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What is antipasto?

Tips for creating great antipasto platters.

Antipasto is an Italian term which literally means 'before the meal'. It covers small items of food served as appetisers.

Antipasto can really be anything; typically in Italy it's things like proscuitto or other ham, salami, marinated mushrooms, olives, crostini with toppings or small seafood bites.

The key is that they are small things.

Here in New Zealand antipasto platters have become common, especially when entertaining; they suit our casual lifestyle and the idea of sharing and celebration.

An antipasto platter before a meal is a nice thing to serve as a starter, and it can involve nothing more than a bit of clever shopping and arranging, so it's really easy for the cook, too.

  • Less is more when it comes to antipasto platters; try using a few really tasty items with complementary flavours rather than a whole lot of different ones.
  • Try some toasted slices of really good bread with a good quality pâté; or some tasty olives with pita chips and a soft goats' cheese.
  • Platters can be a great way to use up leftovers and make them look quite swish. Sliced cold meat, cold roast veges moistened with a little dressing, a dish of mayonnaise with lemon juice added, a relish of your choice and some good quality bread would be an excellent and inexpensive antipasto. And leftover risotto makes great little risotto cakes (known as arrancini) which you can grill or pan-fry.
  • You don't have to use expensive ingredients for antipasto. Make a gorgeous bean dip from a can of white beans, olive oil, lemon, garlic and pepper. Serve with sliced raw vegetables. Use chickpeas instead and you have hummus at a fraction of the cost of a bought pottle.
  • Use seasonal ingredients to make your antipasto special. In summer when tomatoes are ripe (and cheap) serve bruschetta or tomato bread with toasted bread slices, garlic, olive oil and really ripe tomatoes. Asparagus spears grilled on the barbecue with a little bacon wrapped around them are delicious.
  • Check out the chiller at the supermarket for super-quick 'assembly only' antipasto ingredients. Tapenades and pestos make a good base for a simple antipasto; arrange with raw veges, pita or bagel chips and bread sticks.
  • Invest in a large white platter; almost everything looks great and more impressive than it is when you serve it on a platter!
First published: Sep 2007



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