Delicious Italian Antipasti Recipes
Great ideas to start your meals with colourful and delicious Italian antipasti, with recipes from regional and local traditions.
But remember, creativity is the most important ingredient in making antipasti!
Deep-Fried Stuffed Ascolana Olives
Olive all'Ascolana are a delicious stuffed and deep-fried olives typical of Ascoli, a city of Le Marche region.
Ingredient for 10:
50 Ascoli olives
Olive oil for deep-frying
Flour to coat
2 eggs, beaten
Dried breadcrumbs to coat
3 tablespoons of olive oil
50 g. of butter
100 g. of lean pork, finely minced
100 g. of lean veal, finely minced
50 g. of boneless chicken, minced
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons of dry Marsala or sherry
1 small black truffle, diced
Few drops of truffle oil
30 g. of Parma ham, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
½ tablespoon of freshly grated nutmeg
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 egg, beaten
50 g. of Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
A little milk (if needed)
To make the filling, heat the olive oil and butter in a pan. Add the minced meats and fry, stirring, for 5-6 minutes until well browned.
Season with salt and pepper, add the Marsala or sherry and let bubble to reduce down. Take off the heat and cool, then transfer to a food processor.
Add the truffle and truffle oil, the ham, parsley, nutmeg and lemon zest. Process briefly to mix, then add the egg and grated cheese, and whiz to combine.
The mixture should be firm enough to use as a stuffing but not too dry; soften with a drop of milk if necessary. Taste for seasoning.
Starting from the top, cut each olive in a spiral fashion to reach and lose the stone inside, keeping the spiral intact.
Take a little of the filling and enclose it in the olive spiral, pressing a little to regain the original shape.
Finish and cook the olives a few at a time. Heat the olive oil for deep-frying in a suitable pan.
Dip the olives in a little flour, then into the beaten egg, and then roll them in the breadcrumbs.
Deep fry 2-3 minutes until brown, then drain on kitchen paper.
Serve hot as an antipasto, with little lemon wedges if you like.
Parmesan cheese appetizers with Traditional Balsamic Vinegar
These simple cheese appetizers are a wonderful tradition in Modena. Before sitting down to dinner with friends or while waiting for guests to arrive, along with the usual titbits offered with an aperitif, we often serve splinters or dainty chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese alongside a little bowl of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar.
Guess what, only two are required!
Splinters of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (go for high quality here)
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar
Be aware that you should use only Traditional Balsamic Vinegar.
This product adds creaminess and sweetness to the Parmesan, while a basic balsamic vinegar will make this appetizer quite acidic and unpleasant.
You dip the cheese in the vinegar and savour it slowly. This brings out the full flavour and aroma of a vinegar that has been properly matured.
With this dish you savour first of all one of the most delicious Italian cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano, and then the best vinegar...
Or nearly! It is a kind of good-natured rivalry between friends in Modena and as we know, your vinegar, matured in your own loft, is always better than anyone else’s (something we never openly declare but deep down, naturally believe).
As for quantities, it depends on how many guests you have. Serve these appetizers with aperitifs as they are the ideal opportunity for introducing your guests to a good traditional balsamic vinegar: I guarantee they will be a big hit with your friends.
Pesto and cherry tomato appetizer
This raw cherry tomato appetizer with Italian pesto is a quick and healthy starter that adds colour and flavour to every party.
Although you should use fresh basil to make the pesto, frozen will do as well.
Ingredients for 8-10 as appetizer:
450 g. of cherry tomatoes (about 35-40)
For the pesto:
90 g. of fresh basil
3-4 garlic cloves
60 ml. of pine nuts
1 tablespoon of salt, plus extra to taste
100 ml. of olive oil
50 ml. of freshly grated parmesan cheese
90 ml. of fresh grated pecorino cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Wash the tomatoes. Slice off the top of each tomato, and carefully scoop out the seeds with a melon baler or small spoon.
Place the basil, garlic, pine nuts, salt and olive oil in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Remove the contents to a bowl with a rubber spatula.
If desired, the pesto may be frozen at this point, before the cheeses are added. To use when frozen allow to thaw, then proceed to the next step.
Fold in the grated cheeses (use all the parmesan if pecorino is not available). Season with pepper, and more salt if necessary.
