Easy and affordable Italian appetizers for any budget

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For many, summertime means casual outdoor entertaining. With the economy as it is, clambakes and barbecue parties are simply out of the question. One affordable option to consider is the cocktail hour.

Serving a couple of pitchers of juice based mixed drinks with a variety of appetizers in the mid afternoon can provide a light meal and help keep your guests from becoming inebriated. The trick to keeping the costs down is to highlight a few high quality ingredients and fill out the menu with less expensive foods.

Italian food is the ideal cuisine to serve your guests whether you are organizing a formal affair or a casual get together. Entertaining often includes an antipasto platter platter, the appetizer course that comes before the meal. Often these will be served to guests as they arrive along with wine and other beverages.

Sauces and Dips

Fonduta is a hot cheese sauce made from fontina cheese, milk, eggs and truffles. It is served in a chafing dish with pieces of bread for dipping. It is very similar to the French fondue, with the most notable difference being the presence of incredibly pungent smelling truffles, which are shaved into the mixture shortly before serving. Using a food slicer will ensure that the truffles will be uniformly thin.

Bagna Cauda is served hot, so is considered an autumn or winter dish in Italy. However, after smelling the steam coming from the bubbling pot, very few Americans would hesitate to try it. The sauce consists of plenty of butter and olive oil, seasoned with garlic and anchovies. Spears of bell peppers, carrot sticks, slices of fennel or celery stalks are dipped into the communal chafing dish before eating.

Finger Foods

Panini are grilled sandwiches made on ciabatta bread. These can be sliced into bite sized morsels and skewered with a toothpick to keep the layers together. Some popular fillings include prosciutto, salami or ham and a cheese with a complementary flavor. Grilled red peppers and zucchini, fresh mozzarella and pesto are a delicious vegetarian alternative.

Bruschette (pronounced bru-SKET-uh) consists of slices of bread are rubbed with fresh garlic and olive oil, grilled and topped with a fresh vegetable salad. The most popular version of bruschette is made with roughly chopped ripe tomatoes, fresh basil and water packed mozzarella.

Roasted new potatoes are delicious and an inexpensive filler for your buffet table. The new potatoes can be left whole or halved before tossing with chopped fresh herbs, sea salt, cracked pepper and plenty of olive oil. Roast them for an hour, stirring occasionally for even browning. Serving them with a dish of toothpicks makes eating simple and cleanup quick.

Preserved Meats and Cheeses

Every one of the twenty regions of Italy has some unique form of cheese or meat that they are known for. Asiago cheese and sausage called sopressa come from Veneto.

Speck, a cured juniper flavored pork that is reminiscent of ham, comes from South Tyrol.

Lombardy is home to the salty, lean air dried beef known as bresaola. The list goes on and on.

If you are able to go to a reputable Italian market and tell them you need to make an antipasti platter for guests, they won’t steer you wrong. Bring home your assorted salume and formaggio. Slice into attractive, thin slices by using your meat slicer and arrange decoratively on a platter. Be prepared for rave reviews.

As you can see, it should be simple to create a selection of appetizers that are delicious, elegant, quick to prepare and won’t break your budget. Italian appetizers will be a hit at all of your social events, whether casual backyard gatherings or formal affairs.

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