There’s nothing quite like the delicious flavours of Italy. Whether you’re hosting an Italian-inspired banquet for your closest friends or planning an at-home date night, one thing’s for sure: You’ll never be short on dish inspiration. But how do you kickstart your meal with a small but tastebud-teasing appetiser that’ll prepare you for your mains? We’ve got you covered with our tasty Italian starter recipes!

The Best Italian Starter Recipes To Try At Home

Pasta and pizza will forever be the go-to main courses for an Italian three-course meal, but did you know there are also a host of mouth-watering starters that couldn’t be easier to make from home? Our favourite recipes range from meat and seafood-based starters to vegetarian alternatives, meaning everyone will get to try authentic Italian cuisine.

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    Italian Meat Starters

    From flavoursome cured ham to tender marinated beef, these Italian meat starters promise to leave your guests wanting more:

    Antipasto Bites

    It’s only fair to begin our recipes with a bite-sized twist on a fan favourite at our restaurants in Milton Keynes. Antipasto platters are the perfect sharing meal, consisting of cured meats, cheese, olives and crackers, and can easily be transformed into a tasty appetiser. Simply swap your serving board for skewers and layer each of your components for a delicious combination of flavours in every mouthful. For more tips on mastering your antipasto skills, take a look at our previous article!

    ‘Nduja Arancini

    ‘Nduja, a soft, spicy Italian sausage, is a staple ingredient in many classic dishes, including this deliciously rich arancini recipe by BBC Good Food. Combining ‘nduja and tomato-based risotto with a melty mozzarella centre and crispy breadcrumb coating, these arancini balls are sure to go down a storm. Serve your starter with a Pomodoro dipping sauce for a touch of sweetness.


    Burrata, Grilled Peaches & Serrano Ham

    If you’ve never tasted burrata, then you absolutely must try your hand at this indulgent recipe. Rich, milky and buttery with an effortlessly creamy centre, burrata is heaven in cheese form. Pair your burrata with caramelised peaches and drapings of salty serrano ham for the perfect balance of sweet and savoury. Your salad can then be topped with a chilli and garlic dressing for a subtle kick. Discover the full recipe over on Olive Magazine.

    Burrata With Peaches

    Classic Spiedini

    Also known as Italian-style kebabs, spiedini is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser and is a go-to for family gatherings. Made from thinly sliced beef coated in breadcrumbs with onion, bell peppers and parmesan cheese, spiedini can be prepared up to two days in advance and popped into the fridge until you’re ready to bake. We love this recipe by Chef Billy Parisi, which is accompanied by a delicious amogio sauce.

    Olive Ascolane

    This is more of an acquired taste, but it’s got the potential to be one of your favourite moreish starters. As one of Marche’s most loved deep-fried treats, olive ascolane consists of large green olives with a perfectly seasoned meat filling coated in fine breadcrumbs. Fried for only five minutes until golden brown, they are sprinkled with a touch of salt before being served hot. You can make these from home using Great Italian Chefs’ easy recipe.

    Olives Ascolane

    Vegetarian Italian Starters

    We’ve got to admit, at our Italian restaurants in Milton Keynes, our vegetarian starters remain just as, if not more, popular than their meat counterparts. Let’s take a closer look at our favourites:


    You cannot discuss Italian starters without mentioning bruschetta – and we can see why! Thickly sliced, infused with garlic and drizzled with olive oil, bruschetta is lovingly dressed in the toppings of your choice. Traditionally, bruschetta features a combination of diced tomatoes, basil leaves and balsamic vinegar, but you can easily put your own twist on the classic flavours. Life In Italy has some excellent recipes for inspiration!

    Tricolore Salad

    For a super light, refreshing starter choice, the tricolore salad is a must-have. A tricolore (translating to “three-coloured”) salad pays homage to the colours of the Italian flag: green, white and red. The super simple recipe features slices of avocado, buffalo mozzarella and tomato neatly arranged and topped with a gentle drizzle of balsamic glaze. With no need for cooking and only around 10 minutes for preparation, you cannot go wrong with this delicious vegetarian starter!

    Tricolor Salad

    Dough Balls

    Another go-to yet naturally vegetarian Italian starter is dough balls. Perfectly crunchy on the outside yet gloriously fluffy on the inside, there is only one thing better than dough balls: dough balls served warm with herby garlic butter. And even better, this impossible-to-turn-down starter couldn’t be easier to make from home. Follow the super simple recipe from Jamie Oliver to freshly prepare 24 homemade dough balls and a side of smooth, garlicky, buttery goodness.

    Stuffed Mushrooms

    If you’re on the hunt for an Italian-inspired starter that can easily be tailored to your unique tastebuds, you cannot go wrong with stuffed mushrooms. Simple and fresh yet bursting with flavour, classic stuffed mushrooms are delicately filled with cooked onions and peppers mixed with breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning. Topped with cheese before being baked in the oven, this starter will give you a winning combination of tastes and textures.

