette up, folding in the sides as well to obtain packets of meat that will contain the cheese when it is melted by the heat of the fire. As you seal up each Bombetta, slip it onto a skewer or kebab.

    Continue until all is used up.

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  • 04 of 04

    Finished Preparing Your Bombette Pugliesi? How to Cook Them

    Well cooked bombetta pugliese on the grill
    Licensed to About.Com

    While you are preparing the meat, you must heat coals in your grill. The custom in Puglia is to use hardwood, and if you can, it will give best results. Set the meat over the coals, which shouldn't be too searing, and cook, turning the spits, until all sides of the Bombette are nicely browned -- 10 minutes in all, or perhaps a little more.

    If you are at a street fair, you will be given a paper cone filled with Bombette Pugliesi and a slice or two of bread, and also a skewer with which to spear and eat the bombette. And be very happy. If you are with friends in the backyard or the den, divvy them up onto plates.

    As for a wine pairing? A young, zesty Negroamaro is suggested.