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Cold Appetizers

Pear and Prosciutto Canapes

Think of Italian food and you might find pizza and pasta are the first dishes that come to mind, but what are you going to serve as your Italian appetizer? If you are having a sit-down dinner, worthy candidates for your first course might include vitello tonnato or Italian artichoke pie, but perhaps you want finger food instead, which is where this recipe comes in very handy. We are using prosciutto di Parma or Parma ham, a wafer thin cured meat, along with pear and goat’s cheese.

The ham is filled with pear and goat’s cheese along with a few salad leaves for added color. You can then drizzle some lemon juice or extra-virgin olive oil (or both) over, before rolling up the canapes and serving them as finger food. Do not add too much oil or lemon juice. You only need a few drops for flavor and you do not want these dripping if they are finger food. Alternatively you can serve them on small plates rather than as finger food, maybe adding some extra salad leaves to the plate as a garnish. These are so quick and easy to prepare.

Prosciutto, or Parma ham, is often served as part of an antipasti platter, along with Italian cheeses and perhaps some olives and nuts as well. It is versatile though. It can be used to wrap chicken breasts before baking them, or it may be fried and crumbled over Italian dishes. Here though we are using it to wrap fruit and cheese, combining meaty, salty, sweet and creamy all in one perfect little mouthful. You can make these a few hours ahead if you want. Just keep them covered and refrigerated. Continue reading

Authentic Vitello Tonnato

Vitello tonnato is one of the most classic Italian appetizers, boasting juicy poached veal with a tuna sauce. This dish is typically served cold and garnished with capers. We are using veal top round, poaching it in a rosemary, bay leaf and sage infused broth, then slicing it thinly and serving a creamy tuna sauce on top. Although you might not imagine meat and seafood to pair that well, this recipe proves if you use the right kinds, they pair amazingly well, with each flavor complementing the other.

This is a popular appetizer in Italian restaurants, and sure to impress when you serve it as the appetizer at your next dinner party. Although the dish is served cold, it is best made just before serving, and if the veal is still slightly warm that is fine. Some people like to cook chopped carrots with the veal then chop them and add them to the dish as a colorful garnish at the end. You could also add olives or parsley sprigs as a garnish, or else simply add a few capers to keep the garnish simple.

Making this dish is very simple since you just need to poach the veal and then, to make the sauce, combine canned tuna with a few other ingredients. Slice the veal thinly, ladle the sauce over it and scatter a few capers over the top, adding any other garnishes you like. The veal should be juicy and easy to slice through, while the sauce offers fresh flavors and complements the veal very nicely. Follow this appetizer with an Italian chicken or fish entrée perhaps, to stay with the Italian theme. Continue reading

Smoked Salmon Pate

This is a great make-ahead pate recipe because it needs to sit in the refrigerator for 6 hours before you serve it, so if you are planning an Italian themed dinner party, why not make this as your appetizer, freeing up your time to focus on the entrée when the guests arrive? You will need potatoes, smoked salmon, olives, anchovies and butter to make the pate, along with a food processor to mix all the ingredients together. A little salt and black pepper is our only seasoning, because this is a very tasty pate without anything else added.

Use good quality smoked salmon to make this pate, since that is the main ingredient in the dish. Serve this with toast or crackers, and something green, such as arugula, mixed salad leaves, or even sliced pickles on the side. It is best to let people add their own pate to their toast else it might go soggy. You can also offer butter on the side, at room temperature so it can be spread easily on the bread before adding the pate on top. Not everyone will want it but some might.

Another idea is to make melba toast to go with pate since that is quite delicate. To make it, toast bread on both sides, then hold the toast flat and slide a sharp knife between the toasted edges to split the bread in half. Cut each one into 4 triangles and toast them under the broiler, untoasted side up, until they are golden brown with curled edges. You can also make these ahead, then just warm them for a minute or so in a 325 degrees F oven before serving with the salmon pate. Continue reading

3-Ingredient Ham and Cheese Rollups

Start your Italian meal in style with our tasty take on antipasti. Although various types of Italian cheese and Italian cured meats are often served individually before an entrée in Italy, we have taken those components, added a little pesto and combined the three to make these rollups. The great thing about this recipe is you can make a huge batch of these in mere minutes, just by being organized, laying out your ingredients and making a lot at once. They are then perfect for an Italian-themed party.

You can use any kind of dried or cured meat to make these – chorizo, salami, Parma ham, Serrano ham, or even a mixture of these. People will be able to see which is which. As for the cheese, pretty much anything goes, so consider mozzarella, Cheddar (not Italian but still good!), cream cheese, ricotta, gorgonzola, or anything you want. Soft cheese is fine as long as it does not get too warm and begin to ooze out, and harder cheeses are also good; if you are using something like parmesan then cut it into lengths rather than using it grated or shredded which could be messy.

A little pesto sauce works well here, both to add another flavor to the appetizer and also to help the meat stay closed around the cheese. You will only need a tiny bit. If you do not want to use basil pesto, try red pesto, a little mayonnaise, black olive tapenade, or anything else which goes well with the meat and cheese flavors. Because they are rolled up, you can serve these little bites as finger food with cocktails or as an appetizer before the entrée. In either case, a couple per person is a good quantity. Make extra if you want (to be sure you do not run out) then cover and refrigerate them so you can enjoy them the next day. Continue reading

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Christine Szalay-Kudra

Hi I'm Christine, and I am happy you are visiting. Food is a large part of our family's lives, and we love to try new dishes, especially Italian food which offers so much freshness and flavor, whether you are making a classic Italian dish like lasagna or pizza, or experimenting with new appetizers, entrées or desserts from Italy.

Even if you are brand new to this cuisine, you will be able to find all kinds of tempting recipes here. I have been collecting classic Italian recipes, all conveniently in one place, along with unusual recipes from Italy plus some dishes inspired by Italian cuisine.

When the weather is cold, a baked pasta dish or juicy pork or veal recipe might be ideal. During the summer months, an Italian salad might be your dish of choice. We have vegetarian recipes, Italian soups, and even tips on how to work with Italian ingredients for the best results, whether you are making lasagna, gnocchi or an Italian casserole


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