Antipasto is the traditional first course many a great Italian-style dinners. Antipasto actually means “before the meal” and is often comprised of a selection of flavorful, fresh ingredients that are designed prep the palate for the upcoming courses. Traditionally, an antipasto service would include various cheeses, crusty breads and cured meats. Then depending upon the regional influences it will include olives, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, capers and pepperoncinis, along with items like anchovies and pickled or marinated vegetables.
With so many options, planning a perfect setting can be intimidating, so here are few simple ideas to help pull off an easy, crowd-pleasing presentation.
One great strategy for simple but amazing entertaining is to keep the choices focused on two or three items. These items can then by complemented by bread, a seasonal or dried fruit selection and a cured meat option. Items can be single style of olive or medley of vegetables along with a cheese selection.
In choosing your items consider:
- Color for eye appeal
- A balance of sweet, spicy and salty
- How the flavors go along with the rest of your meal.
Even with a basic variety, they’ll think you had enrolled in culinary school.
For larger dinner parties, expand on the basic strategy. Add another color or a variation on the intensity of sweet, spicy or salty. Also consider an additional selection of cheese or an additional cured meat option can help expand the offering and the WOW factor.
Portion for Your Party
Remember that antipasto is traditionally the starter and not the intended meal (though, it can easily become center of attention if you’re going for the small plate dining experience). So plan the portions based upon the number you’re serving. A good rule of thumb is to plan for about 1.5 ounce servings per guest.
Consider the Wine
If you are serving wine with your antipasti, a good balance comes from choosing light flavors with lighter wines and heavier flavors with more full-bodied wines.