Savory Whole Foods for Antipasto

Your imagination is really the only limitation when it comes to the combinations of whole foods that your antipasto plate can feature.
Your imagination is really the only limitation when it comes to the combinations of whole foods that your antipasto plate can feature.

Few culinary traditions are as enduring, or delicious, as the antipasto plate. For the picky eater, you've got nice variety to choose from. For the gourmand, you've got a tongue-tingling mix of flavors and textures to get your salivary glands watering. The antipasto dish is literally an invitation to dine -- an appetizer to put you in the correct frame of mind (and appetite) for the main meal that follows.

Considered quintessential Italian fare, these popular before-the-meal dishes are even more flavorful, and better for you, when created with whole foods. According to's Christina Scannapiego, whole foods aren't necessarily organic foods, but instead are "unprocessed, unrefined, with the ability to be eaten without additives or modification in their natural state -- and therefore more nutritionally packed." They can include meats and fish, provided they are free of additives and preservatives, as well as brightly colored vegetables, fruits and cheeses. In other words: the fresher, the better. Look for local ingredients, or merchants at local markets that you trust.


As an added bonus, the antipasto plate is relatively easy to put together if you keep a few simple rules in mind. For a basic starter plate, the experts at Whole Foods Market suggest a mix of marinated vegetables -- such as artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, olives and pickled garlic -- supplemented by natural deli meats, thick, hearty breads, robust cheeses and even a smattering of seafood. (This explains why antipasto dishes also make for great snacking fare.)

If all that seems a bit much, the Whole Food Market experts recommend narrowing your choices to three main ingredients. Experiment, and see what works well together. A few suggestions include combining jarred, roasted red and yellow peppers, garlic hummus and pita bread, marinated artichoke hearts served with water crackers and Camembert cheese, shaved prosciutto with fresh cantaloupe chunks and a bowl of mixed nuts, or toasted focaccia bread with sardines and sweet onions. Again, keep it simple (you don't want your antipasto dish overwhelming the main course), and expand your dishes one ingredient at a time.

Once you're mastered the basics, though, it's time to raise the antipasto ante.


Take Your Antipasto to the Next Level

The easiest way to spruce up your antipasto plate is to introduce matching wines. Not just one, mind you, but a nice assortment to compliment the many flavors, and especially the cheeses and meats that you've assembled. Though whites (particularly a clean, crisp Italian white) might seem the best bet, you can also experiment with champagnes, blush wines and even light reds. Can't-miss choices include a Pinot Grigio (for white), or Sangiovese, the grape used for the red Chianti Classico.

On the food side, your imagination is really the only limitation when it comes to the combinations of whole foods that your antipasto plate can feature. Again, this dish is still an appetizer, and you want it to complement -- and not compete with -- your main meal. That said, the idea of an appetizer is to "set the table," and you want to have fun with it. Blend big, bold flavors with more subtle, sprightly tastes.


The Whole Food Market experts again remind budding and experienced chefs alike to keep the plate's overall appearance in mind when blending aromas, colors and flavors. You can even create themed antipasto plates, such as vegetarian or meat-lovers variations. Some examples include a fresh-fruit-and-nuts plate that offers chunks of fresh cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon alongside natural deli meats, and then add toasted walnuts and salted pistachios, or a roasted-vegetables-with-cheese platter that pairs roasted vegetables -- such as eggplant, beets, bell peppers, zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, asparagus, onions and garlic -- with tangy cheeses like feta, Gruyère or aged Manchego.

Even top culinarians love the idea of antipasto. Renowned chef Emeril Lagasse suggests combining a head of roasted garlic, portabello mushrooms (grilled and marinated in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and basil) and eggplant -- sliced one-fourth of an inch (6.35 millimeters) thick and drizzled with olive oil -- to create a "less filling" plate. For one with more robust flavor, try combining asparagus (grilled and marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and thyme), buffalo mozzarella, Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese, and picholine and Gaeta olives, says Emeril.

For an antipasto plate that seems more like a meal, consider this hearty rendition offered up by Rachel Ray of the Food Network. Ray's plate boasts smoked or plain fresh mozzarella, sweet and hot deli-sliced sopressata, Genoa salami, sharp provolone, large olives, giardiniera hot pickled-vegetable salad, marinated artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers. Hard to believe anyone would have any room left for the main course!


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • De Laurentiis, Giada. "Antipasti Platter." Food Network. (Oct. 6, 2012)
  • Lagasse, Emeril. "Emeril's Antipasta Platters." Food Network. (Oct. 6, 2012)
  • Martin, Brett. "The Antipasto Challenge." Food & Wine. October 2000. (Oct. 6, 2012)
  • Ray, Rachel. "Antipasto Platter." Food Network. (Oct. 7, 2012)
  • Scannapiego, Christina. "What Are Whole Foods?" (Oct. 6, 2012)
  • Swanson, Marissa. "The Best Finger Food Appetizers." (Oct. 7, 2012)
  • Whole Foods Market. "The Perfect Antipasto Plate." Whole Foods Market. (Oct. 7, 2012)