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Dish Of The Day: Antipasti

Dish of the day: antipasti

We've got a confession to make – picking antipasti as a dish of the day is cheating a bit. The beauty of Italian antipasti is that it's actually lots of little dishes, designed to get your taste buds going for the dining experience ahead. In fact, antipasti means 'before the meal' – and with hundreds of different dishes, the antipasti possibilities are endless.

An antipasti tour of Italy

Like pasta and bread, antipasti varies by region. Trek to northern Italy and you'll find an amazing selection of cured meats – like prosciutto, bresaola, salami and coppa de parma. However, in the south you'll find seafood starters instead. Think sardines, raw anchovies, and even marinated octopus.

Seasonal vegetables transcend the regions. Classic vegetarian antipasti usually includes olives, peppers, capers, mushrooms and artichoke hearts, all served up with warm and crusty ciabatta, and Jamie's Italian has antipasti that takes inspiration from all over Italy.

Shifting with the seasons

More than any other course in traditional Italian cuisine, antipasti adapts to the seasons. In the summer months, broad beans can be dressed with a splash of sharp lemon juice and drizzled with a good glug of olive oil and some finely chopped mint.

For something heartier on a chilly day, try arancini, a delicious risotto ball with a crispy breadcrumb coating.  Traditionally, they are served with a roasted tomato and pepper sauce, and you'll find arancini con salsa di pomodori arrostiti all over Italy.

Another favourite is gamberoni e calamari grigliati con mayonnaise al limone – griddled prawns and squid with chilli and lemon mayonnaise.  

The opening act

The Italian passion for food is inspiring. Recipes are passed down through generations. Colour and creativity are at the heart of their cooking.

Antipasti can look like a rainbow on your plate, and sometimes this fancy feast can prove too tempting. You'll want to pile up your plate with antipasti alone, try each of the five different cheeses in front of you, fill up on shiny almond-stuffed olives, and dive right into the sweet aubergine caponata spread over a piece of homemade rustic bread.

But if you're having a full Italian dinner, you'll have to restrain yourself. Antipasti is just the starter in a traditional five-course meal. The main event is yet to come.

Eat antipasti your way 

Fortunately, you don't have to show as much restraint if you're ordering in. This gourmet takeaway option saves on you trying to get multiple dishes ready at the same time – as well as the washing up. And some things just need that extra-special restaurant touch.

Jamie's Italian has a tantalising antipasti selection to give you a true taste of Italy.

Opt for the crispy squid fried with chilli, garlic and parsley and an aioli dipping sauce. Sweet pumpkin and squash bruschetta with lemony ricotta, seasonal greens and a sticky aged balsamic dressing. Fresh crab with crunchy fennel, smashed avocado, creamy yogurt and a kick of chilli.

 Or you could go for a classic antipasti board, and try a little bit of everything – like chargrilled vegetables marinated in garlic and herb oil, or crunchy Italian nachos. You don't even need to pace yourself, as this counts as a main meal all on its own if you eat enough. Eat antipasti the right way – your way.

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