Merenda (Small Bite)

In Italy, merenda is a nourishing “Small Bite” in it’s simplest form defined by the season, varies from region to region and is based on a respect for natural ingredients. Merenda (like so many things) was born out of necessity. The men who worked the fields and pastures spent long and tiring hours away from home but needed food to sustain them. Unable to return home for their afternoon meal, they took “small bites” with them.



In those days merenda was simply a thick slice of crusty country bread with whatever mother nature provided. A chunk of hard cheese, a handful of home-cured olives, a bite of sopressata (salame) and a fresh ripe fig or two just picked from the tree.




Whether this repast was taken in the fields, in the pastures or on a tree-shaded hilltop, there was abundant homemade wine (Enzo in the vineyard). Renato Bergonzini, an expert in regional foods of Italy, says, “at Merende time, the soul is free”. This simple food and drink offers a connection to all that Italians hold dear … Food, Family and Faith.



This month I will offer some traditional merende (plural) recipes, such as Bruschetta, , Frittata con Zucchini, Golden Polenta with Prosciutto, Carciofi alle Brace (char-grilled artichokes), Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus, Fettunta Toscana (grilled country bread with fresh tomatoes), frittelle alla melanzane (eggplant fritters), Crostata di Pesca (fresh peach pie), Sicilian Arancini (rice balls), to name a few.

And of course I’ll have my own version of small bites, such as Roasted Crunchy Cece (chickpeas/garbanzo beans), Panzanella Portabello, Watermelon Gorgonzola & Balsamic Drizzle, Un Raviolo, Nutella Ghiacciolo, Grilled Peaches with Cannoli Cream, Limoncello Chicken Skewers, Gorgonzola e Pera, Baked Ricotta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Bruschetta with Ricotta Fresca & Balsamic Drizzle, Cauliflower Tart, Mini Orzo-stuffed Peppers, Caprese Bite, as well as others.

Every day life seems to be filled with a whole lot of “busy” and modern technology and overly processed food makes it increasingly difficult to hang on to our ancestors customs. It is with an unspoken desire that I wish to preserve my Sicilian heritage for my own family and future generations.

Merenda is a way of remembering who we are and where we’ve come from. Each of these recipes are satisfying in themselves or put a few together for a light meal or antipasti platter. Whichever way you decide to enjoy them, may they bring the warmth of Italy into your home.

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  1. Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread … | | Sicilian GirlSicilian Girl - July 14, 2012

    […] bread is fundamentally important to Sicilian life. As I continue to offer recipes and insight into Meranda, (snack) the common denominator IS the bread. It could be the base as in foccacia or pizza, the […]

  2. Watermelon Gorgonzola & Balsamic Drizzle | | Sicilian GirlSicilian Girl - July 20, 2012

    […] Serve as a first course, a light refreshing dessert or let it add great color and taste to any Merenda gathering. I use the balsamic drizzle on meats and vegetable dishes […]

  3. Panzanella Portabello | | Sicilian GirlSicilian Girl - July 27, 2012

    […] “I don’t think you can find a poorer dish than this one,” says Sofia Loren of this stale bread salad. “As a child during the war, when I’d see my grandmother busy preparing panzanella, I’d know right away that our household had run out of money. But I loved this kind of food so much that in absolute childhood innocence, I’d wish those hard times would come upon us more often”. Panzanella happens to be one of my favorite salads too, so I decided to incorporate it into a “small bite”. Putting the panzanella in a roasted portabello mushroom turns this salad into finger food, perfect as Merenda. […]

  4. Cipollini | | Sicilian GirlSicilian Girl - July 30, 2012

    […] with a hefty price per pound. Now, you can cook up a batch and add them to your list of favorite Merenda. Cipollini pair up nicely with grilled meats, making them a great addition to your next outdoor […]

  5. Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus | | Sicilian GirlSicilian Girl - August 4, 2012

    […] perfection, but the addition of asparagus is a nice twist to this old classic. This small bite (Merenda) really soars when utilizing the freshest melon you can find. Honeydew can be used in place of the […]

  6. Polpettone con Ricotta | | Sicilian GirlSicilian Girl - August 6, 2012

    […] Merenda, plate a slice or two and garnish with a sprig of […]

  7. Fettunta Toscana | | Sicilian GirlSicilian Girl - August 20, 2012

    […] and basil. The quality of the ingredients are paramount for this simple yet satisfying snack (Merenda). Thick, crusty, chewy, country bread, fresh from-the-vine plump and juicy tomatoes (or at least […]

  8. Caprese Bite | | Sicilian GirlSicilian Girl - August 23, 2012

    […] a bit of salt from the sea, this is the original Insalata Caprese. My Caprese bite is a natural for Merenda,  just that one perfect bite of a […]

  9. Bruschetta with Ricotta Fresca & Balsamic Drizzle | Sicilian GirlSicilian Girl - May 1, 2013

    […] two slices of a little something to take the edge off the appetite, (Merenda) or prepare a salad and call it dinner for […]

  10. Frittata con Zucchini | Sicilian GirlSicilian Girl - May 29, 2013

    […] is also a perfect afternoon snack (Merenda) and can be enjoyed at room […]

  11. Polpette con Limone | Sicilian GirlSicilian Girl - May 31, 2013

    […] making them smaller (about the size of a walnut) they are just the right size to enjoy as Merende (Small Bites), add to a Mediterranean Salad or serve with Lemon […]

  12. Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese | Sicilian GirlSicilian Girl - June 6, 2013

    […] poaching liquid. Now I have several meal possibilities with the cooked chicken (salads, sandwiches, merenda) and the potatoes (frittata, potato salad). We (Jack and I) devoured all of the cauliflower in one […]

  13. Summer Squash A Scapace | Sicilian GirlSicilian Girl - June 21, 2013

    […] they are served as Merende or as a side dish with meat or fish. I use zucchini and (in this image) crook-neck […]

  14. Marinated Mozzarella | Sicilian Girl - July 31, 2014

    […] mozzarella balls are perfect for Merende (small […]

  15. Fagioli al Pomodoro | Sicilian Girl - January 25, 2016

    […] Merende are small simple informal meals eaten in between breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most of the merende-type recipes I will be sharing with you are tied to centuries of tradition. From the Roman Gladiators to the current workers in the fields of the Italian countryside, merende gave them sustenance until they returned home. Growing up we never really had antipasti, which is why you may have noticed there isn’t an antipasti category. However, if you refer to the merende section, you will find many of these small bites that make an excellent antipasto. […]

  16. Taste of Sicily Meatballs | Sicilian Girl - August 29, 2016

    […] as they are full of flavor and attitude (like all of the Sicilians I know) and are perfect for Merende (small […]

  17. Peach & Prosciutto Bruschetta | Sicilian Girl - August 6, 2017

    […] for this bruschetta (singular) comes from the “small bites” of Italy, known as merenda. The nourishing small meals are defined by the season and since July is the season for peaches, it […]

  18. Baked Artichoke Frittata | Sicilian Girl - February 11, 2018

    […] I cut into squares and wrap individually and freeze. Can be used for breakfast, afternoon snack (merende) or quick appetizer. The baking time is the same, check with toothpick inserted in a couple places […]

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