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26 Italian Appetizers For A Romantic Date Night

Bread dipped in mozzarella and tomatoes
Bread dipped in mozzarella and tomatoes - Ksenia Prints/Mashed

Show your love to someone special with a homecooked two- or three-course meal with beautifully presented dishes. Be inspired by the ingredients and cuisine of Italy with recipes that come from the heart of Mashed. Fresh mozzarella and tangy Parmesan abound with herbs like basil and oregano, and freshly made, pillowy focaccia bread. First impressions count, so make sure you start the dining experience as you mean to go on, with tastes that are going to ignite the appetite for more to come.

Create a menu that you know you're both going to adore with a choice of Italian appetizers for a romantic date night to choose from. Look at the entrée you're set on, and even the dessert, and pair this first plate so it complements the rest of the meal perfectly. You don't have to be a culinary great to create the language of love through cooking.

Read more: 41 Must Try Hot Sandwich Recipes

Copycat Olive Garden Breadsticks

Baked breadsticks with dip
Baked breadsticks with dip - Molly Allen/Mashed

Do you love biting into a crunchy and soft garlicky breadstick to work up the desire for courses yet to come? Then this Italian appetizer is perfect for your paramour on a dining date night. And since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then you'll want to follow this copycat recipe if you adore Olive Garden.

Add garlic powder along with garlic salt into melted butter to create that powerful flavor with a salty edge. Let the breadsticks cool off a little before brushing the garlic butter on top.

Recipe: Copycat Olive Garden Breadsticks

Simple Caprese Salad

Mozzarella, tomato, and basil layers
Mozzarella, tomato, and basil layers - Nathaniel Lee/Mashed

It's beautiful to discover the different layers of a person as you're sharing an attractive Caprese salad. Present sweet and tangy slices of heirloom tomatoes, creamy slabs of mozzarella, and the distinct taste of fresh basil for a light Italian appetizer. A drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar is a marvelous match with salt and pepper.

The colorful, layered design promises bold and subtle tastes and textures that complement each other. The simplicity of loving this dish is in the fine quality of the ingredients, bringing a balance that goes beyond style. Recipe: Simple Caprese Salad

Simple Focaccia Bread

Focaccia bread on board cut in squares
Focaccia bread on board cut in squares - Laura Sampson/Mashed

There's something about baking homemade bread that feels tender, and thoughtful. You need the right balance of ingredients for it to rise successfully. You also need to be patient and take your time as the dough expands. You need to be gentle and put the work in as you knead it.

Before you bake this simple focaccia bread add cute dimples for a textured top for each sublimely soft and fluffy bite. Drizzle with olive oil and add top with salty, tangy chopped green olives and feta crumbles. Serve with olive oil to dip.

Recipe: Simple Focaccia Bread

Baked Parmesan Spinach Balls

Cheese and spinach balls with tomato dip
Cheese and spinach balls with tomato dip - Kristen Carli/Mashed

What better way to start a dinner date of Italian cuisine than with baked Parmesan spinach balls? Rather than serving a fussy, formal appetizer, you and your date can relax into the evening as you pick up these light bites with your hands or cut through them with a fork.

If you're nervous about the date, or planning a more involved entrée, then the ease of making these bitesize beauties is appealing, too. The main ingredients are a classic duo and even better with marinara sauce dip or garlic aioli.

Recipe: Baked Parmesan Spinach Balls

Authentic Sicilian Caponata

Olives, tomatoes, celery, and eggplant in ramekin
Olives, tomatoes, celery, and eggplant in ramekin - Miriam Hahn/Mashed

Life and love are about creating authentic moments. And a lovely way to celebrate a romantic date night is with a traditional Sicilian caponata. This classic seduces with a medley of vegetables, including eggplant, celery, and onions, plus capers, garlic, green olives, and fresh oregano. For this recipe, add canned tomatoes, to give the appetizer some sweetness.

To bring the sweet and savory flavors together, simmer the dish with balsamic vinegar. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve a ramekin of the Mediterranean veggies as is or with bread for a heartier first course.

Recipe: Authentic Sicilian Caponata

Traditional Arancini

Crispy balls with Parmesan and tomato dip
Crispy balls with Parmesan and tomato dip - Erin Johnson/Mashed

For one of the most delicious Italian appetizers for a romantic date night choose arancini. These traditional stuffed rice balls have become super on-trend recently. For such small bites, the cheesy, creamy of this version will truly bowl you over.

