It takes flair to organise the kind of easy Italian-style eating that is enjoyed at restaurants like The River Café in London. But when done right, the celebrated antipasti platter can turn even the most casual of gatherings into something special.
To do it the Italian way, the average weekend lunch or dinner needs to be treated as a marathon instead of a sprint. And with a spread as large as I was planning, pacing oneself would most definitely be required. Small plates, smaller bites and time shared leisurely among friends are what this way of eating is all about.
As in any spread of different eats, incorporating multiple ingredients means that each one has to hold its own among the others. Texture plays a role too, so be sure to combine elements of crunchy, creamy and chewy. For the latter try a Mediterranean-inspired addition of pickled octopus or keep it Italian with bocconcini (mini mozzarella balls). Wafer-thin Parma ham, salametti, bresaola and coppa cured meats make up the protein portion of the platter, while pickled artichokes, capers and black olives marinated in olive oil, chilli and garlic provide a distinctively acidic hit synonymous with any antipasto board. A creamy Gorgonzola or burrata cheese is a welcome addition – especially when spread liberally over a selection of water biscuits, crostini and fresh ciabatta.
bruschetta, seven ways
For speedy bruschetta, brush slices of ciabatta in garlic-infused olive oil and grill until slightly blackened at the edges. Rub a halved garlic clove across the toasts and top them off with variety of options:
- White anchovy fillets drizzled with garlicky olive oil, lemon juice and fresh Italian parsley.
- Olive tapenade, sliced cherry tomatoes, bocconcini and fresh basil.
- Ricotta cheese, wilted spinach and toasted pine nuts.
- Grilled zucchini, fresh red chilli, ricotta and dill.
- Gorgonzola, fresh figs and balsamic reduction.
- Sundried tomato pesto, salsiccia (Italian sausage) and burrata.
- Ricotta, salami and capers.
Finally, provide a selection of pesto and pickles to complement each aspect of the platter.
An authentic accompaniment to antipasti is the iconic aperitif Aperol spritz. Served short with a slice of orange and a glug of sparkling Prosecco, an Aperol spritz is the perfect party cocktail. Dream of sun-drenched shores, slow summer afternoons and striped bathing suits. It’s an Italian celebrazione at its finest!
- 3 parts Prosecco or dry sparkling wine
- 2 parts Aperol (available in all good liquor stores)
- 1 part sparkling water
- Slices of orange
Fill a tumbler with ice and pour over the Aperol, followed with the water and the wine. Garnish with a slice of orange and enjoy.