Tired of the usual festive appetisers? Why not try a themed Christmas lunch or celebration instead, with this selection of Italian Christmas appetisers. From the traditional to popular favourites and original alternatives, from finger food to delicious sit-down starters, Italian cuisine has them all covered. There's something for vegetarians, fish lovers and those that just can't resist Italian charcuterie.
Whether an accomplished cook or more keen on assembly, there's an Italian Christmas appetiser suited to all parties this festive season. Take a look at our line-up of recipes and say buon appetito!
Italian Christmas Appetisers
Fried Carciofi (Artichokes)
While artichokes are largely a spring vegetable, a second crop is harvested in late fall. Grab them while you can to make this recipe courtesy of Venice's famous restaurant Vecio Fritolin. These crunchy deep fried artichokes are a real crowd pleaser, just set them down and watch them go.
And, if you liked that, you'll love these deep fried whole globe artichokes in this recipe for carciofi all giudia straight from Rome in the video below.
Called cozze gratinate in Italian, baked mussels topped with a crunchy, herby parmesan gratin are a classic appetiser you will find in many local trattorie in the southern parts of Italy. They are easier than you think: pre-cooked mussels are garnished with a pan-toasted breadcrumb mix, then cooked briefly in the oven (2 minutes) to finish. Serve them on a platter as finger food or as part of a seafood serving.
When it comes to fresh seafood, simple is best. This seafood salad, a favourite all over Italy, and especially in the south, includes six different seafoods with just a hint of lemon juice, fresh parsley and olive oil. Ask your fishmonger to get prepare a selection for you to pick up on the day of your feast, and grab some good crusty bread to go with it. This light and simple dish is bound to sure to everyone's appetites going.
Octopus and potato salad is a classic Christmas Eve appetiser. Our simple yet delicious recipe also reveals how to tenderise the octopus, an essential step for any successful octopus dish. The key ingredients here are octopus, potato, parsley, lemon, and good quality olive oil - as for the rest, you can decide, depending on what's available to you where you live.
Rocket and gorgonzola souffle
More ambitious cooks might like to stretch themselves with a soufflé - this one is laced with creamy Italian gorgonzola that marries beautifully with the sharpness of rocket, or arugula. Remember that room temperature egg whites whip up much more easily than cold egg whites, and be gentle when folding them into the rest of the mix - you want to keep all that volume for the soufflés to rise.
Showcase your favourite Italian charcuterie in a generous platter. Our pro recipe is from chef Robin Gill, and includes cured meats like coppa, goose ham and fennel salami. For most of us who don't own a drying chamber for whole pork legs, he highlights how to choose your charcuterie selection at your local deli. Serve with fresh Italian-style bread and a bottle of Italian red.
Scallops Wrapped in Pancetta
If you're looking for a more sophisticated appetiser try this recipe given to us by Enoteca Pinchiorri's chefs Italo Bassi and Riccardo Monco. Scallops and pancetta are always a winning combination and this recipe will add the special chef touch to your holiday gathering.
Zucchini, Tomato and Mozzarella Towers
For a simple and tasty starter, try stacking the best mozzarella di bufala, or buffalo mozzarella, with colourful slices of zucchini, tomatoes with a touch of basil and fragrant olive oil united into a tower. The trio of colours (of the Italian flag) will set the theme for the main course to follow.
Kale is in season in the cooler months, so make the most of this dark supergreen whenever you can to keep your body and mind happy. These sophisticated crostini are topped ooff with mascarpone, kale and artichoke. If kale isn't your thing, substitute with another hardy green like broccoli rabe.
A bruschetta made of toasted bread topped off with creamy mozzarella or ricotta and tomatoes will be a popular way to open your Italian themed meal. Watch how it's done in the clip above.
To make them a really decadent treat you could always try replacing the mozzarella with irresistible burrata. This is Italian food at it's simplest best, so make sure your tomatoes are fresh, the basil is fragrant, and the mozzarella, soft creamy and melt in your mouth delicious.