Nothing quite signals that it’s time to unwind at the end of the day like a glass of wine and some antipasti, small bites of food meant to stimulate the appetite before dinner. Antipasti are the Italian equivalent of Spanish tapas and Greek mezze; they’re small dishes meant to be savored over casual conversation with friends and family.
In Italy, antipasti usually consist of regional specialties, such as a certain kind of mushroom or local cheese. Traditionally, they were used to mark the beginning of the meal for formal events, like weddings or family reunions, and they only made daily appearances in wealthy households. These days, antipasti are available to everyone and in more relaxed settings — like drinks with friends — and can even make up an entire meal.
Many antipasti are made with seasonal vegetables. In Capri, a Mediterranean island near Naples, you might see a fresh caprese salad (tomato, mozzarella, and basil) as an antipasto, while in Calabria farther south, you might have a roasted eggplant salad with fresh herbs and red wine vinegar. Piedmont, to the far north, is known for its cooked vegetable, fontina cheese, and olive salads. Peperonata, or cooked sweet peppers, are popular all over Italy, with small variations from region to region.
From pickled vegetables to cheeses to the cooked dishes listed above, antipasti are often served at room temperature. They are unpretentious, but still healthy and delicious.
Try arranging a simple antipasti platter for your next gathering using a few of the suggestions listed below. Think about color, aroma, texture, and taste — variety is good!
- Roasted or grilled: eggplant, zucchini, pepper, onion slices
- Marinated: artichoke hearts, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, beets, beans, pepperoncini
- Fresh: tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes
- Pickled: cucumbers, onions, carrots
- Fresh or dried ﬁgs
- Dried apricots
- Parmigiano Reggiano
- Smoked salmon
Cured Meats (thinly sliced):
- Sliced bread
Many grocery stores now have olive/antipasti bars with a delicious selection of olives, marinated vegetables, and cheeses sold by weight. Try diﬀerent items in small amounts to see what you like.
The beauty of an antipasti platter is that once you arrange everything ahead of time, guests can assemble their own plates just the way they like, and you can sit back and relax. If you’d like to get a little more involved, try making bruschetta or a whole grain salad, or follow our bonus recipe below.
BONUS RECIPE: Spicy Tuna Bites
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: N/A
2 (2.6 ounce) tuna pouches
16 baby bell peppers, cut in half and centers cleaned out
½ medium cucumber, cut into ½-inch rounds
Chopped cilantro for garnish
Carrots and radish for garnish (optional)
- Place bell pepper halves on a platter and add cucumber rounds.
- Add 1 teaspoon tuna to each pepper half and on top of each piece of cucumber.
- Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and enjoy!
Recipe and photo courtesy of StarKist Tuna Creations, a valued partner for Kroger’s month-long celebration of Mediterranean Diet Month.
Lara Bertoia, Mediterranean Program Manager