Tired of the usual festive appetizers? Why not try a themed Christmas lunch or celebration instead, with this selection of Italian Christmas appetizers.
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 appetizer suited to all parties this festive season. Take a look at our line-up of recipes and say buon appetito!
Italian Christmas Appetizers
While artichokes are largely a spring vegetable, a second crop is harvested in late fall. Grab all of them to make this recipe courtesy of Venice's famous restaurant Vecio Fritolin. that even meat eaters will gladly gobblle down. These crunchy deep fried artichokes are a real crowd pleaser that even meat eaters will gladly gobble down without hesitation.
Called cozze gratinate in Italian, baked mussels topped with a crunchy, herby parmesan gratin are a classic appetizer dish you will find in many local trattorie in the southern parts of Italy. They are easier than you think: mussels are boiled, garnished with a pan-toasted breadcrumb mix, then cooked briefly in the oven (2 minutes) to finish. Show them off 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, brings together six different seafoods in harmony with just a touch of lemon juice, fresh parsley and olive oil. Ask your fishmonger to get these ready for you to pick up on the day of your feast, and grab some good crusty bread. This light, cooling dish is bound to get everyone's appetites going!
Octopus and potato salad is a classic Christmas Eve appetizer. 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, parsely, lemon, and good quality olive oil - as for the rest, you can decide depending on what's available to you where you live.
More ambitious cooks might like to stretch themselves with a souffle - 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 souffles to rise!
Showcase your favourite Italian charcuterie in a generous platter that will be sure to entice even the fussiest of guests. Our pro recipe is from chef Robin Gill, served at the international launch of Food on the Edge 2017, explaining how to cure meats such as coppa, goose ham and fennel salami. For most of us who don't own a drying chamber for whole pork legs, take his pointers on the choice of meats for selecting your (ready-to-eat) charcuterie cold cuts at your local deli. Add just a good hunk of fresh Italian-style bread, serve and be merry.
If you're looking for a more sophisticated appetizer 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.
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. The trio of colours (of the Italian flag!) is enough to hint to your guests the mood for the night ahead. Bon appetit!
Kales are 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 spread with mascarpone and topped off with kale and artichoke. If kale isn't your thing, substitute with another hardy green, broccoli rabe also works well. Also, if you can't get your hands on fresh artichokes, use the jarred variety in oil, easy.
Toasted bread topped off with creamy mozzarella and tomatoes will be a popular way to open your Italian themed meal. 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, delicious.