Aperitivo

Aperitivo

By
Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi
Contains
6 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781784881191
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

Aperitivo hour

This is one of our favourite times of the day; the magic hour when twilight comes, people start to leave work and once again the bars are crowded with Italians stopping off for a quick Aperol spritz or Prosecco and a bite before heading home for supper. Italians call it aperitivo, which will last all but a few hours when you pay a hefty price for a cocktail but are then given a plate and told to help yourself to an array of antipasti or small bites at the bar. These vary in quality, so do pick your bar carefully. Here are our favourite antipasti, from the range we have discovered in bars and in Tuscan homes on our travels. The bases can be switched: instead of toasted bread, you could try the polenta slices, or try the chicken liver pâté on the Chickpea Pancake.

Eating cheese the Tuscan way

My first experience of Tuscan family food was with Giancarlo’s Zia (aunt), Agnese, who showed me how to eat slivers of Pecorino drizzled with honey and slices of peeled ripe pears. It was a combination I will never forget and now in our restaurants we serve Pecorino on wooden boards with pears, honey, walnuts, celery and grapes, mixing the sweet and salty flavours together. In this way, the selection makes a great antipasto with drinks, or works in place of a dessert.

Pecorino cheese-making, from the word pecora, meaning ‘sheep’, dates back to Etruscan times when it was made with vegetable rennet, sometimes derived from artichoke flowers until the Sardinian farmers arrived and brought with them techniques for using animal rennet. You will find a huge selection of Pecorino in Pienza, which has DOP status. It is fascinating to try cheeses covered in ash, wrapped in walnut leaves or washed with wine.

Our favourite selection of Tuscan cheeses to serve together would be a young (fresco) Pecorino; an older, more mature Pecorino known as Stagionato; a freshly made sheep’s ricotta and a soft goat’s cheese from Mugello. All of these go with runny honey of varying strengths, from the mild, delicate acacia to the powerful, farmyard-flavoured chestnut honey. Our friend Antonella Secciani told us to try soft goat’s cheese with cocoa powder and chestnut honey. And you will often see cheeses served with a soft-set sweet marmalade as well as more modern chilli jam.

Recipes in this Chapter

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