Antipasti is what is out and ready for guests and family when they arrive. It is the opening of the meal though not considered the first course. A wide range of Antipasti are prepared for this meal, from simple trays of preserved seafood and vegetables, to fried rice balls, to fritattas of herbs. These are the first few things prepared and are arranged so that the family and guest, as they arrive, will have something to eat and enjoy. A traditional beverage accompaniment is light and stimulating so that it neither overpowers the upcoming meal nor takes away from the antipasti itself. A reminder that these recipes are scaled to a 4-6 person dinner, but are easily scaled up.
TUNA STUFFED PEPPERS
This is one of the favorites of the “kids” every year. It uses canned or pouched tuna but creates a delicious bite of food that also provides one of the fishes for the evening. Preparation for this begins the night before to reduce the amount of work you see on Christmas Eve which is a theme in several of the antipasti described below.
- 2 Large Bell Peppers, one red and one green
- 7 ounces of tuna, from a can or pouch
- 2 Lemons for juicing
- 2 TBSP of capers
- 1 Garlic clove, crushed
- Olive Oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Roast the bell peppers, as described in the Gazpacho post.
- Peel and seed the roasted peppers and then cut them into thick strips, usually 4-6 per pepper.
- Marinate the strips of roasted peppers overnight in olive oil, a squeeze of citrus, and a crushed garlic clove.
- In a separate bowl, mix the tuna, lemon juice, and capers together with just enough olive oil to allow it to hold together. Taste and season as necessary.
- Divide the tuna mixture between the pepper strips.
- Roll the pepper strips up trapping the tuna mixture in the middle.
This is simply an Italian parbaked omelet, if you have never had a frittata before. It is simple in technique and relies on having good ingredients. We often have two different fritattas for this course.
Ingredients – per frittata
- 4 Medium Eggs
- Splash of Water
- 6-8 Anchovy filets
- ¼ Cup Chopped herbs, such as mint
- Preheat the broiler to low.
- Beat the eggs in a bowl with a splash of water and a pinch of salt.
- Over medium-low heat, add the egg mixture to a shallow, oven-proof pan that has been pregreased with olive oil..
- Add the additional components, such as the anchovy filets or herbs immediately so that they will show through the bottom, which will be the top of the frittata.
- Cook, without stirring, until the bottom is set the pan, when given a shake, appears more solid than liquid.
- Transfer the pan to the oven and broil 4-5 minutes
- Remove from the pan from the oven and make sure that the edges are loose from the pan.
- Cover the pan with a plate or cutting board and flip them over so that the frittata comes out from the pan to the plate that is now on the bottom.
- Cut into wedges and arrange for serving.
Arancini are fried balls of rice and filling. They are, in many ways, similar to the meatballs we talked about in the comfort food post on spaghetti and meatballs. Here, we take already cooked rice, at room temperature instead of beef, and mix them with cheese, some herbs, and maybe a little egg to bind them together. Once you’ve got little balls of rice, you dredge them in flour, followed by a little eggwash, and then some breadcrumbs before giving them a quick deep fry until golden, brown, and delicious. If you want to make even fancier versions, form the rice balls around a chunk of mozzarella.
- 3 Cups cooked rice (this is about how much 1 Cup uncooked rice will make)
- 1/2 Cup Grated parmigiana reggiano or pecorino romano
- Parlsey, Chopped to taste
- 3 Eggs, 1 for the mixture and 2 for the egg wash
- Frying oil
- Mix together the cooked rice, cheese, parsley, and one egg.
- Place flour, two eggs beaten, and breadcrumbs seasoned with a little salt and pepper into flat trays or plates.
- Make small balls of the rice mixture that fit comfortably inside the palm of your hand
- Put enough oil in a deep, heavy pot to be able to deep fry the balls and bring to a temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Gently roll the balls in flour, shaking off the excess.
- Roll the balls in the eggwash, letting any excess drip off
- Roll the balls in the breadcrumbs.
- Once you have finished all of the balls, the first few should have rested sufficiently to proceed.
- Working in batches, so you don’t overcrowd the oil, gently place 6-10 rice balls into the frying oil.
