Easy Italian Appetizers

Red Pepper Crostini

Today’s theme is Italian-style appetizers, all easy, all prepared in advance, all kept ready in the frig for last-minute back-yard barbecues.

RED PEPPER CROSTINI use summer’s succulent peppers. Stick with the reds for the yellows and oranges get lost paired with dark-colored balsamic vinegar.

OLIVADA is a luscious olive paste. Spread it on fresh or toasted bread, top with mozzarella and a few bits of pimento. The result is dramatic looking as well as delicious.

To make olivada, place 12 ounces of good-quality (such as Kalamata or Nicoise) pitted black olives in a food processor with 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts and 2 garlic cloves. Process two or three times. While processing, add up to 3 tablespoons olive oil slowly until a paste forms. Process longer for a smooth paste, less for one where the olive meat remains identifiable (my preference).

PARMESAN CRISPS are so simple! For each crisp, place a heaping tablespoon of freshly grated Parmesan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, about a dozen per sheet. Shape into a rough round. Bake at 500F for 2 minutes. Remove from oven and top with a few blades of chopped chive. Return to oven for another minute or until deep gold in color. Let cool for 2 minutes, then transfer to rack with a metal spatula.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food writer Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Share favorite appetizer recipes via e-mail.


Makes 1 cup
Active time: 10 minutes for peppers, 5 minutes for bread
Occasional attention: 20 minutes for peppers, 15 minutes for bread
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced in 1” lengths
  • 2 red peppers, cut in thin 1” lengths
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon capers (or more)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 loaf crusty bread, about 2 inches in diameter (or larger if small loaf not available)
  • Cream cheese, low-fat Neufchatel works great
  • Chopped parsley (optional)

Heat large skillet. Sauté onion in olive oil until onion is soft. Add pepper strips and sauté until soft, about 15 minutes. Add garlic, capers and balsamic vinegar and simmer gently until liquid is reduced. Season.

While red pepper mix is sautéing, slice loaf ¼ inch thick, then again (if needed) to make pieces two or three bites big. Mist both sides with olive oil and place on baking sheet. Bake 350F until lightly toasted, about 15 minutes. Let cool and transfer to freezer bag. Store in freezer until ready to serve.

To serve, spread crostini (the toasted bread) with cream cheese, then top with red pepper mixture. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Crostini (including bread, 1 tablespoon red pepper, 2 teaspoons cream cheese) 71 Cal (53% from Fat); 2 g Protein; 4 g Tot Fat; 2 g Sat Fat; 2 g Mono Fat; 7 g Carb; 1 g Fiber; 11 mg Calcium; 0 mg Iron; 119 mg Sodium; 13 mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 2 points


These three variations (all described above) are favorite easy appetizers. Olivada 'keeps' for several days so is easy to keep on hand for impromptu gatherings small or large.
Olivada Olivada topped with mozzarella and bits of pimento Red Pepper Crostini

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this looks so summery and delicious! i think i could easily make a meal out of any of these!

All three sound perfectly delicious! I will be trying these soon.

that red pepper crostini sounds (and LOOKS) greeeeat. I'll have to try.

I like this appetizer, Alanna. Can you tell me how different the Olivada is compared to a tapanade?

I love the bottom picture of your garden path!
As I'm not so fond of anchovies, then I'll make your olivada in the future instead of tapenade:)

WellUnderstood ~ Thanks, I've been known to, the olivada, especially.

Nupur ~ All vegetarian, too, hadn't realized!

Sarah ~ The color, for sure!

Cynthia ~ I'm so glad you asked, the column goes back to 2003: I'm not sure if I knew then as I had to check, now. As Pille suggests, where tapenade (traditionally, there are of course variations) included anchovies and capers and some times tuna (according to Epicuriuos), olivada is just olives, olive oil and in this recipe, a few nuts and garlic.

Pille ~ What? No anchovies? And here I was certain we were related!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna