Questo E Julie’s Italiano Appetizers E Edible Gifts
I am not Italian, I do not even claim any sort of Italian-American roots, I’m probably not even fluent in Italian Taste Buds, However, I do LOVE Italian Food and Italian Inspired Food which is what this post is about. Gordon and I do have a few Italian Food posts on this website but this one is all mine. And what I mean by that is that these foods and gifts are my contribution to the Italian Taste Bud World. Even so, nothing here is authentic and most of it is ready made you just need to put it all together.
I do have a few nice recipes here though that I hope you will try and enjoy!
I realized that there is no way that I can present a series of Italian Appetizers without posting my most favorite meal in the entire world. To most it is an appetizer. To my son Brodie’s girlfriend Mackenzie, it is a snack. But to me it is a meal.
The Best Meal
It is simply, seeded bread that I have baked in the oven with butter, roasted garlic cloves, sundried tomatoes marinated in olive oil, and artichoke hearts.
Life just doesn’t get any better than this. 🙂
Bruschetta on Toast, anyone?
Bruschetta is an antipasto from Italy that consists of placing olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, vegetables, etc. on grilled bread. It is a simple appetizer to serve before any Italian meal. You can even buy some excellent Bruschetta’s that are ready made, all you need is the bread and perhaps some shaved Parmesean, photo above, placed on top. I used 3 different kinds of Bruschetta’s here.
(I can even make a meal out of this with nothing more needed, other than a good red wine.) 🙂
My Favorite Kind of Dinner
I love a variety to just nibble on.
Most of this you can find in the bakery and deli section of your local supermarket.
Various cheeses, meats, crackers, olive oils, olives, zucchini pancakes, stuffed mushrooms, marinated artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, bruschetta’s……… and bread. (And even a leftover pizza cut into squares.)
This is also very easy to put together.
I just used some cutting boards, wooden bowls, ceramic bowls, I even used an old shelf that fell off the wall one day.
I also don’t think that you need to limit yourself to only serving Italian cheeses. Serve what you like and mix it up. It doesn’t have to be totally authentic, just authentically inspired. 🙂
Parsley always makes an excellent garnish. The reason that restaurants always placed parsley on the dinner plates was because it aids in our digestion, and not just because it was pretty. So eat up!
I also have some great Canadian Cheese’s here.
The Stuffed Mushroom’s I bought ready made, I only had to heat them in the oven.
As well as the Sundried Tomatoes and the Bruschetta’s in the photo above. Easily spread on bread and crackers.
My favorite are the marinated artichoke hearts and the marinated olives and feta cheese.
Oh, and my beautiful made in Italy vintage wine opener that I found at a thrift store. 🙂
Grab a plate, a napkin, and a glass of wine and help yourself and I’ll meet you in the living room.
Just a few of the Appetizers…..
In order to save time I found these great Zucchini Pancakes in the frozen section of my local grocery store and decided to incorporate them into the Italian Nibbles as well. Easy to heat up in the oven, and even a bit tasty as well.
I actually served them with some leftover pizza that I had, and cut into squares, and served on a pizza paddle.
I did grow up eating Haloumi Cheese as a child but then I didn’t have it again for decades. But I did spot it at a Greek Market and bought some and decided to fry it up for this occasion. It was delicious and brought back memories. You do need to just brown it in a pan on the stove top. It is best served warm.
The bread that I served, I simply sliced, drizzled some olive oil over it, and baked it until a bit crispy. Perfect!
Mushroom Stuffed Shells
This is sooooo good! It’s also quite beautiful, tasty, and easy to make.
A perfect food to just pick up and snack on, an EXCELLENT APPETIZER!
We do have this recipe probably on a few of our blog posts but I wanted it here on this post as it is such a lovely food item to enjoy.
The Ingredients all Ready
What is so great about this recipe is that you can change the ingredients, you don’t have to stick to this recipe.
You can use other cheeses, spices, veggies…… You can use your imagination here.
But I will say…..THIS recipe is delicious!!!
