The Italian dining experience traditionally starts with Italian appetizers, or “antipasti” as the locals would call it. And contrary to what some people may think, it is actually considered the first course, not merely a precursor to it. But why exactly start a meal with them? As its name suggest, their main purpose is to whet one’s appetite. To put it bluntly, appetizers should boost a person’s desire to eat. It is sort of a stimulant to make sure that the succeeding courses will be consumed, hopefully with much gusto.
Typically, antipasti is served with its own miniature menu that consists of various cured meats, cheeses, olives, pickled meats, and all kinds of vegetables, which could be fresh, pickled, or cooked. Italian appetizers may also include some seafood such as anchovies in brine. There are also certain Italian dishes that can be served as antipasti such as different kinds of bruschetta and crostini recipes.
Some Common Italian Appetizers
If you’re planning to hold a dinner party for family and friends, below are some delectable antipasti you might want to include in your menu.
A basic bruschetta recipe, you only need diced plum tomatoes, minced garlic, minced basil leaves, balsamic vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil. You may need some salt and pepper to taste as well. And lastly, slices of fresh Italian bread.
After gathering all the ingredients, mix all the first batch of ingredients in a bowl. Put a dash of salt and pepper according to your preference. Meanwhile, brush the slices of bread and slightly toast them in an oven. To assemble the bruschettas, put enough of the tomato mixture on top of each toast. Do this last step right before serving so the toasts don’t get soggy.
Tapenade on Toast
Another basic antipasto recipe, you will need black olives, garlic, some fresh parsley, extra virgin olive oil, and some lemon juice and zest. Finely chop all these in a food processor until you get a sort of pate. Add salt and pepper, to taste. This will be the tapenade. Get some Italian bread. Slice the bread, drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil on each, and toast both sides of every piece. Then, spread a teaspoon of the tapenade on each toast. Arrange slices on a plate and place some lemon wedges on the side.
Cherry Tomatoes and Olive Salad
To make a simple antipasto salad, you need cherry tomatoes, green and black olives, spring onions, pine nuts, oregano, sugar, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. Slice the cherry tomatoes and all olives in half and chop spring onions. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients. In a pan, lightly toast the pine nuts over medium heat. Do this for a couple or so minutes. Then, add this to the bowl.
In another bowl, mix olive oil, sugar, chopped oregano, and red wine vinegar. Then add this to the tomatoes and olives mixture, and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill salad for about an hour before serving.
And if you’re pressed for time, you can simply get hold of some bottled or preserved olives, mushrooms, and vegetables. You can toss them with some olive oil and a dash of salt, pepper, and some herbs and spices. Or if you prefer, you can also make some mini skewers of green olives and Italian cheeses.