The Antipasto – a word which translates literally into “before the meal” – is Italy’s way of tickling your appetite, the opening dance for a menu that will send your tastebuds aflutter. Every region has its own – many of Tuscany’s antipasti involve toasted bread, for an important part of our regional cuisine is based on frugal habits and recipes were usually conceived in order to not waste food. So “poor man” dishes such as world-renowned pappa al pomodoro, ribollita and the numerous variety of crostini were created as a way to not throw away stale bread and leftovers from the kitchen… so here are 8 Tuscan appetizers you are sure to enjoy, and the good part is: you can always prepare them at home!
Together with bruschetta and coldcuts this is one of the staples of the Tuscan dinner table. No antipasto platter would be complete without this special paté and its peculiar flavour is representative of our region’s cuisine: strong, savoury and with a full, meaty, almost sweet aftertaste. Prepared with chicken livers (sometimes hearts!), sage and bay leaves, vin santo wine (ours is killer in this recipe!) and onions, this famous antipasto is also known as crostini di “Fegatini” (little livers).
Crostini con Pulezze
Although some have completely forgotten this turnip top crostino that was once so dear to Tuscan farmers, especially in the Casentino area. Sometimes also prepared with pieces of Tuscan sausage, pulezze are sautéed in garlic and then put warm on a slice of crunchy bread, softening and giving the crostino its unique flavour.
Cold cuts with Cheese
When you don’t understand anything on the menu and the waiter keeps hovering behind your back, pen and notepad quivering impatiently in his or her hands, always point your finger to that part of the menu that says “Affettati con formaggio” – you can’t go wrong. You will be served a platter of cold cuts and dairy products of all varieties, shapes and sizes: fragrant cheeses like pecorino, parmigiano and stracchino accompanied by rippling slices of soprassata, prosciutto di Norcia, lardo di colonnata, finocchiona, mortadella and salame toscano. Sometimes the platter also includes honey (to lather on the cheeses) and vegetables in oil (sottoli) such as sundried tomatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, olives and eggplant.
Ripe sliced tomatoes, olive oil, salt and a smear of garlic: that’s all it takes to make a simple slice of toasted bread into a little piece of heaven for your tastebuds. This antipasto is widespread all throughout Italy but you really want to be in Tuscany when they serve it with fresh Olio Nuovo, at the beginning of the harvest and oil-making season (From mid-October to mid-November).
Crostino con Fagioli
Beans, beans, beans! Tuscans love their legumes and they would literally put them everywhere if they could! You’ve probably already seen them served as first course (bean or chickpea soup with pasta) or alongside a glistening row of sausages, but have you ever tried them on a nice crostino drizzled with fresh EVOO? Pure deliciousness! Some pimp the recipe with sautéed bacon, but we’d stick with the simple slice of toasted bread, a spoonful of beans, a dash of pepper and salt and a trickle of our golden DOP Chianti Classico olive oil.
Considered more of an amuse-bouche or side-dish than a veritable antipasto, this dish of thinly sliced crudité served with a small portion of seasoned olive oil can actually be quite satisfying. It’s easy to prepare and will surely impress your guests with its colourful, healthy palette of ingredients: all it takes are celery, carrots, fennel and, for those who want to be real pros, peppers and radish. The oil dip consists of EVOO, ground blackpepper and salt to taste. It’s perfect for those warm Summer months because it doesn’t require cooking.
Crostoni con Cavolo Nero
Cavolo Nero, aka Kale, is a big part of Tuscany’s cuisine and this antipasto can be often spotted on restaurant menus from November to late January, when the green leafy vegetable is in season. Usually prepared in the Mugello area during the Christmas holidays, it’s simple to make and incredibly tasty: boil the leaves and dampen the garlic-infused toasted bread with the kale water. Then put a leaf on each slice, drizzle with olive oil and serve with a dash of salt and pepper!
Last but not least, we couldn’t not add a little bit of fritto, the coup-de-grace that will make your mouths water and hands tingle. Tuscans love to fry – from the seafood frittura mista of the coast to the mixed vegetables of the classic fritto di verdure – so a fried antipasto is definitely a must. The word stuzzichini means “snack”, and this one is muncherrific. Take a few large sage leaves, one marinated anchovy. Put the leaves into a frying batter prepared with eggs, salt and oil, then stick the anchovy between them and delicately position the tasty morsel into the frying pan. Some also just simply fry the sage – a crispy treat for everyone to enjoy!