Preparing appetizers that can be made ahead or serving quickly prepared appetizers make entertaining for the holidays much easier. Here are a few of my favorites.


This stuffed bread recipe can be made ahead and reheated just before serving time.


2 (one pound) pizza dough balls, at room temperature
Olive oil
1/4 pound thinly sliced Genoa salami
1/4 pound thinly sliced capicola
12 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup marinara sauce
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the dough balls to a 15 x 10 inch rectangle.

Spread half the marinara sauce over the dough.

Sprinkle with half the shredded cheese.

Layer half the meat over the cheese on the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Drizzle with a little olive oil.

Roll the dough up into a log and brush the seam edges with beaten egg.

Leaving the seam at the bottom and pinching the ends closed, brush the seams with the beaten egg mixture

Place the Stromboli on one of the baking sheets. Complete the other dough in the same manner.

Cut four small slits in the top of the log. Cover the Stromboli with kitchen towels and let rise for 45 minutes.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool 10 minutes before slicing.

Mozzarella-Stuffed Arancini


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for cooking
2 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
16-20 small fresh mozzarella balls (about 6 ounces)
2-3 cups cold risotto
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups panko or traditional bread crumbs
Marinara Sauce, for serving


In a medium saute pan, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add in the shallots and cook for 3-5 minutes until softened. Add in the oregano and basil and stir until the herbs are wilted. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the herb mixture to the mozzarella balls and stir to mix.

Take approximately 2 tablespoons of cold risotto in your palm and flatten slightly. Add one mozzarella ball covered in the herb mix to the center. Cover the cheese with the rice and roll into a ball form. Dip the ball into flour, shaking slightly to remove any clumps, then into the beaten eggs, and finally, roll the ball in the bread crumbs. Place the coated balls on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining risotto until all of the risotto and/or cheese balls are used.

Pour enough olive oil in a deep skillet to just cover the bottom of the pan. Heat the oil and add the arancini. Cook on all sides until lightly brown all over. Drain on paper towels.

Note: I usually make them in advance and then reheat before serving in a 375 degree F oven for about 15 minutes.

Sautéed Calamari


For the bread crumb topping:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

For the calamari:

1/2 pound cleaned squid cut into rings, dry on paper towels, air dry and then move to a plate
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 tablespoon butter
1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste


Make the bread crumb topping:

Heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet and add the garlic and Italian seasoning. Saute for a minute. Add the breadcrumbs and stir until lightly brown. Set aside

For the calamari:

Heat a medium skillet and add the olive oil. Then garlic, butter and chili flakes. Add calamari, salt and pepper and parsley and cook 1-2 minutes Squeeze lemon over the fish and sprinkle lightly with the toasted bread crumbs.

Note: It is important not to overcook calamari or it will become tough. A minute or two is all it needs to cook.

Eggplant Caponata

Serves 6 as an appetizer. This also makes a good spread for bruschetta.


1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 large)

1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
8 chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup minced jarred roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score once or twice with a knife (not hitting the skin on the bottom.)

Roast face down on foil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with oil, about 20 minutes or until tender. Let drain on a paper towel for 10 minutes, cut side down.

Scoop the eggplant out of the skin and finely chop.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil (or substitute vegetable broth) over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion, celery, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the Italian tomatoes, vinegar and agave and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the remaining oil, eggplant, capers, red peppers, olives and parsley and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until thickened.

Cool to room temperature. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and serve with your favorite Italian bread.

Greetings From The South