It's important to use Arborio rice to make a white wine risotto to start. Create a luxuriously rich taste with Parmesan, heavy cream, and Italian seasoning, cutting through the ingredients with a citrusy punch of lemon. Go that extra step with a melted mozzarella filling and crispy panko crust. Imagine dipping these in marinara sauce.

Recipe: Traditional Arancini

Authentic Italian Focaccia Bread

Focaccia bread with rosemary in cast iron skillet
Focaccia bread with rosemary in cast iron skillet - Mark Beahm/Mashed

Fall head first into an Italian meal with homemade focaccia. The crusty outside gives way to a softness that's enriched with olive oil. You need nothing more than flakes of sea salt and fresh rosemary. Feel free to create your own story using ingredients that you and your date love. Using your hands, push cheese, caramelized onions, or roasted garlic into the pitted surface or whatever toppings you want.

The aromas that fill the room as the dough bakes are evocative of what promises to be an incredible evening ahead.

Recipe: Authentic Italian Focaccia Bread

Classic Tomato Bruschetta

Tomato and mozzarella bruschetta
Tomato and mozzarella bruschetta - Autumn LeAnn/Mashed

Crispy toasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with chopped Roma tomatoes, red onion, and mozzarella, plus fresh basil epitomizes the brilliance of bruschetta. As an appetizer, it's a classic dish that reminds you of how incredible Italian cuisine is.

The little toasts are simple to make and yet somehow seem sophisticated. Dice the ingredients small enough so that when you mix them with seasoned olive oil the topping isn't too chunky. Don't forget to drizzle balsamic vinegar on as you serve. The tangy taste is just what this dish needs.

Recipe: Classic Tomato Bruschetta

Silky Bagna Cauda

Creamy dip with bell pepper and cucumber
Creamy dip with bell pepper and cucumber - Ting Dalton/Mashed

Take an old-style Italian appetizer and give it a crème fraîche twist for date night. Dipping crudités into this silky, buttery, bold dip is a beautiful way to bond over dinner. Cucumber, red bell pepper, and white bread deliciously reflect the colors of Italy's flag.

However, you might want to make sure your dining partner is an anchovy lover before serving this. Melt butter and add canned anchovy fillets with the creamy added ingredient, plus garlic and fresh parsley. Blend and serve with a drizzle of oil from the can.

Recipe: Silky Bagna Cauda

Air Fryer Calamari With Simple Marinara Sauce

Calamari with black olives and tomato dip
Calamari with black olives and tomato dip - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Whether served on a classic antipasto platter or as an appetizer in its own right, calamari with marinara sauce is so moreish when you make it yourself. Forget reaching into the freezer for battered squid rings and a jar of sauce. It's date night, so make this well-known dish different by tenderizing the seafood in buttermilk before coating the rings in breadcrumbs and panko.

If you can't get enough of the crunchy coating, add a double layer with a dip in whisked-up eggs between them.

Recipe: Air Fryer Calamari With Simple Marinara Sauce

15 Minute Bruschetta

Toasted baguette slices with pastry brush
Toasted baguette slices with pastry brush - Laura Sampson/Mashed

Heavy appetizers or ones that take a lot of time to prepare can distract from a main course or leave you feeling frazzled for date night. Keep it simple, and let the simple taste of toasted bread rubbed with garlic, brushed with olive oil, and seasoned with salt shine.

If you want to make more of this quick bruschetta recipe, add tasty toppings. Chopped tomatoes add a classic flavor and a wafer-thin slice of prosciutto feels special. Sautéed mushrooms are wonderful with the crispy slices and garlicky taste. Or what about adding all three?

Recipe: 15 Minute Bruschetta

30 Minute Mozzarella Sticks

Breaded mozzarella sticks with tomato dip
Breaded mozzarella sticks with tomato dip - Susan Olayinka/Mashed

Gooey mozzarella sticks with a golden breadcrumbed coating are outrageously enjoyable to eat. Stretching the molten cheese as you bite into these crunchy sticks is part of the date night fun. While you may associate these Italian-style favorites as more of a bar snack, the fact that they are homemade makes them ideal for a romantic dinner, too.

Double-coat them to keep the cheesy filling from leaking out. And serve with whatever dip you like. Marinara is a classic, but you might want to add a little heat with hot sauce.

Recipe: 30 Minute Mozzarella Sticks

Giada's Bruschetta With A Twist

Creamy strawberry and balsamic vinegar on toasted bread
Creamy strawberry and balsamic vinegar on toasted bread - Susan Olayinka/Mashed

Everyone knows how delicious bruschetta is, but this recipe creates a sweet version to serve to your sweetheart. To create an Italian meal to fall head over heels with, start with a dessert-inspired appetizer.

