We spoke to cook and author Anna Barnett about her favourite Italian pastime: aperitivo!
Aperitivo is one of the quintessential cultural expressions of Italy. So many Italian traditions vary from region to region but this is one that is consistent throughout the country and plays a key part in day-to-day Italian life. Think small sharing style plates to pick at alongside a light refreshing drink, usually alcoholic, but the less strong variety.
While sharing plates and tapas style eating are becoming ever more popular, this style of casual dining that usually features after work, but before dinner, means that you actually get to pack another meal time in that’s outside of your average three a day! There’s nothing to not love about aperitivo!
Being hugely passionate about all things Italian means that I regularly host huge dinner party style feasts, full of Italian fare. However, when I’m short of time or energy, I will have friends round for aperitivo. Sharing quality produce that is simply prepared and Italian inspired. Think fresh, ripe flat peaches, roughly chopped and wrapped in prosciutto with Tuscan extra virgin olive oil as per my recipe here. Simple chunks of incredible Parmesan or Pecorino on a platter amongst olives, cured meats, fresh ripe figs, burrata, sourdoughs, smoked salmon, artichokes and anchovies… which are all personal favourites. Above all, it’s about simplicity and provenance of the produce.
A great place to pick up ingredients for your aperitivo in London is the De Beauvoir Deli. Tucked away in a secluded part of town, this is a favourite for local produce supplied by artisan producers. This sweet deli, which also serves great coffee, cakes, sandwiches and salads, is our go-to place for everything from heritage tomatoes, organic meat, locally smoked salmon, freshly baked breads and a selection of incredible cheeses. Their homemade sausage rolls are also of note! We often walk to De Beauvoir with the dog on weekends, stopping off at our favourite local drinking houses on the way, which incidentally also serve up a great feast; The Scolt’s Head, De Beauvoir Arms and The Talbot are all worth a mention.
Drinks too, of course, play an important part in aperitivo. Whether it’s a generously chilled Peroni or a bitter aperitif and soda, sparkling prosecco or even a light vermouth as would have traditionally been drunk, these fresh and light flavours will sit nicely alongside a varied array of small dishes to be picked at. If you are keen to recreate your own aperitivo this simple dish below is a delicious starting point! Don’t be afraid to keep dishes as easy as this, it’s all about minimum fuss and great flavours. A small plate of anchovies with toothpicks counts as a dish!
Peaches wrapped in prosciutto
Feeds – 6-8
Preparation time – 5 minutes
Cooking time – 0 minutes
5 flat peaches (at room temperature), roughly quartered and stone removed
250g good quality prosciutto, torn in 3 strips
a generous glug of good quality extra virgin olive oil
a generous sprinkle of sea salt flakes
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
2 sprigs of parsley, leaves pickled and roughly chopped
Begin by preparing all ingredients as noted above. Carefully wrap each piece of peach in prosciutto and arrange on a platter or large plate. Scatter over the seasoning and herbs then finish with a delicate drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with a napkin nearby, in case of any drips!