Give this 4th of July an Italian twist with these tips and recipes.

The menu

A typical menu for a summer barbecue in Italy is light with the accoutrements and all about the meat, otherwise, it’s not worth to get the grill going in the summer heat! Usually, some light appetizers, a good wine and a light dessert are enough. Things are kept real simple, because the Italians believe that if you’ve got good ingredients you don’t need marinades or else to improve the taste.

How to prepare the grill

The barbecue is prepared well in advance as the meat needs to simmer on embers and very low flames. It’s very rare to come across Italian using charcoal or gas bbq, most people prefer to chop local wood and use that to give the meat the right aroma.

The appetizers

As the grill gets going, bruschetta and crostini appetizers are enjoyed along with a few glasses of red wine. Cantaloupe and prosciutto is also a popular option. In Tuscany, two of the most popular recipes are tomato bruschetta (here’s Lidia Bastianich’s tips and Jamie Oliver’s recipe) and fegatini crostini, which are crostini topped with minced chicken liver (doesn’t sound too appealing? Wait until you try them!).

Our chef Francesco shared his recipe with us:

For 20 crostini.

300 grams of chicken livers – 1 slice of pancetta, chopped – 1 shallot – ½ stalk of celery – ½ carrot – a handful of chopped parsley – 1 tablespoon of butter – 1 cup of chicken stock – 3 pieces of dried porcino mushrooms, soaked in warm water and finely chopped – 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs – Juice of one lemon – Olive oil – loaf of bread

Chop the shallot, celery, carrot and parsley and sauté in a pan with the butter, some olive oil and the pancetta. Season with a pinch of salt. Add then the chicken livers. 3 minutes in, remove from the heat and place on a chopping board together with the softened porcini mushrooms, then chop everything into a paste. Return the chopped pate mixture to the pan, add the broth and finish cooking to reduce the liquid. Spread on bread and serve immediately.

If you’re looking to get creative, then check out these recipes from Martha Stewart.

The meat

In Tuscany, there are three types of meat that are usually enjoyed at a barbecue: Florentine steak, rostinciana and sausages.

Florentine steak (bistecca alla fiorentina) is a t-bone steak from Chianina beef and it should be served rare and sliced, dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper, rocket salad and fresh tomatoes. It’s important to leave the steak out of the fridge for about 4 hours before grilling it. It should not be cut or any condiments added, dressing should be done afterwards. Cook each side for about 9 minutes and then 4 minutes keeping the steak in vertical position. It should be at least 10 cm away from the embers for optimal grilling.

Rostinciana is the way Tuscans call pork ribs, which are first massaged with olive oil and with a dry mixture of salt, pepper, garlic and onion. Cartilage should be removed from the meat first, as well as the diaphragm.

Tuscan sausages (salsiccia) are hearty pork sausage with herbs that should not be cut or poked prior to eating but placed gently on the grill without any dressing. You’ll know that the sausage is cooked well if, at the first cut on the plate, it oozes grease.

The sides

A crisp salad and/or grilled vegetables are the norm. Zucchinis, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are simply cut and put on the grill, then served with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt.

The dessert

Watermelon and/or pineapple slices are the perfect ending for a barbecue meal, cleansing the palate and so enjoyable in the heat. Ice cream is also a favorite and another option is a fruit tart.

Buon Appetito! And check our post on the must-have kitchen utensils for Italian food before starting to cook.