Bocconcini (“little mouthfuls” in Italian) are traditionally served as part of an antipasto selection, but I wonder if they’ve been forgotten lately in all the burrata craze? And I guess I can understand. What chance do these little mozzarella balls stand against the dreamy, creamy center of burrata? Or against slices of 100% mozzarella di bufala, for that matter. Bocconcini are typically made from a blend of buffalo and cow’s milk, and are sturdier, less melt-in-your-mouth creamy. On their own, really not that exciting, to be honest.
But if a garlicky, herb-flecked marinade appeals to you… Or a jumble of intense, pickled, salty, peppery or spicy flavors rings your bell… That’s where bocconcini cannot be beat. They can take long marinades without falling apart, and they make the perfect foil for things like olives, sundried tomatoes, capers, anchovies, garlic, fresh herbs, peppers, etc. (In fact, a bowl of marinated bocconcini is a great way to use up those odds and ends of pickled hot peppers, capers, etc. that seem to linger in the fridge.)
Here, I’ve marinated them in a garlicky olive oil, with loads of fresh oregano and capers, and a dash of red pepper flakes. A quick toss with summer tomatoes and Kalamata olives is all that’s needed before serving them alongside grilled or toasted bread.
These are a great addition to a picnic, if you happen to be having good picnic weather. And in any case, be sure to take them out of the fridge a couple of hours before serving to really maximize the flavors.
Pairing: Crisp Italian Whites
A crisp Italian white wine is just the ticket here. From Pinot Grigio to Soave, I’m pretty happy pairing any of these wines with this rustic, intensely-flavored dish. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed lately:
Pieropan 2013 Soave Classico ($16). Nice wine, at a winner price. With smooth orchard fruit balanced with snappy citrus and dry mineral notes. Long, clean, fresh finish. Find it!
Villa Matilde 2012 Falanghina Campania Rocca dei Leoni ($15.) Expressive and ripe, with silky tropical fruit character, a distinctive mineral accent, and a vibrant, mouthwatering finish. Find it!
Feudi di San Gregorio 2011 Greco di Tufo ($16). Easy to like (every year), with ripe white peach, tropical melon, and juicy citrus notes. Find it!
Recipe: Marinated Bocconcini
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, pressed
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
scant 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 pound bocconcini, drained
2-3 tablespoons brine-packed capers, drained
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
kosher salt, to taste
halved cherry tomatoes or sliced tomatoes
In a small skillet, heat the olive oil, minced garlic, oregano and pepper flakes over medium-low heat — just a minute or so until garlic sizzles. Do not let it color. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Put the bocconcini in a medium bowl and pour the cooled oil over them. Add the capers and parsley and toss to coat. Marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but 8+ is even better.
Remove from the fridge a couple of hours before serving. Add as many tomatoes and olives as you like, and season to taste with kosher salt.
Serves 3-4 as part of an antipasto selection, or 2 as a first course.