Large Pasta Shells
3/4 Cup Parmesan Reggiano Cheese PLUS 1/2 Cup more to top the stuffed shells
2 8 oz. Philadelphia Cream Cheese – softened
1/2 Large Onion chopped
8 Mushrooms – sliced and chopped (I used Baby Bellas)
3 Cloves Garlic – thinly sliced, then chopped
Fresh Ground Pepper
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes to taste – I used about 1/2 Tbsp
1 Bunch Parsley – Med. chop
1/2 Cup Kalamata Olives – chopped
4 Tbsp Butter
Ready to Grate the Cheese
Chop your Onion
Place it in a Med. heated saute pan with your butter.
My Onions, Garlic, and Mushrooms, Chopped and Ready
Melting the Butter on Med. Heat
Place the mushrooms in with the onions and saute for about 7 Min.
When cooked, add your garlic and cook for another 3 Min. mixing well.
Add your pepper and Red Pepper Flakes and cook for another 3 Min.
Take the mixture off the heat when done.
Everything getting nice and soft.
In the meantime, prepare the other ingredients in a Med. bowl.
Place in your grated Parmesan Cheese and room temperature Cream Cheese.
Chop your Parsley and add to your bowl of cheeses, mixing well.
Add your chopped Kalamata Olives to your cheese mixture.
Boil your large pasta shells as directed, OR a minute less in insure they are firm enough to take the filling.
Drain the Shells, and Cool
Make sure all Ingredients are Combined
Now it’s time for the Assembly
Just take one of the Pasta Shells, Add the Mixture, and place onto a baking sheet that was sprayed with a non-stick cooking oil spray, like so.
Now you want to add some of the grated Parmesean Cheese to the top, and sprinkle with some Paprika.
Now you want to broil them in the oven until a bit brown and the cheese is melted.
You have got to try one! They are delicious!!!
Oh, and you can top with some curly parsley.
The Gift of Spaghetti
(Most American’s Introduction to Italian Food)
I do happen to make an excellent Spaghetti Sauce, or Red Sauce, or whatever you want to call it.
This is actually the base for a lot of good Italian dishes, the Red Sauce.
So, I would like to share with you my recipe.
The Spaghetti Project
(My Edible Gift to some very Special People)
(For this project I made quite a bit of Red Sauce. So I will give those measurements here.)
6- 24 oz. Classico Spaghetti Sauce
4- 8 oz. Tomato Paste
50 Grinds of Freshly Ground Black Pepper
12 Shakes of Tabasco Sauce
7 Shakes of Garlic Salt
A generous squeeze of Italian Tomato Paste
10 Cloves of Roasted Garlic
4- 6 oz. jars Marinated Artichoke Hearts, Chopped and with 2 of the jars marinade added to the sauce.
2- Tablespoons Turmeric Powder (Kills Cancer Cells)
Fresh Herbs: Oregano and Chives, chopped
Optional: Various jars, Ribbons, and Adornments
Working on the Spaghetti Project
This is going to be such a nice gift to those that I love dearly.
Time to Make the Spaghetti…….
The first thing that I do it to take a large sauce pan and place all the Classico Spaghetti Sauce’s inside of it. I always add water to the jars so that the leftover sauce still stuck in the jar will end up in the pot. (Also the extra water will boil out anyway.)
I place the heat on Medium, but as the sauce boils and splatters I do reduce the heat to a Medium-Low.
Next, you want to add all of the tomato paste to the sauce. Here I am using 4 of them, but I am also using some of the tomato paste from the tube.
You should be heating all of this on a medium-high heat. That will bring it up to boil. But as it does start boiling you then need to reduce it so that it doesn’t burn on the bottom. I want this to simmer away for HOURS!!!
(That is the secret.) Shhhhh…..
Now you want to add about 50 grinds of freshly ground black pepper, and about 7-9 big shakes of Garlic Salt, and about 12 Shakes of Tabasco Sauce.
You want this to simmer on the stove top now. And plan on this simmering away for awhile. But keep an eye on it.
