Italian Starter Recipes

Italian starter (or primi) recipes are slightly different to antipasti recipes. In a traditional Italian meal starters usually precede a dinner party while antipasti are more of an appetiser to go before any meal.

The best Italian starter recipes are perfect for sharing. Such dishes include great finger food dishes like funghi ripieni al gorgonzola (mushrooms stuffed with gorgonzola and honey) or the deliciously indulgent Taleggio fritto con salsa di fragile (deep-fried Taleggio cheese with a strawberry sauce).

For a truly authentic selection of recipes for Italian starters, the great range of ideas from Gino D’Acampo has everything you need. Gino has prepared an amazing selection of exceptional Italian starter recipes including avocado with saffron crab or one of Gino’s Neapolitan favourites – sardines coated in black pepper with Italian salsa. Pasta dishes can often be found in the Primi section of an Italian menu so don’t be surprised to find pasta dishes in the starter section.

You can find a full range of the very best recipes for Italian starters in Gino’s best-selling recipe books or you can find a selection of great ideas below. Time to start cooking – you won’t be disappointed!

StartersGet Inspired

ZUPPA DI PESCE ALL'AMALFITANAAmalfi-Style Fish Soup

You can find wonderful fish soups and stews along the Amalfi coast. They all tend to be hearty, substantial and big on flavour, but there are many variations on the theme, depending on the cook’s preference and what’s available in the market on the day. Here I’ve used a mixture of haddock, red mullet and prawns, but plenty of other types of fish, as well as mussels, squid and clams, are also...

4

Serves

14

Ingredients
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Insalata di Couscous con Olive e AsparagiCouscous Salad With Olives, Asparagus & Grana Padano

Couscous is so easy to prepare, but it does need the addition of some really good flavours to make it come to life. This rainbow salad is a fantastic source of vitamin C and is surprisingly filling. It’s great as a main course or you can reduce the quantities and serve it as a side with barbecued meats or grilled fish.

4

Serves

13

Ingredients

Couscous

Main Ingredient
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Insalata di fregola con olive, scorza d’arancia ed erbetteFregola Salad With Olives, Orange Zest & Fresh Herbs

A true Sardinian speciality, fregola is a type of pasta typically made from semolina dough. It is similar to couscous, but with larger pellets that have been toasted in the oven so it has a firmer texture and nuttier flavour. You can find fregola of differing sizes in Italian delicatessens and online – it is perfect with fish or shellfish.

4

Serves

10

Ingredients
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Frittelle di zucchine con pecorinoCourgette Fritters With Pecorino

Whenever we are in Olbia, a port town on the northeast coast of Sardinia near my home, we order courgette fritters instead of chips. They make a great side dish or snack, but if you include cheese, as I have done here, they make a more substantial first course. Pecorino sardo, a traditional Sardinian hard cheese made from sheep’s milk – is similar to the better-known pecorino romano (which...

4

Serves

10

Ingredients

Vegetables

Main Ingredient
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Sardine alla griglia con salsa di capperi e prezzemoloChargrilled Sardines With Caper & Parsley Vinaigrette

It is widely believed that sardines were named after Sardinia, where they were among the first fish to be packed in oil. Today they are still relatively abundant in the island’s coastal waters and form a major part of the islanders’ diet. Pilchards are the same species but just older and larger; they can be used for this recipe too, although I prefer the flavour of young sardines. As well as...

4

Serves

8

Ingredients
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Insalata di sgombro affumicato con arance e finocchiSmoked Mackerel, Orange & Fennel Salad

Oranges go perfectly with smoked mackerel, particularly the red oranges that are so abundant in Sicily. Orange and fennel are a popular combination in Sicilian cuisine, especially in the city of Palermo, and with the addition of this seductively rich-tasting fish this salad becomes the star of any antipasti table.

6

Serves

12

Ingredients

Mackerel

Main Ingredient
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Involtini di melanzane ripieni di uva passa, capperi e nociRolled Aubergines Stuffed wth Raisins, Capers & Walnuts

Aubergines were introduced to the Mediterranean region by the Arabs in the Middle Ages and Sicilians use them a lot in their cooking. Stuffing sliced aubergines with cheese, breadcrumbs and other goodies is a particularly popular way of serving them. Feel free to be creative with your fillings – this recipe is not about precision. Choose the heaviest aubergines you can find and cut just before...

4

Serves

15

Ingredients

Vegetables

Main Ingredient
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Pizza spessa con acciughe, olive e capperiDeep Pan Pizza With Anchovy, Olive & Caper Topping

Sicily is the original home of the deep-pan pizza. A popular dish, it is usually cooked in large rectangular tins and sold by the weight. Pizzas in Sicily vary according to the region, with each area having its own recipes and traditions, and this type (known in Sicily as sfinciuni) originated in western Sicily, in the province of Palermo. I absolutely love the combination of anchovies,...

10

Serves

11

Ingredients
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Bombe Di VerdureItalian-Style Spring Rolls

One of my favourite oriental dishes has to be vegetable spring rolls and I make it so often at home that I had to include it in my book. It’s a fantastic dish to prepare when you have parties, because you can fry them in the afternoon and then reheat them in the oven ready for your guests. Ensure the vegetables are not too wet when putting them into the filo pastry, otherwise your spring rolls will...

