How-To: Antipasti Platter

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antipasto, cheese platter, cheese appetizer No matter what holiday or get together my family has we always have an antipasti platter as an appetizer.  I don’t know if its due to our Italian heritage, tradition or the obvious fact that cheese and crackers in whatever form is just plain delicious.  But, whatever the reason, my sister and I are always on “cheese tray” duty during these get togethers.  This job is kinda great because I get to sample all the cheeses before anyone else does!  And after…15 years of making antipasti platters for my Mom, I’ve started to pick up the habit and serve this delicious cheese filled appetizer at all my parties and dinners.  It’s pretty much the perfect appetizer if you’re having company over.  It’s simple to prepare, has at least one thing everyone will like and can be made in advance!
Antipasto1

There’s not a specific recipe per say, for antipasti platters.  More like suggestions or guidelines I suppose, that you should keep in mind.  Antipasti platters usually consist of multiple types of cheese, cured olives, pickled vegetables, sausages and other cured meats and roasted vegetables all accompanied by a variety of crackers and bread.  Now, you can totally customize your antipasti platter to fit your personal tastes.  I obviously don’t include sausage or cured meats on mine.  But, if you’re the meat eating type, then go ahead and add those on.  I do suggest keeping in mind your company or family when purchasing items for this appetizer and cater somewhat to their likes and preferences as well.

Antipasti3 Here are my general guidelines to creating the perfect antipasti platter:

  • The cheeses!  I don’t know where I heard this from (probably my mother) but you should try to have one cheese from each “group.”  One blue cheese, one hard cheese, one semi soft cheese and one soft.  I also always include mozzarella in little ball forms or large slices.  If you’re unsure of what specific cheese falls into what group, ask the cheese monger (person who sells the cheese) and they will be able to help you.
  • Olives.  I always, always, always have olives.  Dario is an olive lover, so it’s a given.  But they add a nice saltiness to everything and pair well with a sweeter creamy cheese.
  • Fruit.  This may or may not be super traditional, but fresh and dried fruit are always a great pair with cheese.  I generally do apples, pears and dried apricots.
  • Nuts.  I also occasionally add a small bowl of nuts to my antipasti platters.  I’ve really been into marcona almonds lately.  If you choose to add nuts, I’d suggest roasted and salted and preferably seasoned with herbs or other spices.
  • Bread and crackers.  Sometimes I get a little lazy at this point and only buy one type of cracker.  But it’s good to think about the types of cheese you have and what type of bread or cracker would go well with them.  I generally use a sliced and lightly toasted baguette, 2-3 types of crackers.
  • Marinated and pickled vegetables.  These are one of my favorite parts of an antipasti platter!  They add wonderful color and brightness to the whole dish.  I generally go with:  marinated artichokes, roasted red peppers, pickled cauliflower or mixed vegetables, roasted/marinated cipollini onions, marinated mushrooms, etc.  You can find great items at your grocer’s salad bar or in the aisle with the jarred pickles and olives.  Make sure to select things that are different colors because it really makes for a great presentation.
  • The optional meat.  Now my family never thinks meat is “optional” and thus its always included in our family antipasti platters.  And this might be true for other people so here are my thoughts on this.  My mom generally does a least one type of sliced hard Italian salami/sausage.  In addition, there is always prosciutto and possibly mortadella or sorpressata.  It’s nice to have some spicy options here.
  • My last suggestion is more about how to serve an antipasti platter.  You should leave everything out of the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour so that all the cheese and vegetables can come to room temperature.  It allows you to really taste the full flavor of the items – which is what you want.

Now remember, these  are only general guidelines and you can follow these exactly or deviate here and there.  It’s really up to you.  But get creative and have fun with this.  It’s such a great appetizer to have and everyone will love it!

Now, you tell me!  What are you favorite cheeses?  Do you like pairing cheese and fruit?  What’s your favorite appetizers to serve at dinner parties?

 

5 Comments

  1. emily (a nutritionist eats)

    February 20, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Love, love LOVE this post! I’m a huge fan of antipasti platters but aren’t as familiar with them as I am a simple cheese plate. Great info!

  2. Sara @ Nourish and Flourish

    February 22, 2013 at 2:11 am

    This is a great antipasti tutorial, Maria! I’ve always just thrown together random cheeses and meats when I’ve made mine, but now I have a better idea how to create a balanced spread. And not only that, I never knew that leaving cheese out for 30+ minutes enhances its flavor. Thanks so much for the tips! <3

    • mewinebrenner

      February 22, 2013 at 7:45 am

      I’m glad you liked the post! I think I got that 30 minute rule from Ina Garten! But it definitely makes a difference in the flavor of the cheese!

  3. Kare @ Kitchen Treaty

    February 22, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I love this! I always think of antipasti as an easy appetizer but then I start to feel a little overwhelmed because I can’t really remember what all should be included and I end up moving on to something else. No more! 🙂

    • mewinebrenner

      February 22, 2013 at 10:44 am

      I’m glad you liked it! It’s good to have a little list in mind when you’re at the grocery store buying items for an appetizer like this! Helps you stay organized!

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