Our Beautiful Garden Herbs
Oregano, Chives, and Basil
Fresh Herbs and Scissors
The Roasted Garlic
I adore roasted garlic! It’s very simple to make. You just need some whole garlic cloves and some butter. Place them into a garlic clove roaster for about an hour in the oven on 400F. Then viola! Great added to your red sauce. You do need to check it about every 15 minutes and make sure the garlic is nice and marinated and not burning.
Boiling the Pasta, and Heating the Red Sauce
The Fresh Herbs of Oregano, Basil and Chives have been washed and are drying.
The Beautiful and Delicious Marinated Artichoke Hearts
My Red Sauce, Look at the Marinade from the Marinated Artichoke Hearts, it does add something special to the taste. The Red Sauce has been boiling/simmering for about 45 minutes or so by the time I add the Marinade and the Chopped Artichoke Hearts.
Now Adding the Chopped Marinated Artichoke Hearts
Adding 2 Tablespoons of the Turmeric Powder
The Delicious Roasted Garlic Cloves
(I probably added about 7 of them, but I used a knife or fork to squish them up so that they are something of a “paste” before I added them to the pot.)
Adding the Fresh Herbs to the Red Sauce
I add the Herbs to the Red Sauce about an hour and a half into the cooking process. I just remove the Italian Oregano from the stems and I do use the herb scissors to cut up the Chives. Just stir in and continue simmering away for another 30 minutes.
The Spaghetti Sauce and the Pasta Noodles Boiling
I love to take a great Italian Loaf and slice it, add butter, then bake until brown. Then add some fresh herbs like oregano and chives, and bake for a few additional minutes.
(I also like putting the leftover garlic cloves on the bread and eating them that way. So caramelized.)
All We Need Now is the Pasta…….
Top with some freshly grated Parmesean Cheese.
Also add some fresh herbs of Parsley and Basil.
The Gift of Spaghetti Sauce
After making the sauce I placed it into the refrigerator when it was cool and brought it out the following day to create my edible gifts of Red Sauce.
My Red Sauce is an Excellent Base for Many Italian Meals
I love to save old jars and lids for this purpose. I specifically like the shape of these jars and the color of these lids. They are actually jars and lids of old pasta sauces which I have bought in the past. (I do love to recycle.)
Here I am Putting it Together for Gifts
Most of this raffia I bought at the Dollar Store.
By adding some fresh herbs, Pasta, and some Olive Oil, as well as the Red Sauce, what a great gift! Everything looks nice all tied together in baskets with some red kitchen towels.
The only thing that is required here is some bread to dip into this delicious sauce! 🙂
Julie’s Green Bell Pepper, Mushroom, and Black Olive Pizza
I am not going to give a Homemade Pizza recipe here although I did make it from scratch. But, what I did want to show you is that my Red Sauce goes very well as a Pizza Sauce. Another great base for yet another Italian meal.
(Oh, and it’s not that I’m hoarding recipes. It’s that I would rather save the pizza recipe for a pizza post.)
The Baked Ziti Project
The year is 1989? I believe? And I am at my friend Kim’s house in Hawaii, visiting her, and she made dinner, Baked Ziti. It was so good that I asked her for the recipe. I still have it too. On the recipe card, and in her handwriting. Except my version has changed over the year’s so that it really isn’t Kim’s anymore. But, I will always credit her with giving me that delicious recipe and taking me on this delicious Baked Ziti adventure……. wink! wink! Which I have always based my recipe on hers.
The Baked Ziti Project Supplies
Great Bread and Home Grown Herbs
A Big Pot w/ Water, Rigatoni Pasta, and some Olive Oil
You want to start the Pasta boiling according to package instructions. I always like to add some olive oil to the water, just about a Tablespoon.
The Recipe: I will write this as Kim did 20 years ago. Then I will show you my differences to the recipe.
(p.s. Kim was originally from New York.)