Use a small spoon to fill each tomato with a little pesto. This dish is at its best if chilled for about an hour before serving.
This cherry tomato recipe is ideal for summer but can be enjoyed at any time.
Crayfish recipe in green sauce
This light and colourful crayfish recipe is an ideal appetizer for a fish-based meal but goes also very well with drinks or an aperitivo.
This is a traditional recipe of Umbria, where the excellent crayfish from the local lakes and rivers is used.
If you can't find a crayfish that is not meaty enough, you can use scampi instead.
This dish is a wonderful summer starter.
Ingredients for 4:
4-6 crayfish or scampi per person (depending on size)
3 tablespoons of chopped mint
4 tablespoons of flat-leaf parsley
Finely grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
½ garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon of white wine or apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
To make the sauce, put the herbs, lemon zest and juice, garlic and wine vinegar in a mortar and pound together, gradually
adding the olive oil to make a textured sauce (you could use a blender here, but I prefer the sauce with a little texture).
Cook the crayfish or scampi in lightly salted water for 8 minutes.
Drain and shell them, keeping the head and tail attached to the meat.
Serve the freshly boiled scampi or crayfish on a portion of the sauce, with lemon wedges.
Italian truffle crostini recipe from southern Italy
Start your dinner with a classy appetizer with this delicious crostini recipe.
This crostini is best if you use the black summer truffle, with the addition of a few drops of truffle oil.
Ingredients for 6-8:
4 slices bread
50 g. of black truffle
Few drops of truffle oil
100 g. of butter
70 g. of salted anchovies, rinsed and filleted
Put the ingredients for the truffle paste in a mortar and pound with a pestle to a smooth cream.
Toast the bread and cut into 12 small crostini. Spread with truffle paste and serve with Prosecco, Champagne or a good glass of Torgiano.
An extra recipe for truffle hunters… Take a nice truffle, about 50-60 g. peel it thinly, and wrap in slices, of pancetta. Wrap in foil (in Italy we would use damp “straw” paper) and put under the ashes of a low fire to cook for about 30 minutes. Slice and eat with bread.
Ice Cream Antipasti
An ice cream as Italian antipasti? This unusual, easy to make hors d’oeuvre lends an added touch of refinement to any dinner.
Ingredients for 6:
220 g. of fresh cream
70 g. of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
30 g. of sugar
Salt to taste
2-3 pears, thinly sliced
Sliced rye bread
1 tablespoon approx. of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
Place the cream, sugar, parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt in a bain marie and, stirring very slowly over a low flame, bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and pass the mixture through a fine sieve.
Leave to cool, At this point you could use an ice cream maker, but you can also get good results by placing one or two tablespoons of the mixture in small paper cases (those used for small patisserie) placed on a tray in the freezer.
You will end up with small, uniform sized scoops of parmesan ice cream. If you like, you can even make the ice cream a day or two in advance.
Prepare individual plates for guests, arranging the peeled sliced pear in a fan shape, with scoop of parmesan ice cream in the centre decorated with a few drops of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and the sliced rye bread.
This dish is best served on individual plates adding, if you like, a few green or black grapes. Any ice cream not used can be placed in a polythene bag and kept in the freezer for another occasion.
Italian stuffed mussels
Cozze gratinate is the Italian name for this stuffed mussels recipe, a tasty appetizer and a speciality of southern Italy.
It can be made equally well using large clams.
Always use the freshest seafood available.
Ingredients for 4:
750 g. of large fresh mussels in their shells
75 g. of unsalted butter, at room temperature
25 g. of dry breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
45 ml. of chopped fresh parsley
25 g. of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Scrub the mussels well under cold running water, cutting off the “beard” with small knife. Preheat the oven to 230 °C.
Place the mussels with a cupful of water in a large saucepan over a moderate heat. As soon as they open, lift them out one by one. Remove and discard the empty half shells, leaving the meat in the other half (discard any mussels that do not open, as they were probably dead).
Combine all the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Blend well. Place in a small pan and heat gently until the stuffing mixture begins to soften.
Arrange the mussel halves on a flat baking tray. Spoon a small amount of the stuffing over each mussel. Bake for about 7 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.
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