3 seasonal appetiser recipes from Chef Alex Guarnaschelli
November 17, 2015 | 11:32 AM
by Lifestyle
Spicy Walnut and Chickpea Hummus. Photo: Supplied

Plenty of entertaining occasions are coming up. Instead of focusing on several sides to accompany your barbecue favourites, consider offering your guests an array of seasonal appetisers to complement your main course.

Celebrity chef and Food Network star, Alex Guarnaschelli, offers three make-ahead, delicious appetisers that will help make entertaining a breeze. By pairing seasonal produce and herbs with nuts like walnuts and pecans for rich flavour, these appetisers will be the highlight of your meal.

Walnut Stuffed Cherry Tomato Halves

Who doesn’t love a stuffed cherry tomato? Guarnaschelli says, “A mixture of cheese, peppery arugula and juicy tomatoes brings out the great richness of the nuts. Stuffed cherry tomatoes are satisfying without being filling, and make a great alternative to bread-based starters. You can assemble these appetisers ahead of time and refrigerate them until you’re ready to serve.”

Preparation Time: 15 minutes (12 servings)


• 1/2 cup walnut halves and pieces, toasted

• 3/4 cup fresh arugula leaves, coarsely chopped

• 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

• 2tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

• 1tsp balsamic vinegar

• 1tsp grated lemon zest

• 36 cherry tomatoes

• 1/8tsp salt


• Toast the walnuts by placing them in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Stir frequently until the walnuts turn golden - about three to five minutes.

• Combine the arugula with the walnuts, cheese, olive oil, vinegar and lemon zest; set aside.

• Cut the tops off the tomatoes. Use a small spoon (such as an espresso spoon), the handle of a teaspoon or a melon baller to gently remove the majority of the seeds and pulp, taking care not to pierce the skin. Season the insides lightly with salt. Fill the tomatoes with the walnut and arugula mixture. Serve at room temperature.

• For a more Italian experience, use authentic Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Quickie Goat Cheese and Pecan Bites

Another great make-ahead appetiser, these bites are filled with flavour and deliver the perfect combination of crunch and taste. “The freshness of the parsley and lemon zest is the perfect bridge between the goat cheese and pecans,” says Guarnaschelli.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

24 servings


• 1 pound soft goat cheese

• 2tsp cracked black pepper

• 1/2 cup toasted pecan halves, chopped

• Zest from two lemons

• 3tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley


• Break up and mix the goat cheese with the black pepper in a medium bowl. Divide into 24 pieces of about 2tsp each and roll into balls.

• Combine the pecans, lemon zest and parsley in a medium bowl until well blended. Roll the goat cheese balls in the pecan mixture. Arrange on a serving platter. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Take them out 15 minutes before serving so they soften a little and drizzle with a little olive oil,

if desired.

Spicy Walnut and Chickpea Hummus

While hummus is traditionally made with tahini (sesame) paste, this version uses sesame seeds and walnuts to add richness to the mixture and texture when sprinkled on top. Serve this hummus as an individual hors d’oeuvres or as a tasty dip with pita wedges.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes (24, 2tbsp servings)


• 1 cup chopped walnuts, divided

• 1/4 cup olive oil

• 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

• 3tbsp fresh lemon juice

• 1tbsp sesame seeds

• 2 cloves garlic

• 1/2tsp paprika

• 1/4tsp chipotle powder or ground red pepper

• 1/2tsp salt

• 1 medium red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, coarsely chopped, about 3/4 cup

• 1tbsp chopped parsley


• Combine 1/2 cup walnuts and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor, pulse to coarsely chop the walnuts. Add the chickpeas, lemon juice, sesame seeds, garlic, paprika, chipotle powder and salt, and process until smooth.

• Transfer the spread from the food processor into a medium mixing bowl and stir in bell pepper, parsley and remaining 1/2 cup walnuts. Serve with toasted pita triangles, if desired.

(For more recipe inspiration and tips from Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, check out

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