Venetian Carnival Food and Drinks

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Carnival is going on right now in Venice, Italy and ends tomorrow.  That means that tons of people are getting all decked out in masks and costumes and having fun.  Festivities include pageantry, concerts and balls, and entertainment by street performers – jugglers, musicians, dancers, etc.  Carnivals means “farewell to meat” and comes from the Catholic tradition of giving up meat during Lent.  Carnival ends on Shrove Tuesday (which is tomorrow), the day before Ash Wednesday, which kicks off Lent.  The finale includes a firework show over Piazza San Marco.

In honor of Carnival, here are some Venetian food and drink ideas.

Drinks: The sparkling white wine Prosecco is “the wine of Venice.”  It’s great on its own or mixed with peach juice to make a Bellini.  Venetian red wines include Bardolino and Valpollicella.  The following are some recipes for specialty cocktails:

Venetian Sunset

1 shot each: gin, Campari, Grand Marnier, Vermouth, orange juice

Mix and pour into large chilled glass and garnish with an orange slice and a mint sprig.

Venetian Lagoon

1 shot each: vodka, blue Curacao, grapefruit juice, lemonade

Mix and serve in large glass.  Garnish with lemon or orange slice and cocktail cherry.

Foods: risotto, seafood (shrimp, scallops, squid, crab, clams, oysters, mussels, sea bass, cod, sardines, anchovies, etc.), vegetables (peas, zucchini, asparagus), polenta

Start the meal with an appetizer like prosciutto and melon ( ), a meat and cheese platter, a seafood platter, or Venetian Canapes (recipe: ).  Then serve soup (such as pasta e fagioli ) and/or Venetian salad (recipe follows).  For the main course, serve shrimp scampi ( ), Venetian scallops (recipe follows), or another seafood dish. 

Sides dishes include risi e bisi (risotto with peas, cooked with ham or bacon, onions and herbs in a chicken stock), polenta, Venetian asparagus (recipe follows), and any fresh vegetables.  For dessert, it doesn’t get more Venetian than Tiramisu ( ).  Serve it with Venetian coffee ( )

Venetian Salad

2-4 cups mixture of the following: chopped radicchio, arugula, endive, fennel

2 carrots, shredded

1 cup black olives

4 medium tomatoes, chopped

½ cup chopped mushrooms

1 bell pepper, chopped

½ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

¼ each or salt and pepper

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Optional – chopped sardines or anchovies

            Mix the first 6 ingredients in bowl.  Make dressing by mixing olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and toss onto salad.  Top with Parmesan cheese and (optional) sardines or anchovies.

Venetian Scallops

2 pounds sea scallops

4 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon marjoram

½ teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup white wine

            Mix flour, marjoram, basil, salt, and pepper.  Coat scallops with flour mixture.  Heat oil in pan, add wine and bring to sizzle.  Add scallops and garlic and cook about 4 minutes each side.  Scallops should be opaque and slightly seared.

Venetian Asparagus

2 pounds asparagus

½ cup (or 1 cube) butter, melted

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

2-4 cloves garlic (depending on how garlicky you like stuff), minced

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (optional).

            Preheat oven to 350.  Wash and trim asparagus.  Steam asparagus until just barely tender, and then cool in cold water.  Put asparagus in baking dish, pour melted butter on top, and sprinkle on salt, pepper, garlic, and Parmesan.  Bake about 8 to 10 minutes (or until golden and crisp).  Then, top with mozzarella, and bake another 5 minutes (until cheese melts).

Another option for an asparagus dish: steam it and then drizzle it with a mixture of 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1-2 cloves minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.


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