In my family, we have taken the humble antipasti tray and turned it into a focal point of all our celebratory dinners. The word antipasti means “before the meal,” but in my family the trays have a way of becoming the meal!
Antipasti began in Italy as a way for families and restaurants to serve delicious bites of food before the main meal. The idea was not to “fill” your guest up, but to excite their taste buds for the meal to come. When Italians migrated to the US, they brought this delectable tradition with them. And while my family is not Italian, we are foodies and coming up with bigger and more elaborate antipasti trays has become our sport!
Not all antipasti trays have to be elaborate; you can serve a beautiful tray with just a few items. To begin, start with these three antipasti staples: meats, cheese, jars. Let me explain that simple list in more detail.
Cured meats are a must for any antipasti tray, and you’ll want to provide at least two choices. Some possibilities are prosciutto, salami, coppa (capocollo), speck, and mortadella. If Italian cured meats aren’t your thing, then use whatever you enjoy. I personally add smoked oysters to mine because I love them so much, but I have also added leftover roast beef or smoked salmon.
I’m a firm believer that ANY cheese is a good cheese for an antipasti tray. From Manchego to smoked gouda, you can’t go wrong. It’s a good idea to serve at least three cheese choices, and I like to choose different textures for mine. I’ll pick a hard cheese (aged parmesan), a medium-soft cheese (mozzarella), and one spreadable cheese (goat cheese).
Jars probably seem like a strange item, but they are essential to a tasty antipasti tray. Jars consist of olives, pickles, roasted red bell peppers, and even eggplant. Jarred foods make the perfect addition to an antipasti tray because they are quick and flavorful. Veggies jarred in brine or oil will not only add a nice taste balance to your tray, but are also colorful and enhance the eye appeal. Feel free to add any type of jarred item you like. One of my favorites to add is pickled okra!
Once you’re comfortable with the “starter” board, start branching out! In my family, we love to experiment with new items and themes. My mom recently created a Southern Antipasti Tray, which included small pieces of fried fish, cubes of southern ham, pimento cheese, and other southern yummies. It was great and the whole family enjoyed it!
Whether you’re a part of a large Italian family or not, the tradition of the “before meal” tray can become a part of your next family dinner, game night, movie night, or weekend lunch.
– – –
Misty Day is an analyst from Columbus, Ohio. When she’s not deciphering data, she is passionate about writing her own blog and playing the bass.