Antipasto is one of my favorite holiday appetizers. It’s a really easy crowd pleasing dish, since you can really pick and choose what you put in it and make it your own.
If you’ve never made antipasto before here are some things to know before you get started:
- It’s not a cheap dish. Even if you make a small antipasto, buying all of the cold cuts and toppings can really add up. The cost varies though depending on what you put in it.
- It’s messy. (Especially when you have to keep stopping to wash your hands and touch the camera! 😂) If oily hands will bother you keep a wet towel nearby.
- It takes more skill than you probably think. Good antipasto shouldn’t be soggy, and if you want the dish to be a literal piece of art (hi!) it’s a lot more than just throwing some toppings on top of lettuce.
If you want to add hard boiled eggs in antipasto, be sure to boil them and chill them ahead of time. I recommend boiling the eggs the day before and so you have them chilled and ready to go when you make the antipasto.
I use aluminium trays for my antipasto, especially if it’s traveling to someone else’s house for a holiday because it’s easier to not have another bowl to wash or worry about getting back. But you can obviously serve this in whatever kind of container you like.
Here’s everything you need to start! (Okay the wine may not be necessary…)
- tuna in olive oil (NOT water or vegetable oil)
- hard boiled eggs
- stuffed cherry peppers
- roasted peppers
- fried peppers
- artichoke hearts
- marinated mushrooms
- oil cured olives
- mozzarella cheese
- prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella
- Genoa salami
- Freshly grated romano cheese
*Note: I didn’t include measurements in the ingredients list because it really depends on which toppings your family likes most and how large of an antipasto you’re making. For up to 8-10 people one jar of each topping is likely plenty. The antipasto in this post has one jar of each topping and 1/4-1/2 lb. of each cold cut (with one package of prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella already prepared from the deli).
Start with lettuce! Fill the tray with lettuce–it’s okay if it seems like you’re taking up all the space with lettuce. Everything you put on top of it is going to weigh it down so it should still all fit. And I think one of the easiest ways to mess up antipasto is to not have enough lettuce, it forms a base for the rest of it and helps once you start adding the more oily toppings.
Add tuna next. Drain the oil from the can and spread the tuna in an even layer over the lettuce. Make sure the tuna you’re using is in olive oil, not water.
I add about 1/3 of the package of tomatoes next. (If you prefer to use larger tomatoes and cut them that works too!). I have more than one “layer” of tomatoes in my antipasto because everyone typically eats them where there are other toppings that aren’t for everyone.
I cut the hard boiled eggs in half and place them evenly in the lettuce in the corners of the tray. (If I’m making antipasto for more people who eat the eggs, I would use more eggs and arrange them evenly around the edge of the tray.)
Now I start getting into the different kinds of peppers and all of the more oily toppings, which means it’s important to shake some of the oil off as you’re pulling these toppings out of the drawers. Don’t fully dry them, because the oil adds a lot of flavor–you just don’t want the lettuce to get saturated and soggy.
Roasted peppers and artichoke hearts are next. I try to use the “flatter” toppings towards the bottom of the dish so the more oddly shaped toppings (like mushrooms, cold cuts, etc…) can be arranged last on top.
Fried peppers are always a favorite in my family, so I add lots of those! If there is any one topping that I know most people will like, I’ll cover the whole tray with it instead of spreading it out (don’t forget if you do this it’s really important to shake off some of the oil!).
Peperoncini is another favorite in my family, but since the shape of them isn’t flat (like roasted peppers and artichoke hearts) I fill in spaces where the antipasto needs to be evened out so far and save the rest for the top layers.
Next up: marinated mushrooms, again not the whole jar because I like to save some to decorate and fill in gaps on the top layers.
This is where I would start the top layer. To create the design of the antipasto, I place a stuffed cherry pepper in the middle so everything else in the top layers can be laid out from there.
Olives and cheese are next, and I spread them over the whole antipasto to put them on the same layer as the stuffed pepper. (Oil cured olives are a must, but use whatever cheese you like! I use mozzarella and sometimes I sprinkle romano over the top of the dish before it’s served.)
Almost done! Now it’s time to start piling on the cold cuts. To keep the shape I’m going for I roll the cold cuts and try to keep them even with the stuffed pepper.
Prosciutto sometimes breaks apart easily, if that’s the case just keep rolling it as best you can. You won’t be able to tell once it’s all put together.
As you add the cold cuts, if you notice they’re not all laid out evenly this is when I would use the extra toppings to fill in spaces.
When I have enough cold cuts that the top of the dish is covered in a single layer of cold cuts, I start the next layer. To make the cold cuts still even with the stuffed pepper in the middle I wrap it in peperoncini.
I start the last layer of cold cuts with prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella. If the cold cuts before this step are all even, these should now sit higher than the stuffed pepper–add another stuffed pepper right on top of the first one to make the pepper in the center of the dish higher than the cold cuts.
Fill the gaps between the prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella and the other cold cuts with the remaining toppings of your choice. For me this is usually, peperoncini, olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, and mozzarella.
Take a couple of the stuffed cherry peppers and wedge them into lower layers where you see gaps, and that’s it!
I always serve my antipasto with NewBridge dressing (aka the best Italian dressing IMO). If you’re in Massachusetts you can look up where to buy it here. If not, you can find a great copycat recipe for it from A Family Feast here.
You shouldn’t make antipasto more than a couple of hours ahead of when it will be served. Take it out of the fridge about 45 min.-an hour before you plan on serving it so it can get to room temperature. Top if with freshly grated romano cheese if you like or add anchovies on the side and enjoy!