Bombetta Pugliese, or simply, bombetta, are little meat rolls that are stuffed with everyone’s favourite foods – melted cheese and pancetta. An irresistible combination of flavours, these little bombs are simplicity at its best. The bombetta recipe comes together with just a few ingredients and minimal preparation is needed. Your next outdoor barbecue needs bombetta Pugliese, so get those grills going and invite your neighbours and friends!
As the name suggests, bombetta Pugliese is from the region in the heel of the Italian peninsula, Puglia. It has its beginnings as a street food, when not too long ago, around the 1960s, butchers in the cities of the Itria Valley, cities famous for their love of red meat, started selling cooked meat directly at their stores to serve to their waiting customers. Served alongside a glass of local red wine, it was the perfect little snack before heading home to cook dinner. As you can guess, it wasn’t long before other butchers caught on the act, especially those in the cities such as Martina Franca, Alberobello and Cisternino.
Bombettas are never larger than 3-5cm long, perfectly bite-size, and sold either in small paper cones or on a slice of local bread. They are ever-present at street food fairs in Puglia, the smell of grilled meat taking over the entire streets – it’s no secret that bombetta is a proud representative of Puglia’s street food culture.
Bombettas are easy to prepare requiring a very short list of ingredients, five to be exact (if you don’t count salt and pepper). So, first things first, make sure that you get the best quality pork neck fillets that you can find. Pancetta and caciocavallo cheese is necessary in order to create the original bombetta Pugliese, but if you cannot find these, some thinly sliced bacon and a similar semi-hard cheese will do.
Remember that this is a street food typically prepared on a hot grill like the kind found in a professional kitchen, but in an average home in Puglia, they will often prepare this in the oven. Your choice.
1. Cover a fillet with a piece of parchment paper and pound the meat using a meat mallet. Repeat for all fillets. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Lay out a fillet and place a slice of pancetta followed by several slices of cheese to cover. Sprinkle with parsley and a small pinch of garlic.
3. Starting from the shorter side of the fillet, roll it tightly onto itself making sure to keep the other ingredients enclosed within the meat. Pierce a couple of toothpicks into the centre and ends to keep the roll in place. Repeat for the rest.
4. At this point you can either cook over a hot grill or alternatively, in a pre-heated oven at 200C for around 30 minutes until browned. Serve the bombettas warm!
Bombetta literally means “little bomb”, just like how these rather innocent looking stuffed meat rolls will explode in your mouth with the flavours of melted cheese and salty cured ham!
And here’s a tip for your next trip to Puglia: head over to the cities of Martina Franca or Cisternino and dine like the locals at the typical butcher-restaurants. Here you will get to pick your meat at the butchers first where they will cook it for you directly on the hot grill as you take a seat at the adjacent restaurant. Fresh, quality meat, cooked in front of your eyes - it’s a must-try experience for any foodie.