    Stuffed Mushrooms


    Fabulous for accompanying freshly baked bread, caponata is a much-loved appetiser with an irresistibly tangy yet savoury flavour. The foundation of the dish is roasted aubergine combined with onion, celery, bell peppers, sautéed garlic and crushed tomatoes. But here is where it gets interesting – the vegetables are topped with olives, raisins, vinegar, capers, honey, red pepper flakes and bay leaf before being simmered to create the beautifully rich bread dip.

    Caponata On Bread

    Vegan Italian Starters

    One of Italian food’s many selling points is its variety. With so many exquisite flavours and recipes, everyone is guaranteed to find something that tickles their taste buds. That applies to those following a plant-based diet, too. From soul-soothing soups to fresh salads, here are our favourite vegan Italian starters:

    Tuscan White Bean Soup

    As hearty as they come, this comforting soup has been a staple in many Italian households for generations. Another dish originating from the culinary hotspot that is Tuscany, this soup combines tender cannellini beans with leafy greens and aromatic herbs to deliver a starter that’s nutritious and delicious in equal parts. Pair with a fresh loaf of bread for an earthy and wholesome feast. This recipe from The Plant Based School has it nailed; just remember to leave room for the main course!

    Braised Artichokes

    While it’s essential to prepare artichokes when they’re in season (around spring), they’re simply too tasty to leave off this list. When done right, these herby, earthy delicacies can transform a meal and make for the ideal starter for your Italian banquet. We love this recipe from Serious Eats because they refuse to skimp on the olive oil, a surefire way to create delicious food! As they mention in the recipe, the most challenging part about preparing artichokes is cleaning them, so check out this video below for a comprehensive guide on how to clean like a Michelin-star chef.

    Panzanella Salad

    What do you get when you combine ripe tomatoes, crusty bread, and zingy vinegar? Something delicious, of course! Panzanella salad is the perfect summer starter because it’s bursting with sunny Italian flavours. Simple yet highly effective, this dish is a fantastic way to use up that stale bread thats been hanging about in your cupboard for a little too long. This recipe from Vegan Heaven is one of our favourites because they’ve added capers for an extra kick. Give it a go!

    Panzanella Salad

    Italian Seafood Starters

    Now, we move onto our last (but most definitely not least) category: seafood starters. If you’re a lover of prawns, mussels, scallops and more, you’re going to adore these recipes:


    At our authentic Italian restaurants in Wolverton and surrounding areas, one seafood starter will always be a hit – and that’s calamari. With a deliciously crispy batter and firm, mildly sweet squid centre, our calamari is served with a tartar sauce for a tangy twist. But, if you’re not a fan of pickles, this dish is also superb when accompanied by a garlic lemon dipping sauce or spicy mayonnaise. The secret to the perfect calamari is to tenderise your squid rings before cooking by soaking them in milk and popping them in the fridge.


    Gamberi Alla Busara

    As a traditional Venetian dish, gamberi alla busara translates to prawns (gamberi) thrown together quickly (alla busara). It is a super easy yet flavoursome addition to your menu, served best with fresh crusty bread to mop up your leftover (but far too tasty to go to waste) tomato-chilli sauce. As the prawns are gently simmered in the sauce to cook, you are left with beautifully tender meat – it is entirely your choice whether you cook your seafood with or without the shells.

    Prawns In Tomato Sauce

    Mussels Italiano

    If you love fresh mussels just as much as we do, then you must give this Italian-style recipe a try – you won’t regret it! But don’t forget: Before you begin cooking, your mussels must be thoroughly washed, and be sure to throw away any that are already open!

    At our restaurants in Milton Keynes, we serve our mussels in a white wine sauce with leeks, garlic, lemon, butter and parsley, accompanied by fresh bread. We always perfect our sauce before tumbling in our mussels and cooking until they open. It is a fabulous, light starter!

    Venetian-Style Scallops

    A starter that involves minimal fuss but is guaranteed to impress your guests is the mouth-watering Venetian-style scallops. If you pride yourself on presentation, visit a fishmonger to source your scallops, as the shells are perfect for serving your dish.

    And now, onto the taste. For the tastiest combination of flavour and texture, cook your scallops in fine breadcrumbs infused with chopped parsley and garlic. Season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice – and voilà, your starter is ready to serve!

    Scallops Served In Shell


    Although classic cacciucco is served as a main at our Italian restaurants in Milton Keynes, smaller portions are also the perfect starter for your seafood-loving guests. As a flavour-packed seafood stew native to the coastal towns of Tuscany, cacciucco traditionally combines lobster, prawns, calamari and mussels in a glorious white wine, tomato and chilli sauce. All the ingredients are simmered together to intertwine the rich flavours for a truly unique taste.

    Italian Starters For A Dinner Party, Date Night, Or Solo Feast

    From classic bruschetta and antipasto to seafood, stuffed olives and more, there are hundreds of deliciously authentic Italian starters you can delve into at your next dinner party. The beauty of cooking is that it couldn’t be easier to make dishes your own; swap out ingredients, add a little extra spice and tailor your recipes to your tastebuds.

    If you’re looking to enjoy traditional Italian food made by the best, come and visit one of our locations across Milton Keynes and Northamptonshire. Or if you’d rather indulge from the comfort of your own home, opt for our takeaway in Milton Keynes. Either way you’ll get to experience the true flavours of Italy.

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