For Your Next Italian Appetizer, Use Leftovers

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Faith Willinger


In Italy, the act of sopping up sauce with a little piece of bread is called la scarpetta. It's considered uncouth and poor etiquette—but not by the people I eat with who appreciate a great sauce and want to savor the last bite. Livia Iaccarino, an elegant restaurateur, says the scarpetta captures the essence of the dish and encourages diners to clean their plates—not a tough call in her restaurant.

But why wait until you've finished a dish for a scarpetta? Inspired by the tradition, I often begin a meal with "scarpettine," or mini versions of the "scarpetta," by lightly toasting sliced bread (often yesterday's) and cutting it into approximately one-inch squares. I then top each square with a sauce or condiment. I turn leftovers into toppings—greens cooked with garlic and pepperoncino, a few spoonfuls of homemade pasta sauce put aside, cooked artichoke stems pureed with extra virgin olive oil. Quality jarred sauces, like Mongetto's or those of Dispensa di Amerigo are perfect for those without leftovers. I also like a smear of robiola or creamy goat cheese topped with mostarda, herbs, crisp breadcrumbs, cavolo nero chips, or ricotta mixed with Parmigiano—you get the idea.

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Faith Willinger is a chef, author, and born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and has spent over 30 years searching for the best food from the Alps to Sicily. More

Faith Heller Willinger is a born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and was seduced by Italian regional cooking. Faith has spent more than 30 years searching for the best food and wine, as well as the world beyond the table from the Alps to Sicily. She has no regrets about mileage or calories. Faith was awarded the prestigious San Pellegrino award for outstanding work as an ambassador of Italian cooking. She lives full-time in Florence with her Tuscan husband, Massimo. Her son Max lives in Milan. She's the author of the bestselling (9th printing) guidebook Eating in Italy, the cookbook Red, White & Greens, and the narrative recipe book Adventures of an Italian Food Lover. Faith teaches in her kitchen in Florence on Wednesdays, supplied with freshly picked produce from her favorite farmers. Check out her web site at www.faithwillinger.com.
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