1, 16 oz. box Ziti or Rigatoni
2, 1 lb. container’s Ricotta Cheese
1 med. ball Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded
Salt and Pepper
Parsley (2 Tablespoons)
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese
1, 32 oz. jar tomato sauce
The Fresh Ingredients
Whenever I make this I tend to double and sometimes triple the recipe. One we eat, and I do like to freeze one or two other casserole dishes. This is something nice, but quick for a great meal in a hurry. All that is ever needed with this is a salad and some bread and you have a perfect dinner. 🙂
The Ricotta Cheese, The Shredded Mozzarella Cheese, Some Shredded Parmesan Cheese (my extra ingredient) and the eggs. The cheese measurement’s can be a guideline, but it doesn’t hurt to add an additional cup of Parm or Asiago, etc. I also usually add an extra egg or two.
I also add some freshly ground black pepper to taste, and I like to use my fresh herbs and not the dry one’s. So I’m using about a cup of fresh chopped parsley. I like lots of green in my Italian food.
Cook Pasta According to Package Directions. I like to add some Olive Oil to flavor the water and it helps prevent the pasta from sticking together.
This California Extra Virgin Olive Oil is one of the best that you can buy.
Let Drain, and Cool a Bit
Ready to Grate some Extra Parmesan Cheese
The Casserole Dishes and my Red Sauce
A Store Bought Addition
This is a delicious pasta sauce that I like to use occasionally. Here I am spreading some of it on the bottom on my casserole dishes for my Baked Ziti. It will add a different taste to the dish. By spreading it along the bottom that will help prevent the cheese mixture from sticking.
Preheat Your Oven to 350F
You can add your own Red Sauce in place of this Pasta Sauce if you like.
Normally I do that, but here I wanted to add another taste to this project.
When the Pasta is Drained and Cooled, add it to the Cheese Mixture and mix together.
Here we start the Layering…….
Your first layer, you saw above. That pasta sauce which I placed on the very bottom.
I then put a layer of my cheeses and pasta down, then I take some of my Red Sauce and place that over the pasta and cheeses. Then I repeat. Another layer of pasta and cheeses, then a layer of my Red Sauce. I do this until the mixture is almost to the top of the casserole dish. Sometimes I like to layer some extra fresh parsley between each layer in the dish as well.
I like to top my Baked Ziti with some grated Parmesan Cheese before going into the oven.
I bake it on 350F for about 45 minutes.
Now it’s time to prepare the Herbs and Bread.
Here I am Slicing Some Nice Mozzarella Cheese to Top the Casserole
After about 35-45 minutes of cooking time, I then remove the casserole and add the slice’s of mozzarella cheese to the top of the dish. This cooking time only requires about 5 – 10 minutes cooking time until nice and melted.
When done, just remove from oven and let cool.
Any good bread and butter and garlic salt, and paprika (if you like) is all that you need.
And some good fresh herbs!
Paprika is GREAT on bread with any Italian food.
Fresh out of the Oven…..
Another Excellent Italian Meal
That’s MY Plate!!!
Flavored Olive Oil Project Edible Gifts
This is a project that I was particularly interested in making.
I love olive oil. I love flavored olive oils. I also love dipping breads into flavored olive oils. Especially as an appetizer before a great meal with a bottle of red wine.
The Olive Oil Set was given to us by our daughter.
It was nice to get it out and create these great oils to be eaten with herbs, spices, peppers, and breads.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (en masse)
Empty Bottles with Stoppers
Dried Herbs (Thyme and Basil)
Whole Garlic Cloves
Bay Leaves (I used Greek)
Whole Garlic Cloves and Red Peppers
While I was creating these delicious Flavored Olive Oils, I also created some excellent dipping oils for some very nice breads.
I’m using stems of Fresh Thyme as well as dried Thyme for this.
To me this was such a beautiful project to work on as well as to give as a gift.
This was just an assembly of Olive Oil, Stems of Fresh Thyme, 1-2 Whole Garlic Cloves, 1-2 Red Peppers, A sprinkling of Dried Thyme, a sprinkling of Dried Basil, and a Whole Dried Bay Leaf.
The Lovely Adornments
Before I give them as gifts I do want to try them out.
The Bottles are so Pretty to Give as Gifts
Bread, Dipping Oils and a good Red Wine
If you would like to check out a few of our other Italian posts…….
You can get this great recipe for Baked Rigatoni by clicking on the Julie and Gordon Italian link above, and scrolling down to near the very bottom of the post.