In Venice, an invitation for a drink is more romantic than in most places: “andémo béver un'ombra”, or “let’s go for a shadow”. So what’s a shadow? A small glass of local wine, usually imbibed whilst standing shoulder-to-shoulder with friends and strangers alike in a neighbourhood bar. And no shadow would be complete without cicchetti, Italian bar snacks that are more like tapas than pickled onions.
Cicchetti is all about how it’s eaten; with toothpicks or fingers, alongside a delicious aperitivo cocktail and in good company. To throw your own aperitivo party, serve a spread of Italian wines and gin - like Occitan, our fabulous May Gin of the Month - alongside this tasty Italian tapas.
Bacon-wrapped Artichoke Hearts
2 250ml jars of artichoke hearts
8 slices of bacon, halved crosswise
30g grated Parmesan
1tbsp black pepper
Oil, for frying
Heat two inches of oil in a deep frying pan or Dutch oven over a medium flame. Place each artichoke heart on the end of a piece of bacon, sprinkle over some pepper and Parmesan, and roll up. Secure with a toothpick and fry for about three minutes, or until golden brown.
Serves four to six
500g ground beef
500g ground pork
30g freshly grated Parmesan
1 garlic glove, minced
¼ onion, chopped
1tsp sweet basil, chopped
Salt and pepper
2 cans of tinned tomatoes
Combine all of your ingredients – except the tinned tomatoes – in a bowl and combine well. Form meatballs about the size of golf balls and set aside.
Tip your tinned tomatoes into a large pan and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and allow to reduce. When the sauce has thickened, drop in your meatballs. Simmer for at least two hours, or until cooked through. Serve on a platter with toothpicks.
12 thin slices of ciabatta
3 courgettes, cut into fine matchsticks
3tbsp chopped fresh chives
¾ fennel bulb, finely sliced
3tbsp small capers
3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Toast your ciabatta slices and arrange on a platter. Combine the rest of your ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Set aside for 10 minutes, and then carefully place a dollop of the courgette mixture on the bread slices.
Polenta and Cod Cichetti
250g salt-cod fillets
70ml olive oil, with extra for cooking
Submerge the salt cod in cold water, cover and leave for 48 hours (this will keep the cod from being too salty). When you’re ready to start cooking, drain the cod and cut the fillets in half. Put them in a heavy-based saucepan and cover them in milk. Throw in a generous pinch of salt and put the pan over a medium flame. Leave to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, skimming any scum off the broth as the fish cooks.
When the cod is cooked, drain the fish (reserving a little of the liquid) and tip the fillets into a mixing bowl. Add a couple of spoonfuls of the cooking liquid and mix well with a wooden spoon, continuing to cream the fish as you add olive oil in a steady trickle. Keep mixing until you have a soft paste; cover it and store in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it.
Now make your polenta squares. Bring a litre and half of water to the boil in a saucepan. Add salt and our your polenta in in a steady stream. Whisk continuously until you have a tick and smooth mixture. Tip it out onto a wooden board (a large chopping board will work, as will a baking sheet lined with parchment paper) and spread it out with a spoon until it’s one or two centimetres thick. Leave to cool completely.
When you’re ready to plate everything up, slice the polenta into neat squares and grill each square on a preheated and oiled griddle pan. Spoon the cod mixture on top and scatter with chopped parsley.