4

Serves

11

Ingredients

Vegetables

Main Ingredient
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Bruschette con crema d’avocadoAvocado & Smoked Paprika Bruchette

Believe it or not, I tasted my first avocado when I came to England and, contrary to the popularity of ‘tricolore salad’ in Britain, in Italy, this dish just doesn’t exist. On its own, avocado can often be bland but it’s fantastic in salads or with a spicy dish. I wanted to create a recipe with this fruit, as it has an extremely high nutritional value and helps provide many general health benefits....

4

Serves

6

Ingredients
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Involtini di melanzane ripieni di uva passa, capperi e nociRolled Aubergines With Raisins, Capers & Walnuts

Aubergines were introduced to the Mediterranean region by the Arabs in the Middle Ages and Sicilians use them a lot in their cooking. Stuffing sliced aubergines with cheese, breadcrumbs and other goodies is a particularly popular way of serving them. Feel free to be creative with your fillings – this recipe is not about precision. Choose the heaviest aubergines you can find and cut just before...

4

Serves

15

Ingredients

Vegetables

Main Ingredient
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Carpaccio di Zucchine con Borlotti, Peperoni e CapperiCourgette Carpaccio With Borlotti Beans, Peppers & Capers

This is a great vegetarian alternative to raw meat or fish carpaccio. The marinating of the thinly sliced courgettes makes them so soft they don’t need any cooking. If using small, young courgettes you can use the whole vegetable, but for larger courgettes I suggest you use the flesh only, as the seeds can be spongy when eaten raw. Just halve the courgettes lengthways, run a teaspoon down the centre...

4

Serves

11

Ingredients

Vegetables

Main Ingredient
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Insalata di Finocchi, Arance e Crescione con Vinaigrette al TimoFennel, Orange & Watercress Salad with Thyme Vinaigrette

This zingy first-course salad takes only minutes to prepare yet is full of flavour and goodness. The peppery little leaves of the watercress are bursting with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, making it one of our greatest natural superfoods, while the fennel and oranges are really rich in vitamin C. Try it with my Asparagus, Ricotta, Chilli and Parmesan Tartlets.

4

Serves

10

Ingredients

Vegetables

Main Ingredient
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Rotolini di Zucchine Ripieni di Ricotta, Noci e Peperoni GrigliatiCourgette Roll-Ups with Ricotta, Walnuts & Chargrilled Peppers

One of the great things about these little stuffed courgette rolls is that they don't require any cooking and can be prepared ahead. All that's needed is a bottle of chilled Italian wine, some warm, crusty bread on the side and good friends to share them with. You can use hazelnuts instead of walnuts if you prefer.

6

Serves

10

Ingredients

Cheese

Main Ingredient
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Crostatine Piccanti di Asparagi, Ricotta e ParmigianoAsparagus, Ricotta, Chilli and Parmesan Tartlets

Asparagus is one of the great delicacies of the vegetable world, and my asparagus tartlets quite rightly make it centre of attention. It is cooked very briefly, then plunged into cold water to retain its texture and bright green colour. You can use pecorino cheese rather than Parmesan if you like a saltier flavour.

4

Serves

10

Ingredients

Vegetables

Main Ingredient
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Avocado Grigliato Ripieno di Pomodori, Cipollotti, Olive e CapperiGrilled Avocado Stuffed With Tomatoes, Spring Onions, Olives & Capers

This dish is rather retro and I used to make it when I first came to London as a teenager. Make sure that the avocados are perfectly ripe and don’t use buffalo mozzarella, as it will release too much milk during cooking. Grilling the avocado makes it softer and more velvety, but don’t overcook or it will turn mushy. Serve with your favourite salad leaves.

4

Serves

14

Ingredients

Vegetables

Main Ingredient
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Bruschetta Fai Da TeBuild Your Own Beef Bruschetta

Half the pleasure of food is being able to enjoy it with your friends and family. I love dishes that can be placed in the centre of the table so that everybody can help themselves. It's the most social form of eating and it means I'm not stuck in the kitchen! This recipes cooks the beef from scratch, but if you have any leftover roast beef from a Sunday roast by all means use that.

4

Serves

15

Ingredients

Beef

Main Ingredient
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Insalata di FagioliniFrench Beans with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Feta and Mozzarella

This recipe (like most of my recipes) happened by accident. I was hosting a barbecue party and a friend of mine challenged me to make something that resembled the colours of the Italian flag. I went to the fridge, got hold of everything green, white and red and came up with this masterpiece. Today, it has become one of my signature dishes among my friends and we still enjoy it at every barbecue party....

8

Ingredients

Cheese

Main Ingredient
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Zucchine e TartufoCourgettes with Truffle and Mint Dressing

This recipe sums up what this book is all about – minimum effort, maximum satisfaction! If you cannot find fresh truffles you can always use truffles preserved in jars or even truffle-flavoured olive oil.

