Easy Cicchetti Recipes: 3 Traditional Appetizers from a Venetian Local

Once you understand what cicchetti are and have personally sampled some during your food tour of Venice, you are ready to learn the secrets of making these amazing Venetian appetizers on your own. Here are three easy cicchetti recipes to prepare at home. 

traditional Cicchetti
Don’t forget to save these three delicious cicchetti recipes before your next dinner party. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Cicchetti’s exquisite appearance and delicious flavor make them an excellent choice to impress guests at your next gathering. Whether as a starter for your Italian dinner party or a unique hors d’oeuvre for your next cocktail hour, you and your guests won’t be disappointed with a selection of bite-sized cicchetti.

The Secret to Make Cicchetti at Home

A cicchetto can literally be any small bite of food served on bread or polenta in Venetian bacari. The garnish possibilities are so open that most of the time you are left wondering what the chef may put on top next. So, with cicchetti, we encourage you to embrace the same freedom and experimentation that the chefs in Venice do when creating the dish. 

With an endless number of possible topping variations, figuring out which Venetian cicchetti recipes to make can be a bit daunting. (The preparation can appear to be intimidating with a luxuriant decoration of meticulously stacked garnishes, too!) But never fear, we are here to guide you on the right path to select and prepare your perfect cicchetti

In this article, we will get you started with three classic cicchetti recipes and the easiest way to prepare them at home. 

small bit of polenta and meat on white plate
Cicchetti can be served as a casual snack or gourmet canape. It’s all in the presentation. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ovetto (Egg with Enchovy): Your Best Bet for Brunch

Ovetto is one of the most classic and widely consumed cichetto in Venice, and it is also one of the easiest to prepare. In addition to any dinner party, this cichetto is a perfect choice for a brunch event. You’ll often see Venetians having one with coffee on an early Sunday afternoon. This recipe serves many people and is a crowd favorite, so a perfect choice when hosting larger events. 

Serves 8 people

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 8 anchovy fillets*
  • Salt and black pepper

Instructions

  • Boil the eggs, then shell them and cut them in half in their vertical direction.
  • Stick a rolled anchovy filet or a small, pitted olive on a toothpick and place it in the middle of the half egg.
  • Serve the egg halves with each toothpick and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Insider’s Tip: Can’t find anchovies or prefer a fish-free dish? Make a vegetarian ovetto by substituting miso for the anchovies! 

Plate Of Anchovies And Egg Cicchetti
Anchovies are a key ingredient in Venetian cuisine. Photo credit: Marco Verch

Baccalà Mantecato (Creamed Cod): the Food of the Doge

One of the most well-known dishes of Venetian cuisine is baccalà mantecato. The name means “whipped salt cod spread” or “creamed cod.” Baccalà mantecato was created during the 18th century in Venice. However, the use of salt cod was popularized in Venice in the 15th century when quantities of preserved fish were transported from the frigid north to the city on the lagoon back when the Venetian Republic was a significant European commerce hub. Try this recipe for a true taste of Venetian history!

Serves 4 people

Ingredients

  • 800 gr of desalted cod
  • 200 ml extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Bread slices (a baguette is perfect)

Instructions

  • If necessary, soak the codfish for at least 24 hours, changing the water often.
  • After 24 hours, cut the fish into pieces and place it in a pan with cold water 
  • Season with a pinch of salt.
  • Bring to a boil and let the fish cook for about 20 minutes.
  • Drain the fish, clean it, cut it into small pieces and place it in a bowl.
  • Stir the cod vigorously with a wooden spoon, or with the help of a blender, and add the oil little by little. Keep going until you have a thick, perfectly blended cream. 
  • As a final touch, you can add chopped parsley, very finely chopped garlic, and a sprinkle of pepper. 
  • Cut the baguette into equal pieces about 1.5 to 2 cm thick.
  • Spread the creamed cod onto the bread.

Insider’s Tip: If you can’t find codfish in your supermarket you can use salmon, cod, hake, or stockfish. It will still be absolutely delicious!

small bites of food and plastic cups of rose wine by a pool
Baccalà mantecato are also a perfect poolside snack. Photo credit: Michela Simoncini

Sarde in Saor (“Saor-style” Sardines): Venetian Sailors’ Favorite

A traditional Venetian snack, sarde in saor is made of fried sardines and is seasoned with sweet and sour onions, pine nuts, and raisins. They are frequently offered in Venetian bacari as snacks. In Venetian, the word “saor” denotes flavor. Try this recipe to see why!

Serves 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1kg sardines*
  • 1.5 kg white onions
  • 25 g raisins
  • 25 g pine nuts
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup oil (we recommend a vegetable oil such as sunflower oil)
  • ⅓ glass white wine vinegar
  • 2 springs bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

For the saor sauce:

  • Cut the onion into a coarse julienne and place in a saucepan.
  • Add the pine nuts, raisins, and a bay leaf.
  • Season with salt and pepper, and add oil and vinegar.
  • Cook over very low heat, taking care to cover the casserole with a lid. Remember to stir frequently enough for the onion to cook evenly. 
  • When the onion has turned into a translucent golden color, turn off the heat and allow it to cool.

For the sardines:

  • Clean the sardines by removing their heads and insides. 
  • Coat them in flour and fry them in seed oil. After frying, dry the sardines and salt them moderately.
  • Wait for the sardines to cool.
  • Assemble the dish in layers making sure that the first and last layer is the saor.

Do not consume the dish immediately. Sarde in saor are delicious right away, but are perfect from the second day on! 

*Feel free to substitute other fish such as shellfish, scallops, langoustines, or shrimp. 

sardines with eggplant on toast
Remember that these recipes are just a starting point. We recommend getting creative and playing with additional ingredients. Photo credit: Alpha

With these three traditional cicchetti recipes, you have the foundation for an amazing addition to your next culinary event. Now we hope you try these at your next event and keep experimenting with new recipes in the classic cicchetti fashion.