- Fry for 3-5 minutes until golden brown, and floating
- Remove with a slotted spoon or spider and let drain on a rack set above paper towels in a sheet pan.
- Continue working in batches until finished
It is important to be very careful when frying in this manner. If you have a deep fryer at home with a locking lid, that can reduce the danger but anytime you are working with hot oil, take extra precautions for your own safety and the safety of your abode.
Yes, the actual name for this dish translates as tasty carrots! These, and the tasty shrimp that follow, are staples of the antipasti course Christmas Eve. This is another dish that starts the night before to marinate overnight and reduce the work on the day of the Feast.
- 1-2lbs Carrots (or baby carrots)
- 2-3 cloves of Garlic
- Juice of 1 Lemon
- Parsley, Chopped
- If using the full carrots, clean and cut the carrots into battonet, or thick sticks. If you look back at the Sweet Potato Hash post, you cut the carrots like the sweet potatoes but instead of cubes, you are going for longer links. If using baby carrots, well, you can skip this step.
- Over medium to medium-high heat, cook the carrots in boiling water for 4-6 minutes, a bit longer for the thicker baby carrots.
- Place carrots with garlic cloves in a bowl with the lemon juice.
- Cover with Olive Oil.
- Cover the bowl tightly, and refrigerate overnight. You can let them sit longer, but remove the garlic before it gets too powerful for your preference.
This is almost the exact same method as the carrots. The shrimp are cooked almost completely done in the boiling water for just a few minutes and then marinated in olive oil and citrus juice. Because it is a small amount of citrus, and a lot of oil, you can make these the night before and kept in the refrigerator, but the texture won’t be perfect. Honestly, we make these the day before to save time when preparing everything else and accept that the texture may be just a bit off from perfect.
- 1lb Shrimp, small in size (fresh or frozen, your choice)
- Olive Oil
- 1 Lemon
- 2-3 Garlic cloves
- Parsley to garnish
- Dried Oregano
- Dried Basil
- Over medium to medium-high heat, cook the shrimp in boiling water for3-5 minutes until just cooked and pink.
- If using fresh shrimp, you want to peel the shrimp if not already done
- Place shrimp with garlic cloves in a bowl with the lemon juice.
- Cover with Olive Oil.
- Cover the bowl tightly, and refrigerate overnight. They need at least an hour to an hour and a half to marinate, but as I mentioned, we do this one ahead of time.
Usually, if you see an antipasti tray, especially at an Italian restaurant, you will find a beautiful selection of preserved meats and cheese arrange in an artful manner. Tonight, however, there is no meat and so a different selection of treats is used.
There is little of a recipe to use here, except to tell you that good qualities olives, capers, and giardinieria are available from fine stores everywhere. The smoked oysters and clams provide more seafood for our table and give a salty and smoky flavor contrast to brininess of the other vegetables.
Yes, we have the crackers in the shape of the goldfish. Yes, it is a little cheesy. Yes, that was another pun.
One excellent choice for an apertivo beverage is prosecco – Italian sparkling white wine. Prosecco is the name of a grape that is primarily used as a blended carbonated white wine in Italy. For the sake of brevity, we just say Prosecco. Prosecco is a bit sweeter than French Champagne and not as bubbly. The actual production of prosecco differs in that the batches receive the secondary fermentation, rather than each bottle undergoing it separately. The added benefit is that Prosecco, having a much smaller PR budget than Champagne, comes in at a much more affordable price point for most people.
Italian’s lay claim to the tradition of liquours and especially of the class of beverages called amaro, or bitters. If you want a slightly bitter and herbal apertivo, okay more than slightly bitter, you can go with something like Cappelletti which is in the same family as Campari, but I think tastes a bit more like the Campari of 10 years ago. It has a drier flavor profile with more herbs and a deeper set of flavors, where Campari begins to cut off from its hidden sweetness.
This isn’t to say you couldn’t mix up a batch of cocktails for apertivo. Speaking of Campari, the Negroni is a great drink to batch because it doesn’t require stirring of extra fresh ingredients. Check out our previous description of that glorious classic cocktail in Bitter, Beautiful Negroni.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes
Seven Fishes – I Primi
Seven Fishes – I secondi e contorni
Seven Fishes – Dolce e digestivi