Like the opening credits of a film, or the theme song to your favorite show, the arrival of the antipasto tells you something special is about to start.
Italy's response to French hors d'oeuvres, antipasto is a combination of various small foods that are usually served before a meal. Traditionally, the antipasto is meant to stimulate the appetite and get the taste buds ready for the meal without over filling the stomach. The term was first used during the sixteenth century.
However, increasingly, antipasto is being served as the meal, following the trend of dinner-sized salads.
Let's take a look at the typical ingredients you might find in antipasto that inspired us to create our fresh antipasto salad.
Cold Cuts and Seafood
A wide variety of cold cuts are traditionally served as antipasto. Meats were generally butchered and cured during the winter to ensure a supply of meat during the hot summer months when fresh meat spoiled quickly. Popular items include salami, ham, and sausage. Fresh sardines, smoked salmon, anchovies (of course), and seared tuna have also made appearances on the antipasto platter.
The exact composition of the platter can vary, it depends on the type of fresh fish or cured meats that are available. In addition, shellfish is frequently served, including fried calamari and breaded mussels in a tomato or wine sauce, shrimp, and scallops.
Vegetables and Cheese
In-season raw vegetables and fruits — the fresher the better — are served alongside salty marinated olives, stuffed peppers, and roasted red peppers. Marinated and pickled vegetables add salt and tang to the platter. Typical pickled vegetables include marinated artichoke hearts, eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini, and pepperoncini.
Cheeses that vary in texture are an important element of antipasto. Hard cheeses such as parmesan and asiago as well as soft cheeses such as mozzarella are commonly used.
Antipasto and the Legacy of Italian Cuisine
When you think about antipasto, you probably think of a time when big meals were served and consumed at leisure — no rush, no hurry — and were several hours long. In today's world, it's easy to forget about the importance of enjoying a leisurely feast with family and friends. The tradition of antipasto doesn't let you do that.
Yet traditions evolve and, these days, antipasto doesn't always precede a large meal; it is sometimes the meal itself. Antipasto lives on in its traditional form of appetite stimulant but also as a stand-alone meal. Just as salads have become the main event for many people, antipasto has become a main dish salad. Its basic components — cured meats, cheeses, fresh and marinated vegetables — remain the same.