Antipasti (plural for antipasto) literally means "before the meal" which is contrary to the common belief that it means “not pasta.” The term and tradition dates back to medieval times in Italy, when diners used to mingle over finger foods, both sweet and savory, before sitting down to eat. Much like French hors d'oeuvres or Spanish tapas, antipasti are a beloved combination of small bites of tasty food, usually accompanied by wine and meant to stimulate the appetite before digging into the main meal.
Early recipes included everything from clotted cream to spiced ham. Modern day antipasto offerings are more often simple, colorful plates of marinated vegetables, salty olives, rich cheeses, thinly sliced cured meats served with slices of rustic artisanal breads.
During the hot days of June and July, there are many evenings when a full meal seems too heavy and indigestible to consume. On those nights, a small selection of antipasti makes the perfect dinner fare. With antipasto, it’s always best to keep things simple. Narrow your choices down to one or two composed items, then incorporate a few fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables and you’re set.
Try these simple ideas on for size:
- A plate of marinated vegetables like artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, or cippolini onions
- Caprese salad of sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and torn basil leaves
- Ricotta cheese drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar with crostini
- Fresh figs with walnuts and shaved Parmesan Reggiano
- Olive tapenade with homemade flatbread
- Freshly sliced cantaloupe wrapped with wafer-thin prosciutto
- Toasted focaccia with cauliflower puree, pesto or roasted garlic
- Marinated minted eggplant
Denise and Dom Romeo are local food bloggers who enjoy spending time together doing what they love best: cooking and entertaining! Follow their food adventures on their award winning blog; We Like To Cook! at www.welike2cook.com.