One of the features of a menu in many Italian restaurants is the antipasto platter. In one form or another, and with any number of ingredients, it has a lot of appeal, and it is especially inviting for family dining when everybody gets to take part in the fun. Without too much trouble you can make a very strong impression on your customers by putting together the Ultimate Antipasto Platter. Your customers will remember you for it, and they will talk about it.
The word “antipasto” translates as “before the pasta,” (as in ‘before the pasta course’). In the scheme of Italian eating, it goes like this: antipasto, pasta, secondi (or entreé), contorno (side dish) and dolce (dessert). Considering that arrangement, the idea of the antipasto becomes important, and the antipasto platter sets the tone for what some Italians might call “an important meal.”
An antipasto platter can take on many different forms, not only in the foods that are presented, but also the plate or platter on which the food is arranged. The latest trend that I have noticed in Chicago is that antipasto platters are leaning more into salumi (cured meats), along with a short menu of asaggio (little plates). For example, the cured meats include salami, mortadella, finnochiona (pork sausage with fennel), Prosciutto, capacollo, even speck (cured ham), and bresaola (air-cured beef). The asaggio might include marinated olives (several different types), giardiniera, roasted vegetables (fennel, carrots, celery root salad,), bell peppers, pepperonata.
Now we take a look at the role cheeses play in an antipasto (the plural is antipasti). There are so many possibilities here, including Gorgonzola, Parmigiano, Pecorino, provolone, Asiago, Fontina, fresh mozzarella.
Another part of the antipasto collection has to do with spuntini. This word translates to “snack.” Under spuntini we might find dishes like caponata, roasted peppers, calamari salad, artichokes, and anchovies. Along with all the possibilities mentioned above, important flavor additions and dressings can and should also be used. Some excellent choices are extra-virgin olive oil, herbs, capers, garlic and balsamic vinegar.
If we take some of this and some of that from each of the food groups I’ve mentioned, we can put together an impressive array of foods that include great tastes, impressive textures and a colorful assortment. The recipe that follows is just a sample. Use your creativity to put together your signature antipasto platter.
Ultimate Antipasto Platter
Serves 4-6 (scale up in direct proportion)
½ pound sliced Genoa salami
½ pound sliced mortadella
1/4 pound sliced prosciutto
1/4 pound sliced capacollo
1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 pound provolone, Asiago or fontina (or assortment), cubed
2 cups large black and green olives
2 cup giardiniera, drained
1 cups grilled or roasted artichoke hearts, dressed with olive oil and oregano
2 cups roasted red peppers, drained and slivered, tossed with garlic and olive oil
Use a large oval platter to hold all of the ingredients. Starting from the outside of the platter, arrange and overlap the meats and group them according to type.
In the next row, completely around the platter, arrange the fresh mozzarella and the cubed cheeses. Next to the cheeses arrange the olives, followed by the giardiniera. Next row would be the artichokes and the roasted peppers.