Instead of mozzarella, stir honey into luxuriously rich mascarpone. Spread the sweet, creamy delight on baguette slices after brushing with olive oil and toasting. Chiffonade the green basil leaves and mix with chopped strawberries instead of tomatoes. Drizzle homemade balsamic vinegar reduction over the top using a knife before serving.

Recipe: Giada's Bruschetta With A Twist

Parmesan Crusted Fried Mushrooms

Breaded mushrooms on a plate
Breaded mushrooms on a plate - Susan Olayinka/Mashed

Salty, tangy parmesan and savory-rich mushrooms combine for one of the most moreish, umami-inspired Italian appetizers for a romantic date night. Add black pepper, garlic powder, and paprika to the batter before coating mushroom slices in cheesy breadcrumbs.

Make these in ten minutes, and once your date arrives, they fry in no time. The aroma and taste stir the appetite, so make sure you have a stunning pasta dish or a favorite main course from Italy that doesn't involve mushrooms. You can have too much of a good thing.

Recipe: Parmesan Crusted Fried Mushrooms

Homemade Stromboli

Cheese, ham, and pepperoni pastry
Cheese, ham, and pepperoni pastry - Jaime Shelbert/Mashed

When you know your date loves pizza, but you don't want to serve it as an entrée, you need this homemade stromboli recipe as an appetizer. It serves up all the same ingredients but in a different way. Instead of adding toppings to a crust and baking, create a rectangle with your dough and add a line of shredded mozzarella down the center.

Add meaty fillings such as salami, ham, and pepperoni. Top with provolone slices and fold over the dough. Serve the baked pie in slices with a pizza sauce dip.

Recipe: Homemade Stromboli

Easy Caprese Skewers

Mozzarella ball, grape tomato, and basil skewers
Mozzarella ball, grape tomato, and basil skewers - Kristen Carli/Mashed

Presentation is everything if you want to create a romantic dinner date. That includes not only the ambiance but also the foods that you're making for someone you hopefully want to woo. Turning a Caprese salad into appetizer-friendly skewers is a vibrant way to serve mozzarella, tomato, and basil.

For a cute look, use whole grape tomatoes and marinated cheese balls. Or create a homemade marinade with olive oil, basil, oregano, and garlic. Drizzle with balsamic glaze rather than vinegar as it's thicker and it won't drip off or make a mess.

Recipe: Easy Caprese Skewers

Air Fryer Homemade Mozzarella Sticks

Cheesy breadcrumbed sticks with tomato dip
Cheesy breadcrumbed sticks with tomato dip - Susan Olayinka/Mashed

Deep-frying isn't always ideal for a romantic home-cooked dinner for two. If you've got an air fryer, then you can achieve the same crispy, melted cheese results that you want with this mozzarella stick recipe. Try to use dry-packed cheese and cut into inch-thick batons that are around five inches long. Because it can be a little squidgy, make sure you use a sharp knife and a solid board.

Shake Italian seasoning into your breadcrumbs. Don't forget to freeze the coated bites for an hour before cooking.

Recipe: Air Fryer Homemade Mozzarella Sticks

Air Fryer Toasted Ravioli

Crispy ravioli with tomato dip
Crispy ravioli with tomato dip - Laura Sampson/Mashed

Turning a well-known pasta dish into a crunchy appetizer is a wonderful way to mix culinary ideas up for a dinner for two. Coat cheese ravioli in panko, Parmesan, and Italian seasoning, with garlic granules or powder and stick them in your air fryer. The melted cheesy center and crispy, flavorful coating are a perfect match.

Cover each of the parcels in light olive oil so that the ingredients stick together and don't fall apart when the heat is on. Serve with a tomatoey dip such as pizza sauce or marinara.

Recipe: Air Fryer Toasted Ravioli

Caponata

Olives, onion, and tomato mixture in serving dish and plate
Olives, onion, and tomato mixture in serving dish and plate - Maren Epstein/Mashed

If you want to spend pre-dinner date time getting ready rather than getting all hot and bothered in the kitchen, then you need this gorgeous caponata appetizer. If you're an eggplant fan, then even better as it's fried then simmered with tomatoes, bell peppers, green olives, and capers. You also sauté onion, garlic, and celery.

What transforms the flavor for a romantic dining experience is the red wine vinegar and sugar glaze that you pour over the top of the veggies. Let the ingredients come together by making this the day before. It's lovely and mushy for a soppy night.

