We can all take a page from the typical Italian family’s book. They eat slowly, savoring their food. Extended meal times are extremely upbeat and social. This must be why they are so close-knit. They get to bond with their famiglia, amicos, and amicas.
Actually, we don’t blame them one bit, with so many delicious Antipasti to choose from, we would also eat more for much longer! All their recipes are so deliciously moreish!
What are Antipasti?
Ciao! Before we unpack the antipasti, let’s first say it right:
Antipasti. This refers to the appetizers in their singular form and generally yields one portion.
Antipasta. Referring to the plural form of the appetizers, meaning more than one portion as well.
Antipasto. Basta! If you feel like receiving a tongue-lashing from an Italian nonna, you would dare to be cheeky enough to use this word. Proceed on the side of caution, because this word does not exist in the Italian lexicon.
In a formal Italian meal structure, antipasti meaning hors d’ oeuvre or “between the meal”, are the second course served on the menu. It is slightly more dense than the meal opener, aperitivo. Traditionally, it consists of an array of cold foods such as cured meats (prosciutto, salami, etc), a selection of cheeses, different homemade bread types, vegetables, seafood, and olives. These finger foods are served on a wooden antipasti platter known as a charcuterie.
Some antipasto platters include nuts like almonds and fruit (such as figs) for a more rounded platter.
Contrary to western beliefs, Italians do not dip their bread in olive oil. The correct table etiquette to practice is by taking a slice of bread and drizzling the oil on top of the bread. If you are feeling fancy, this is called a fettunta. Fettunta is derived from two words fetta (slice), and unta (oily). Ergo, you are eating an “oily slice”.
Another myth that can be called BS upon, is that Italians do not make salad dressings from balsamic vinegar. No sirree! They only use red wine vinegar. You are welcome!
Top 10 Favorite Antipasti
We have scoured the internet in search of the 10 most popular Italian antipasti. Our results have yielded the following:
Caprese. The antipasto salad of choice. Why? Because it pays tribute to the three colors represented on the proud Italian flag. Slices of mozzarella, basil, and juicy, red tomatoes, married together in a colorful tri-sandwich.
Carpaccio. This dish was first presented to Countess Amalia Nani Moncenigo by Guiseppe Cipriani, on recommendation from her doctor that she has to consume raw meat. Thin, slices of raw beef, zested with lemon juice, olive oil, and slivers of white truffle.
Many other variants exist today. In South Africa for example, a popular spin-off is taking game meat, such as Springbok and serving it with parmesan shavings, and drizzles of balsamic vinaigrette.
Crostini. Slices of grilled or toasted homemade bread. Which are then topped with a melange of different toppings. Some well-known combinations include shears of radish, cheese, and wholegrain mustard, or fresh kalamata olives, cheese, and cocktail tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil to round it off.
Fritto Misto. A delicious motley of ingredients, all deep-fried. The recipes are unique to each region in Italy. Residents living coast-side make use of products such as shrimps, squid, and paranza (small fish types) and medleys of vegetables and cheeses to concoct this delicious Italian antipasta.
Marinated olives. A mix of both black and green olives, infused with a range of different aromatics, tossed in olive oil. Serve at room temperature.
Melanzane. Referred to as dishes made with eggplant or aubergine. This is a popular vegetable type, can be used in many different dishes, both at home, and restaurants.
Pizzette. Mini-pizzas. The combinations that can be added on this little dough cake, are as limitless as your imagination.
Polpette. All Italian bambinos and bambinas favor this dish. Small balls of ground meat, parsley, eggs, garlic, mortadella (Italian sausage), and in some instances Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan).
Prosciutto Crudo. A sweet and delicate dry-cured ham. When going shopping, make a mental note to ask the deli manager, how long it has been dry-cured for. Your minimum benchmark is at least 8 months, but the better the longer.
Vegetables. Many different, fresh seasonal vegetables can be prevalent on the Italian appetizer menu. They can be presented raw, cured, or fried. Fennel is one well-loved vegetable and is preserved, before making its way onto the antipasti platter.
We have decided to share three of the easiest Italian appetizer recipes for you to try at home:
Prosciutto Crudo & Leek Involtini
Using the raw, but a safe version of this delicate and sweet dry-cured ham, you can concoct the following recipe:
1 Large Leek
150ml of Milk
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons of All-purpose Flour
12 Slices of Prosciutto Crudo
1 Tablespoon of Butter
¼ Cup of Grated Parmesan Cheese
⅔ Tablespoons of Chopped Chives
Ground Nutmeg to taste
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
- Separate the hard, outer layers of the leek. Portion the leek into ¾ round slices. Rinse off with a water and salt solution. Shake off the excess water.
- In a pan, heat up the olive oil and fry the leek slices for 5 minutes. You are looking for a soft consistency, but be mindful that the vegetable should not become mushy. Stirring regularly with a wooden spoon will break the leek into thin, little ribbons.
- Remove the pan from the heat, and season the leek ribbons with salt and pepper. Allow them to cool.
- Get started on the bechamel sauce, by adding the butter and flour to a non-stick pan, over low heat. Stir until a thick gummy texture forms. Next, add the milk and turn up the heat to medium. Stir continuously, until it thickens.
- Combine a pinch of nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon of salt, and continue stirring. When the bechamel sauce has thickened, turn down the heat, and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
- Stir in the leek and cheese into the bechamel mixture.
- Prepare the prosciutto crudo slices, by laying them out on a flat board. Leave some space in between the slices.
- Scoop a tablespoon of the mixture in the pan onto each prosciutto crudo slice. Add a sprinkle of the chopped chives, and proceed in rolling this into an involtini.
- Arrange it in a nice tower or pyramid on a platter and garnish with the remaining chives. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.
Whitebait with Dill Mayonnaise
Ready in as little as 15 minutes.
2 Teaspoons of Fennel seeds
2 Tablespoons of Mayonnaise
250 ml of Olive Oil
50 grams of All-purpose Flour
450 grams of Whitebait
Fish spice to taste
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
- Bring the olive oil to heat in a pan or a deep fryer.
- Add the flour into a mixing bowl. Crush the fennel seeds, and add this to the flour. Season to taste with the fish spice, salt, and pepper.
- Divide the whitebait fish into small batches. Take turns in coating the fish in the flour mixture and then frying it until golden brown in color. Drain the crispy whitebait on kitchen towels or brown paper.
- Chop the fresh dill, combine with the mayonnaise, and add lemon and seasoning to taste.
- Add the fish onto a serving platter, add the dill-mayonnaise dip in a bowl, and garnish with cheeks of lemon.
A delicious dip to accompany any Italian antipasti platter.
1 Garlic clove
1 Small, fresh green chili
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- Preheat the oven to 180℃.
- With a fork, poke gently stab the eggplant a few times all over. Place this in a baking tray, into the oven.
- Oven roast for 45 minutes or until the eggplant starts to blacken and appear to collapse. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- Peel the garlic clove, crush with the palm of your hand, using a blunt knife. Deseed and finely chop the green chili, and wash and chop the parsley.
- In a food processor or blender, combine the garlic, chili, olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Hollow out the flesh inside the eggplant, that has now cooled off, and also add this into the blender. Blitz together and taste continuous until it suits the taste buds.
- Dish in a dipping bowl, and serve with a selection of Italian flatbreads.
The final say
Our challenge this week to you is to take time out of your busy schedule, tune into a classical music station via the radio, and indulge in some family or couple time. Add a delicious Italian antipasti platter into the mix, and finish it off with wine pairings such as Lambrusco, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, or a bottle of your favorite Sauvignon Blanc. Buon Appetito!
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