An antipasti platter is your culinary canvas. Lay out a couple of your favorite Italian cheeses and salumi (cured meats) that pair well together. Add some veggies for color. Olives maybe? And what about some taralli scattered all around?
A feast for the eyes but more importantly an icebreaker for those around your table. A little prosecco doesn’t hurt to get the conversations flowing. Let their eyes feast on your canvas for a short while.
It’s a set-up. The antipasti course is an important beginning to a leisurely 4-course Italian meal. Wake up the taste buds with a little something. A variety of tastes preview what’s to follow.
The one I made is a classic from my days in Jersey. Some variation of that platter started every holiday meal.
No time? Get everything you need at an Italian deli or well-stocked market. Then you just have to paint your canvas.
But if you want to add something homemade, make my quick olives marinated with orange, oregano and chili flakes. My roasted peppers are always a favorite. Invest a little more time and make my homemade giardiniera, still crunchy pickled vegetables.
Warning! Don’t fill up on the antipasti. You got a soup, pasta or risotto coming followed by the main course and dessert. Depending on who’s at my table sometimes I make individual plates for everybody so nobody eats too much right away.
This is getting to be a habit. Another gathering of friends and another request to bring an appetizer. “No meat and no cheese please, and make sure the appetizer is “finger food.” OK, I’ll take the challenge.
I’ve been thinking about these stuffed pepper roll-ups and they fit the bill.
Roast yellow and red peppers right atop the flame on your stove or in the oven. Clean the roasted peppers and cut them into wide strips. Whip up imported Italian tuna packed in olive oil with chopped anchovy and capers, stuff the pepper strips and you’re done. If you don’t want to roast your own peppers, use store-bought roasted peppers in a jar. You’ll be done even faster and they’re almost as good.
Oh, I forgot the “finger food” part. Just cut each pepper roll in half and add a toothpick. You’re all set. No fork needed. Usually I serve the whole pepper roll-up as part of my antipasti platter. I always have forks on my table.
The meaty, sweet peppers are a mellow wrapper for the zesty tuna stuffing. I always eat more than one.
The tuna stuffing makes a fantastic panino or use it as a crostini topping too.
Tuna Stuffed Fire Roasted Pepper Roll-Ups (Peperoni Ripieni con Tonno)
Meaty, sweet fire-roasted peppers with a zesty tuna stuffing.
Recipe type: Appetiser
2 red bell peppers
2 yellow bell peppers
2 6-ounce imported Italian tuna packed in olive oil, drained
2 tablespoons EVOO
2 anchovy filets, chopped
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mayonaise
1 tablespoon fresh Italian flat parsley, chopped and more for garnish
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
You can roast the peppers on the top of a gas stove or under the boiler.
If using the stove top method, place a pepper directly over the gas flame until the skin is wrinkled and slightly charred all over. (I use all my 4 burners and char at least 4 peppers at a time and use long tongs to turn the peppers to char them evenly.)
Or, place the peppers on a baking sheet and under the broiler on the high setting, place the peppers on the top shelf under the broiler. Turn the peppers until their skins are wrinkled all over and slightly charred.
Put the blackened peppers in a paper bag or on a plate covered with a bowl. Set the charred peppers aside to cool.
When cool enough to handle, rub the charred skin off with your hands.
Cut the pepper in half lengthwise and remove the stem, core and seeds.
Cut off the top and bottom to even off the pepper and lay out the pepper flat on a work surface. Use a knife to scrape off any skin or seeds that you missed.
Cut the half pepper in half again. You want strips about 2-inches wide.
Set the pepper strips aside while you make the filling.
Put the tuna in a bowl. Break the tuna into very small pieces.
Add the EVOO, anchovy, capers, parsley, vinegar, mayonaise and mustard to the bowl and mix well with the tuna. The mixture should be whipped almost into a paste consistency.
Try the stuffing and add salt and ground pepper to taste. Mix well.
Lay the pepper strip flat inside facing up and put a tablespoon of the tuna stuffing at one end.
Tightly roll up the pepper strip.
Place the pepper roll-ups on a serving platter. Drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle the chopped parsley evenly over the rolls. (If you serve this as finger food, omit the EVOO drizzle, cut the roll in half and insert a toothpick to hold the roll together.)
The other night my Emerald Tablet friends and I put together a tasty family-style dinner at North Beach’s Vicoletto, the Calabrian restaurant on Green. We were talking about a Gianni’s North Beach cooking demonstration and tasting at their gallery and creative learning space. They don’t have a full kitchen so it would be a challenge.
Then it hit me. When I’m in Bologna I always stop at least once in at an enoteca (wine bar} for a plate of assorted Italian cured meats and cheeses. Your group huddles around a high table and nibbles on a plate full of distinctive tastes and textures. I pair Prosecco or a sparkling rose with this spuntino (little snack) that will tide us over until dinner much later in the evening.
We decided it would be fun to make believe we’re in Emilia-Romagna. We could host a salumi and cheese tasting with wine pairings at the gallery. I’ll source all of the meats, cheeses and wines right here in North Beach and demonstrate how to make some of my antipasti treats.
I’m excited about Bay Area artisan salumi and cheeses. We’ll taste the best of Italia and America. Will the local products stand up to their Italian cousins? Gianni’s North Beach most popular antipasti treats–vinegar peppers, giardiniera, and celery mostarda (chutney) pictured above–or other Gianni goodies will be on the antipasti platter. Maybe I’ll make my toy-box tomato focaccia too.
Learn where to buy the best in the Village. See how easy it is to put together a spectacular antipasti platter at home for a cocktail party or as the first-course for a home-cooked meal. Watch me make a few of my most popular antipasti dishes and take some with you to enjoy at home. Once you’ve tasted them, with my easy recipes you’ll be able to make them for yourself.
Let me know if this is an event that you’d attend. If there’s enough interest we’ll set a date at North Beach’s Emerald Tablet. As a bonus you’ll see the restored Song of Pulcinella mural there.