No cooking? We’re in!

By Stacey Ballis
June 01, 2021
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The charcuterie board has certainly gotten its due of late, and over this past year people have discovered the joys of going all in on just cheese and cured meats for dinner. But for me, much as I love a great charcuterie feast, there is a way to have a grazing style supper that is just that little bit more satisfying, without losing any of the ease. And that is an anti-antipasto.

What is antipasto?

The traditional antipasto, Italian for "before the pasta," is the first course to a larger meal, and usually does involve both cheeses and cured meats, but also a variety of pickled items, composed salads, canned fishes, and vegetables in oil or vinegar dressings. Antipasti can also be used as a sort of tapas-style set of nibbles served with drinks at a small gathering in a bar before everyone departs for their own supper plans.

How to turn antipasto into dinner

For me, an anti-antipasto is a meal all on its own, not a precursor to a larger meal. While it still isn't any more complicated than setting up a charcuterie board, adding foods out of jars, cans, and tubs turns the spread into something a bit more complete and satisfying. You serve everything at room temp, so there's no fussy cooking or keeping things hot. And while you can choose to make some items from scratch, for me it is all about celebrating the shopping.

And it couldn't be easier to do!

Antipasto
Credit: Getty / alvarez

The best items for a dinner antipasto

First, raid the pantry: In my pantry I keep things like various jars of pickled vegetables, canned fish like white anchovies or smoked oysters, canned stuffed grape leaves, and spreads like artichoke spread or tomato chutney.

Next stop, the grocery store: In addition to whatever cheeses and salumi I have around, or pick up for the occasion, I will hit the olive bar at my local market for items like marinated artichoke hearts, a variety of olives, and other interesting, brined items.Then it is off to the prepared food counter to fill in with some other composed salads. Think of lighter items like calamari salad, cucumber salad, maybe some grilled vegetables that can be drizzled with olive oil. Finally, head over to the produce section to pick up some perfectly ripe tomatoes, fresh mushrooms, heads of fennel or endive, to bring some easy bright flavors and crunch to the party. Some crusty bread and crispy crackers and you have a feast fit for a principessa!

It is a meal that you shop instead of cook for, and assembly can be as fancy or simple as your heart desires. If I want that Italian flair, hit a local Italian market, but it is also fun to explore other markets and expand the offerings. You'll find amazing stuff at your local Middle Eastern, Indian, or Asian markets, so don't hesitate to explore.

The best part? Nearly any item left over from an antipasto dinner is perfect for some interesting sandwiches and salads for lunches for a few days.

Make antipasto the focus of your next dinner party

As much fun as it is to have this kind of meal full of many flavors just for your household, it is also a fabulous way to entertain, especially right now when we are all seriously out of practice. Just set up a buffet of all your delicious acquisitions and let your guests fill their plates as needed and think of it as an extended cocktail hour that needs no tablescapes or formal service. And antipasto style items are naturally light, making it an ideal way to entertain in spring and summer when you don't want a heavy dinner. So, get into the antipasto-for-dinner habit and see if it doesn't satisfy you just that bit better than your basic meat and cheese platter.