The first course in a formal Italian meal is the Antipasto. While many restaurants use the term to describe an Italian-inspired salad, the term more accurately translates to the concept of an "appetizer." Since it comes before the pasta course, it usually does not include pasta. Typically, it comprises of a platter of cured meats, cheese, and preserved or pickled items. A traditional antipasto platter probably has more in common with the French "Salad Nicoise" than it does with a salad.
Here in Rhode Island, we have a local Italian restaurant that serves what I consider to be the best antipasto. It may not be 100% authentic (it is served over a bed of lettuce), but it's darned-near close. It's this antipasto that I wanted to re-create for our Easter dinner.
My version stayed pretty true to the original, though I substituted or omitted a couple of things to suite our tastes. Here's what you see:
- A bed of romaine and iceberg lettuce (trust me--it's buried under there) along with cucumbers and shredded carrots
- Genoa Salami
- Red and Yellow Roasted Red Peppers
- White Albacore Tuna (dry)
- Vinegar Peppers
- Artichoke Hearts
- Green Olives
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Sliced Provolone Cheese
The traditional dressing for this is an Italian Vinaigrette. I chose this recipe, which is quite delicious. I also offered an option of a homemade raspberry vinaigrette made from the last jar of my homemade raspberry jam.
Needless to say, this salad was a hit. I highly recommend it for your next family gathering or, heck, maybe just as a complete lunch (you *can* make a smaller one and it's very filling).