Small plates of sunshine, we’ve got the ingredients and the recipes for amazing antipasti this summer.
Italy’s less fussy answer to French hors d’oeuvres, antipasti are the original appetisers, and these simply delicious simple dishes arguably work even more effectively than Mediterranean counterparts such as Spanish tapas or Turkish mezze by relying on the vibrant complement one or two fresh and preserved ingredients.
The term antipasto, first coined in the 16th century, refers to the first course of a traditional Italian meal and literally means ‘before the pasta’. Confected to stimulate the taste buds without filling the stomach, these mouth-watering small plates featuring myriad combinations of cured meats and fish, fresh fruits and herbs, rich cheeses and marinated vegetables are so vibrant in flavour its no surprise that they’ve become popular as a meal in themselves, and for many far beyond the borders of Italy, there’s nothing quite like antipasti for evoking the pleasure of alfresco dining on a balmy summer eve.
Aside from being a guaranteed crowd pleaser (it’s hard for even the fussiest diners not to find something to like in a generous antipasto platter), antipasto is also relatively easy to prepare, with the onus on careful presentation and assemblage of thoughtful combinations of quality ingredients, rather than technical culinary virtuosity. From grilled and preserved artichoke hearts to plump marinated caper berries, heirloom Italian cheeses such as Grana Padano and even whole boneless prosciutto, Maws provide a delectable array of antipasti ingredients. We’ve also decided to share some of our very favourite ways of using these quality ingredients to create truly memorable antipasti - the kind of dishes that make guests forgo the forthcoming pasta to mop up the juices with more rustic bread.
Grana Padano and Pear Carpaccio
One of Italy’s oldest and most celebrated hard cheeses, Grana Padano, is an alternative to the ubiquitous Parmigiano-Reggiano, and benefits from the rich pasture grazing found in the regions within northern Italy's Po Valley, where this cheese is exclusively produced.
4 yellow-skinned pears (such as Barlett)
120g Grana Padano shavings
½ a lemon
1.5 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
1.5 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Generous handful of rocket leaves (to serve)
Chervil sprigs and chopped chives (to serve)
• Wash pears without peeling, halve lengthways, core and slice very finely.
• Prepare the dressing in a small bowl: mix the oil, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar together, emulsify well and add a little salt.
• On a board or platter scatter a generous handful of rocket leaves, arrange finely slice pears across and squeeze over juice of half a lemon. Place generous shavings of Grana Padano on top and drizzle over dressing.
• Garnish with chervil sprigs and finely chopped chives
Maws supply cut Grana Padano sold per kg , 4-year aged Mazzeti balsamic vinegar sold per 50cl Olive,
Caper Berry and Roast Pepper Antipasti
The caper plant, Capparis Spinosa, is a Mediterranean bush, capers are the un-opened bud while caper berries are its fruit. They are both usually pickled in brine after harvesting, but by comparison capers berries offer a juicier, less salty and piquant flavour, and are therefore delicious eaten by themselves.
3 red peppers
680g (2 cups) quality mixed Italian olives (e.g. Cerignola, Castelvetrano, Nocellara)
340g (1 cup) drained capper berries
1 large garlic clove (finely sliced)
Zest of an orange
Sprig of fresh thyme
• Halve peppers lengthways, remove seeds and membrane, arrange cut-side down on a baking tray lined with parchment and place in an oven preheated to 200˚C for 25 minutes (or until peppers are evenly wrinkled and charred). Remove, allow to cool, peel skins and discard, then slice remaining flesh into generous strips.
• In a large bowl combine olives, caper berries, sliced pepper and orange zest and garlic.
• Mix well and transfer to a serving bowl before garnishing with sprinkled thyme leaves.
Maws supply caper berries in white wine vinegar per 1.65kg jar
Artichoke and Prosciutto Platter
200g (approx. 12 slices) prosciutto
3 whole grilled marinated artichokes
Small bunch fresh mint 170g ½ cup walnuts
• Cut artichoke hearts into quarters and arrange evenly on a large serving platter amongst slices of prosciutto.
• Toast walnuts in a hot dry pan for 5 minutes (or until they smell ‘toasted’). Allow to cool, then roughly crumble.
• Chop mint leaves roughly and sprinkle over artichokes and prosciutto along with the crumbled walnuts.
Maws supply grilled marinated artichokes in oil per 2.5kg jar