I like to bring back a recipe or two from my travels abroad and we recently visited Venice, Italy, so I’m bringing you, Cicchetti, 3 Easy Venetian Appetiser recipes. We had an amazing four days to enjoy Venice, it’s a remarkable city with its glittering gold Basilica and towering Campanile in St Mark’s Square, the ornate Doge’s Palace, elegant Peggy Guggenheim Modern Art Museum and, of course, the iconic canals and gondolas.
We might not have taken a ride on a gondola, it is very expensive, especially for two people. However, we had the good fortune to be in Venice at the same time as my blogging friend Christina of Christina’s Cucina. We met on our first night to share an aperitivo and thought that would be our only get together. However the next evening Christina messaged me to ask if we wanted to share a gondola ride, it took us zero seconds to say YES and 15 minutes later we were on a gondola heading towards the Grand Canal!
When we were on a walking tour earlier that day, we learned that gondolas are counterweighted so they balance evenly when the gondolier stands to one side. They are also asymmetrical otherwise using only one oar (due to the narrowness of the canals) they would simply go round in circles!
Fabio, our gondolier
With Christina and Lidia
So what are Cicchetti?
They are small appetisers eaten with an aperitif in the bars of Venice. We didn’t actually have any Cicchetti in Venice, but when we took the Vaparetto (water bus) to visit the Venetian island of Burano I spied a Cicchetteria, and we just had to try these local delicacies. It was a blazing hot day and we sat beneath that red awning and enjoyed slices of bread and polenta topped with seafood and vegetables, all washed down with a cold glass of beer.
Burano is a beautiful island famous for its lacemaking and the pretty coloured houses that you see in these photos, it is much prettier than the island of Murano which is famous for its glass making, we did stop there, but it seemed to be mainly either very high-end expensive shops or souvenir shops neither of which really appealed to us.
Back to the Cicchetti!
The Cicchetti we tried featured slices of bread or slices of cold polenta topped with fish and seafood or vegetables, like artichokes and tomatoes. There were also skewers of cooked prawns, it was a really filling meal and it was fun to try the different varieties.
Of course, when I returned home I wanted to recreate these delicious little bites so I have created Cicchetti 3 Easy Venetian Appetiser Recipes, cicchetti-style recipes which you can make at home using ingredients you can get in the supermarket. I have kept to the bread option rather than use polenta as a base, it’s quick and easy and I had no complaints from my tasters. I don’t make any claim that they are authentic, but I’ve tried to recreate some of the flavours from this plate of Cicchetti we enjoyed on the beautiful Venetian island of Burano.
Cicchetti 3 Easy Venetian Appetiser Recipes
3 Venetian Appetisers - Smoked Mackerel in a mustard sauce, Artichoke hearts with grana padano and parsley dressing and soft fresh cheese with pickled radishes all served on slices of bread.
- 12 slices of bread, lightly buttered (see notes) filone. baguette or sourdough
- 1 medium smoked mackerel fillet, skinned and roughly flaked
- 1 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 lemon juice only
- 2 gherkins sliced
- salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 artichoke hearts in oil
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 lemon, juice only
- 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
- 100 g grana padano or parmesan shavings
- salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 50 g soft cheese cream cheese, ricotta or quark
- 4 medium red radishes, sliced or 6 small radishes
- 60 ml white wine or cider vinegar
- 60 ml water
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
- zest of half a lemon in fine strips
- freshly ground black pepper
Mix the mayonnaise, mustard and lemon juice together,
Add the flaked smoked mackerel to the mayonnaise mixture, season to taste.
Pile the smoked mackerel mixture onto slices of bread and top with a slice of gherkin
Mix the olive oil, lemon juice and finely chopped parsley together, season to taste.
Cut the artichoke hearts into halves or quarters, depending on size and gently mix with the dressing.
Divide the dressed artichoke hearts onto the slices of bread and top with shavings of Grano Padano cheese.
First, make the quick pickled radishes, wash the radishes and slice thinly and pack them into a jar. Mix together the water, vinegar, salt and sugar and pour over the radishes. Leave for 15 minutes then use.
Spread the bread thickly with cream cheese, ricotta or quark.
Top with the quick pickled radishes and garnish with thin strips of lemon rind.
I used a sourdough loaf and cut the slices in half. As long as it's a crusty type of bread it should work fine.
I didn't butter the bread as we don't eat a lot of butter, but the butter will prevent the bread going soggy if you have to keep the Cicchetti for more than 15 - 20 minutes.
Artichoke Hearts with Parsley Dressing and Grano Pandano
Cream Cheese with Quick Pickled Radishes
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Here are some other small bites recipes for you to try:
Bola de Caco Traditional Bread from Madeira – Farmersgirl Kitchen
Cucumber Roll-Ups with a Garlicky Feta & Mint filling – Tin & Thyme