The holidays are a hectic time, filled with decorating, shopping, cooking, entertaining and organizing schedules. There’s no need to add to the stress of holiday entertaining by preparing labor- and time-intensive appetizers. The appetizers featured here are not only easy to make, they are delicious, and create a beautiful, colorful presentation as well.

This trio of appetizers includes both savory and sweet recipes, so you’ll have something to please every palate. The grilled zucchini roll-ups are so festive, with green zucchini and red cherry tomatoes. For an extra-festive touch, secure with colored wooden toothpicks. To prevent the toothpicks from burning, soak them in water before securing the roll-ups.

Finger foods are a favorite at any holiday gathering. These cured meat cones are another easy-peasy recipe. Simply roll up your favorite cured meat around Il Villaggio cheese, secure the “cone,” and you’re good to go.

The flavors of Gorgonzola and honey provide a delicious contrast in the baked pears recipe – the soft pears and crunchy walnuts are the perfect pairing. If you prefer an appetizer that’s a little less sweet, top with a balsamic dressing instead of honey.

Best of all, you can prep these appetizers ahead of time, so you can get out of the kitchen and enjoy your holiday company.

Grilled Zucchini Caprese Roll-Ups

• 4 medium zucchinis, cut into strips (a vegetable peeler makes this easy!)
• Il Villaggio Mozarella di Bufala, cut into cubes
• 16 cherry tomatoes, halved
• 32 basil leaves
• Olive oil
• Salt & pepper

• Pre-heat grill over medium-high (400°F on most grills).

• Place one basil leaf, cherry tomato half and cube of mozzarella on a zucchini strip.

• Roll as tightly as you can, and secure with a toothpick.

• Repeat with remaining ingredients.

• Brush roll-ups with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

• Grill until the zucchini is lightly charred, 1-2 minutes per side.

• Serve immediately.

Cured-Meat-and-Cheese Cones

This recipe takes advantage of delicious Italian salumi, or cold cuts of meat. Bresaola, an air-dried, salted beef, is particularly good here, but prosciutto, ham, or pepperoni salami would all make excellent choices. This recipe is practical, fast and tasty!

Ingredients: (For 12 “cones”)
• 3.5 ounces of salumi
• 4.25 ounces of Il Villaggio Gorgonzola
• Salt
• Pepper
• Chives (dry and fresh)

• In a bowl, mix the cheese with a spoon, adding a pinch of salt, pepper and chopped chives (dry works well).

• Now take a little cheese and place it in a strip in the middle of the slice of meat. Simply roll it up to create a kind of cone.

• Tie the cone with a strand of fresh green onion (chives).

Baked Pears with Blue Cheese, Hazelnuts and Honey

Ingredients: (Serves 4)
• 2 ripe pears pears (Bartlett and Anjou work well), halved and cored
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 2-3 Tbsp. Il Villaggio Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
• 2-3 Tbsp. hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
• Honey, extra virgin oil, and/or balsamic vinegar for drizzling

• Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

• On a lined baking sheet, lay the pear halves cut-side up. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

• Bake the pears for about 20 minutes.

• Take the pears out of the oven and fill each half with the Gorgonzola. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes.

• Remove the pears from the oven and let sit for about 3 minutes. Add chopped hazelnuts on top and drizzle with honey or balsamic vinegar.

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