4

Serves

7

Ingredients

Vegetables

Main Ingredient
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Zucca al Forno con Peperoncino e SalviaRoasted Squash with Chilli and Sage Crumbs

I don’t about know you, but I sometimes get bored of always having potatoes with my main meal. I created this in order to still have a substantial side dish, but with more exciting colours and flavours. Try this recipe with pumpkin when it is in season and you can use Parmesan cheese instead of Pecorino.

6

Serves

8

Ingredients

Vegetables

Main Ingredient
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Crocchette di Barbabietola e SalmoneBeetroot Rosti with Smoked Salmon and Horseradish Cream

I have to admit that I'm not a great lover of beetroot, probably because I don’t particularly like sweet and sour together. This, however, is one of the few ways that I will eat beetroot because it works beautifully with the smoked salmon. If you are a beetroot virgin – here you go, this is the one to try. Make sure that you cook the rostis until they are very crispy.

4

Serves

11

Ingredients

Salmon

Main Ingredient
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Bruschetta Di Fave e MentaBroad Beans and Fresh Mint Bruschetta

Bruschetta is definitely one of the main dishes for an Italian antipasti. The freshness of the mint together with the broad beans is a fantastic combination that will fill you up and yet won’t leave you feeling heavy. You can substitute the broad beans with butter beans and if you don’t have fresh mint, use fresh leaf parsley or chives.

4

Serves

8

Ingredients

Vegetables

Main Ingredient
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Zuppa di Verdure all’OrtolanaChunky Winter Vegetable and Cannellini Bean Soup

I created this soup when I was cooking for friends who are vegetarian and they all watched me and wrote down the recipe so I figured if they were impressed, hopefully you will be too. I have used six different kinds of vegetables to make the wholesome soup you’d expect but the bread, cheese and beans give it an even more rustic feel. It’s the perfect evening family meal or a great starter for friends...

6

Serves

15

Ingredients

Vegetables

Main Ingredient
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Scombro Grigliato Con Semi Di FinocchiettoGrilled Mackerel with Fennel Seeds and Balsamic Vinegar

When you fancy a savoury start to the morning, please try this. I love it: not only is it delicious but you can’t get anything healthier. Mackerel is an oily, coldwater fish known especially for its nutritional benefits, as it’s a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which are good for brain growth and protection. In fact, the omega-3 content may actually reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s...

4

Serves

10

Ingredients

Mackerel

Main Ingredient
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Risotto con porri, Taleggio e pinoliLeek, Taleggio and Pine Kernel Risotto

Leeks make a fantastic alternative to onions, and yet many people only use them in soups. I got inspiration for this recipe while I was in Siena; I was served a bowl of leeks, cheese, nuts and sausages (which is also a great sauce for pasta) and I wanted to try and incorporate the same flavours in a risotto. I have left this as a vegetarian option, but by all means add in some cooked pancetta...

4

Serves

10

Ingredients

Cheese

Main Ingredient
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Capesante brasate con piselli e pomodori secchiBraised scallops with peas and sun-dried tomatoes

I adore scallops and must admit that I don’t like to interfere by adding too many ingredients that will alter their natural flavour, but I really think this recipe is special. It is so simple and quick to prepare and is very flexible in terms of being great as a dinner for one, or a starter or a main at a dinner party. You can replace the pancetta with chorizo if you prefer, and of course...

4

Serves

9

Ingredients

Seafood

Main Ingredient
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Zuppa di Cipolle e PancettaOnion, Tomato and Pancetta Soup

By far – and I really mean by far – this has to be my favourite soup recipe in any of my books. If you like onion soup, this is so much more – in fact, I don’t know anyone who has tried it and not loved it. I think you will be amazed at the flavour combinations. Make sure it is always served hot. It will keep refrigerated for 48 hours, but remember, like most soups, it can be reheated only...

4

Serves

9

Ingredients

Pork

Main Ingredient
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Bruschette con pesto di pomodori secchiBruschette with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

Bruschette are eaten all over Italy, and we all know and love the traditional tomato-based recipe. I, for one, certainly grew up on it. This version just adds a little twist to the classic dish and is perfect for entertaining.

4

Serves

13

Ingredients

Vegetables

Main Ingredient
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Fagioli al rosma rino con pane tostato all’aglioItalian Beans with Rosemary on Garlic Toasts

You might be tempted to think this recipe is just posh beans on toast, but to us Italians it’s an important dish, especially in regions where beans are a staple part of the diet.

10

Ingredients
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Zuppa Di Porri E RucolaLeek, Potato And Rocket Soup

One of my favourite British recipes has to be leek and potato soup. Such a simple recipe but with a unique balance of flavours. I decided to add rocket leaves to this fantastic soup, which adds a peppery flavour to the dish. Do serve this soup with my home-made garlic croutons, you are going to love it! Make sure that the consistency of the soup is not too runny and use fresh leeks for the best results.

6

Serves

10

Ingredients

Potato

Main Ingredient
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Mozzarella SfiziosaMarinated Mozzarella Balls

When you think of Italian cheese, two come to mind immediately – mozzarella and Parmesan. This recipe puts mozzarella front and centre with two different marinades that are guaranteed to impress!

2

Serves

16

Ingredients

Cheese

Main Ingredient
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