Recipe: Caponata

Anne Burrell's Meatballs

Meatballs in dish and plate with Parmesan
Meatballs in dish and plate with Parmesan - Cecelia Ryu/Mashed

Turn a comfort food classic into a memorable appetizer with a twist on TV chef Anne Burrell's meatballs. What's different about this version is that it's a little spicier with red chili flakes added to the ground beef, pork, and veal. Add Calabrian chili paste to the marinara sauce, and feel free to up the amount of these heat-inducing ingredients to make them even more fiery.

Mix the umami tang of Parmesan into the meat and sprinkle on top. Add Pecorino Romano to the meatball mixture to give a deeper flavor profile.

Recipe: Anne Burrell's Meatballs

20-Minute Italian Meatballs

Meatballs covered in tomato sauce
Meatballs covered in tomato sauce - Kristen Carli/Mashed

A compilation of Italian appetizers for a romantic date night has to include homemade meatballs. What's attractive about this recipe is that it's a no-fuss version that you can prep and cook in less than 20 minutes. If you don't want to be stuck in the kitchen, but rather happily wining and dining with your love interest, then this is a great choice.

You'll need to get your hands dirty though if you want to quickly roll ground beef, minced garlic, an egg with added breadcrumbs, and grated Parmesan into bite-size balls.

Recipe: 20-Minute Italian Meatballs

3-Ingredient Tomato Tart

Puff pastry square with sun-dried tomatoes
Puff pastry square with sun-dried tomatoes - Susan Olayinka/Mashed

Two is company and three is certainly not a crowd when it comes to this flaky pastry tart. It's one of the easiest appetizers to make and yet the bold flavors give it real depth.

Create a rectangle of puff pastry and pinch the edges to create a raised border. Brush the dough with olive oil and cover the flatter area with umami-rich sun-dried tomatoes. These ingredients are so stunning that they don't need to be dressed up in a complex recipe. Serve fresh out of the oven with a parsley garnish.

Recipe: 3-Ingredient Tomato Tart

Easy Pasta Skewers

Rigatoni, cheese, and tomato skewers
Rigatoni, cheese, and tomato skewers - Susan Olayinka/Mashed

Skewers that you can nibble as an appetizer create a dinner date ambiance that's not too formal. You can enjoy a romantic night with Italian cuisine without having to create gourmet dishes. Rather than serve pasta with marinara and mozzarella, thread cooked rigatoni onto the wooden sticks and place in your air fryer. Spoon the sauce over the top followed by the cheese.

Add extra toppings to customize this course with the flavors you know your date likes. Chiffonade fresh basil and scatter over the top as a garnish for a pop of color.

Recipe: Easy Pasta Skewers

Marinated Mozzarella Balls

Marinated mozzarella balls and crackers
Marinated mozzarella balls and crackers - Kristen Carli/Mashed

When you go out for a fancy, schmancy meal, do you sometimes finish with a cheese plate? Starting a dinner for two with marinated mozzarella balls and crackers feels wickedly indulgent. That's the beauty of dining at home and being in charge of the menu.

Cover mozzarella balls or pearly with oodles of olive oil. Add minced garlic, dried basil, and oregano. Other seasonings could include chili pepper flakes, thyme, and cumin. Allow for two hours of chilling in the fridge, which is enough time to get ready and set the table.

Recipe: Marinated Mozzarella Balls

Pizza Breads

Meat and mozzarella on toasted baguette halves sliced
Meat and mozzarella on toasted baguette halves sliced - Michelle McGlinn/Mashed

Turn pizza into baked baguette halves which are cut into bitesize slices, and you can easily justify serving it as an appetizer. Brush the bread with olive oil with minced garlic in it. Cover with tomato sauce. Sprinkle dried thyme and salt on top. Add slices of pepperoni and rounds of mozzarella. Bake and broil before garnishing with fresh marjoram and oregano.

Because this dish is so moreish, you might want to hold back on the portions. You don't want your date feeling stuffed and seeking the sofa to crash on before the main course arrives.

Recipe: Pizza Breads

Dippable Baked Mozzarella

Baguette with mozzarella, tomato, and herb baked dish
Baguette with mozzarella, tomato, and herb baked dish - Ksenia Prints/Mashed

If you want to impress, dippable dishes can make lip-smackingly delicious Italian appetizers for a romantic date night. Sharing a dish is romantic, and a gorgeously gooey baked mozzarella is simply divine. Overlap equally thick slices of the cheese and tomatoes in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on top and fresh oregano. Add salt and pepper to enhance the flavor if you like.

Broil until melting and serve immediately with either baguette or cucumber slices. Don't double-dip these though, no matter how tempting this molten mozzarella tastes.

Recipe: Dippable Baked Mozzarella

Read the original article on Mashed.