Involtini: Italian Word for Small Bite-Sized Bundles of Food

involtini Ironside Kitchen

Involtini is an Italian word for various small bites of food consisting of some sort of outer layer wrapped around a filling. Involtini can be made with a wrapper of meat, poultry, seafood or vegetables, with fillings like cheese, vegetables, cured meats and nuts.

Thin veal cutlets are commonly used as the wrapper for making involtini. Thin slices of eggplant are also a popular involtini wrapper. Very simple involtini could also be made by sautéeing thin slices of eggplant, rolling them around little dollops of fresh ricotta cheese and them briefly simmering them in marinara sauce.

The word involtini is derived from the word involto, which in Italian means “bundle,” or alternately “wrap” or “packet.” Sometimes a calzone, which is essentially an inside-out pizza, where sauce, cheese and other ingredients are baked inside a folded pouch of dough, is referred to as an involto.

Involtino is the diminutive of the word involto, meaning small bundle/wrap/parcel, and involtini is the plural of involtino. Thus, involtini are small bites of food — essentially hors d’oeuvres.

And while I’m certainly not suggesting that you can a word and use it to refer to anything you like, I do think you have every justification to use the word involtini to refer to certain styles of handmade ravioli or other stuffed pasta bites, or even individual lasagna bites — in other words, stacked bundles rather than folded or rolled.

In other words, to the extent that involto means bundle or wrap, such disparate foods as burritos and sushi could arguably fall under the category of involti.

Which means that anyone devising a menu, whether they’re planning dinner party at home or engaged in the business of cooking and serving food (a business in which it’s axiomatic that using a fancier word for something means being able to charge more for it), the involto/involtino nomenclature can be an extremely useful one.

An example of a main course prepared using the same technique would be involto di carne, a meat that has been rolled and stuffed like a roulade, sometimes breaded and fried and usually served with some kind of sauce.

But again, consider beef carpaccio. Carpaccio is an Italian appetizer consisting of raw beef, sliced thinly and drizzled with an acidic marinade (lemon-juice or balsamic vinegar are two common choices) which will at least partially denature the proteins in the meat. It’s often served with arugula, capers and onions.

Now, however, imagine rather than serving the carpaccio in flat slices as is customary but rolled up, perhaps with the arugula and other ingredients inside. Voila! Or better yet, ecco! You now have involtini di carpaccio.

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