Talk of Italian cuisine and mental pictures of pasta, pizza and wine start clouding our brain. However, the most popular cuisine in the world has more to its credit than just the three aforementioned wonders – the delicacies offered can never outrun! Italian food serves a confluence of cultures and foods inspired from ancient Greece and Rome. This cuisine is the epitome of handcrafted wonders cooked up from the most basic of ingredients like tomatoes, cheese, bell peppers, etc. So, whether you are looking to try out a new item from the menu or prepare something for that party you’re throwing, check out this list of the top 10 best Italian appetizers ever.
10. Fried Ravioli
This deep – fried, crunchy, yummy version of the ravioli got popular for all the right reasons in the Italian neighborhood of St. Louis at Missouri even though Sicily is known to be the home of all raviolis. This ravioli offers a burst of that crispy, breaded crust which gives way to the soft oozing cheese filling. What makes it even better is the hearty dip of Marinara sauce you can serve along side with. Made with the most simplistic of ingredients like – parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, flour and butter milk, sometimes with the addition of meat as well. Generally fried to perfection in a square shape, many baked versions are also available as an alternate to the toasted one for the calorie conscious people.
9. Tomato Basil Crostini
Crostini are simply translated to “little toasts”, a very apposite description of the next appetizer on our list. Thin slices of bread, typically white, toasted or grilled to perfection and topped with an assortment of garnishes like tomatoes, cheese and basil, sprinkled with the goodness of salt, herbs and a dash of olive oil are best served with drinks and before meals. Crostini is generally served alongside soups and pastas as well; very easy to make and the humblest of appetizers, these are a must try for all Italian food fans.
8. Parmesan Garlic Bread
Who hasn’t heard of garlic bread! The most versatile complement to all Italian treats, garlic bread when adorned with fresh parmesan cheese tastes simply divine, so much so that your taste buds smile. Traditionally, garlic bread is prepared by partially slicing a French baguette or sourdough and stuffing it with minced garlic, oil, herbs, chives and other condiments and baking it post brushing with butter. A genial topping of parmesan and mozzarella cheese take this recipe a notch higher and render it fit for a delicious entrée.
7. Prosciutto Cups
Nothing matches the fun and crispiness of Prosciutto cups at a party. Prosciutto is a variety of ham which has been made famous by Italians. Ham is sliced into thin sheets, cured with salt, dried to extract all juices and served uncooked. What makes it better is when these thin sheets of ham are baked to crisp perfection and a dollop of whipped goat’s cheese and dried figs are added to them. These cups are the most elegant of finger foods in the Italian cuisine and you get the wonderful combination of sweet, salty, crispy and smooth textures and tastes in just a mouthful. The numbers of variations with this one are innumerable and this definitely will be a big hit with your guests.
What’s better than an appetizer you ask? It’s Caprese! Enjoy it as a side dish, a main dish salad, as a mid – afternoon snack, this salad truly is a magical culmination of flavors, textures and freshness. This ‘Salad of Capri’ is handcrafted with fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, bright, juicy ripe tomatoes, and green basil, tastefully seasoned with olive oil and salt. The three primary ingredients of this ‘antipasto’ accurately represent the three colors of the Italian national flag. Drizzle some balsamic reduction to up the flavorsome starter adding another color and layer to the vibrant presentation. The minimal preparation and no amount of cooking required, puts this appetizer on our must try out list.
5. Onion Focaccia
This delightful cross between pizza bread and traditional bread is certainly not pizza, rather 2000 years older than it. Made from flour, water, yeast, sugar, salt, onions and rosemary; this starter originated on the northern shores of the Mediterranean and has come to spread far and wide in the food cultures of Rome and Greece. Traditionally baked on a heated tile or in the hearth of a hot fire, it is said that Focaccia gave way to Pizza. Sprinkling toppings like rosemary, oregano, basil, etc., not only enhances the taste but also the visual appeal of this dish. The tender, moist bread is painted over with a generous portion of olive oil to lock in the moisture and deliver to you the best quality starter, apt with a glass of wine.
4. Calamari Fritti
When talking of Italy, one must talk about seafood as well. Calamari fritti, an Italian delicacy, served on a platter with spaghetti sauce, mayonnaise, and sliced lemons is literally fried squids. The fish is cut into ringlets, dipped into an egg and flour mixture and deep fried for that crunchiness on the outside and the tenderness on the inside. Squeeze ample lemon on these golden rings and enjoy this famous finger food with sea salt and dipping sauce with a glass of white wine in hand and beat the summers. Impressively delicious and easy to make, these rings deserve a try.
3. Antipasto Salad
Following the antipasto tradition, antipasto salads came into being which not only give your appetite that kick but also help you cut that summer slack. Fresh lettuce greens, marinated vegetables, cured meats, shredded up cheese – mozzarella, parmesan or provolone, olives, pepper, salt, classic herbs and a drizzle of virgin oil come together to furnish the Italian feast table with the beginning of a hearty meal course. Vinaigrettes composed of honey, vinegar and lemon and salad dressings go best with such salads. Easy ingredients and fresh supplies to your rescue once again!
2. Venetian Canapés
The authentic Venetian Canapés are prepared by cutting out circular disks from thinly sliced bread, brushing them with butter and baking until golden. The toppings generally consist of mushrooms, anchovies, and parmesan cheese. Mushrooms are cooked in a white sauce, then mixed with the anchovy paste and salt and pepper is added to balance out the flavors. Once the toppings are mounted on the bread disks, they are baked again and finally served with a garnish of sliced olives, bell peppers and anchovies. A classic appetizer this one, save it for your special parties and occasions to leave everyone in awe of the subtle and well- balanced flavors.
1. Bruschetta With Tomato
The most elaborate recipes in Italian cuisine are undoubtedly conjured up by the simplest of ingredients. The winner on our list thus, is the simple yet elaborate Bruschetta. These toasted portions of bread – a baguette of a country style Italian loaf, are generously loaded with wholesome tomatoes, chopped basil, jalapenos, garlic, olives, peppers and grated cheese. The one with tomatoes offers a munificent topping of tomato salad, drizzled with freshly caramelized balsamic vinegar and crushed herbs. Some variations include cured meat, beans and vegetables too, but cheese is elemental to make this recipe and your heart sing!
Here’s to a lavish spread of foods from the land of Italy!