Let's get this straight. Antipasto means appetizer in Italian and like with any appetizer in other parts of the world, it can be anything - hams, cheeses, seafood, pickled vegetables, crostini, bruschette, bite-sized pizzas (pizzette) and the list can go on. In Italy, it is the first course followed by pasta dish then the main and side dish, fruits then the dessert. And when you are eating in an Italian table, take your time because dinner can be quite long and amazing.
Now what do you put on that antipasto platter? Anything! Anything that you would like to have to start your meal. But let me guess what is on your mind - A big platter of different kinds of hams, cheese, preserved vegetables, crackers, bread? That is actually my favorite kind of Italian antipasto so we are on the same wavelength. I have a number of wooden platters at home that I specifically use for serving antipasto. There's no rule that hams and cheeses should be served on them but they just look naturally good together. It's rustic and it's quite a visual feast especially when it is filled with a rainbow of natural colors of food.
Antipasto is my favorite course because it is the window to the long meal of exciting dishes that are coming after. And if you are the cook, the best thing about it is that you can experiment more with ingredients because serving sizes are minuscule compared to the other courses. Plus, you can serve as much as you want when you are serving the antipasto. When I serve less than three kinds of antipasto, that means that I am controlling myself from overwhelming my dinner guests. Yes, I am one of those people who get overly-excited in creating beautiful antipasto platters.
Generally, you start your meal with a glass of Prosecco to accompany the antipasto. Other options are Spumante Brut or Champagne. But don't limit yourself to the bubbly wines because white or red wines can go with them too.
Leaving the ham and cheese category, there is also the seafood antipasto that can be equally interesting. In Italy, you can encounter platters of raw seafood platter which I consider one of the best choices if you are in a good restaurant. They have to be very fresh and prepared (frozen at -20 degrees C then defrosted after a certain number of hours) according to the European law, to eliminate some parasites that don't die with the usual acidic agents. I never prepare raw seafood antipasto at home but when I am in a restaurant that I can trust, that's the time I indulge in one of my favorite antipasto. Raw seafood antipasto are simply served only with extra virgin olive oil, salt and lemon. That way, you can taste their freshness.
Cooked seafood however can be cooked and served with anything. There are classic dishes that are always dependably good and there are the never ending contemporary ones that come out from the chefs' creative ideas.
I don't have big rules that I keep at home when it comes to my kitchen. There are times when I just prepare big platter of antipasto for dinner then we jump straight to the fruits and dessert. My kids have more fun in having more choices in front of them and getting any amount that they want. To have a big platter of antipasto in the middle of the table is a stunning sight and never disappoints anyone.
Like my previous post, Everything You Want to Know About Extra Virgin Olive Oil, this one is also connected to the story I made for Mode. Scroll down and read the story. Enjoy!
Check out What Do You Put in That Antipasto Platter
by Rowena Dumlao - Giardina at Mode