01 of 06
Starting the Meal: An Antipasto Misto
A festive Italian meal generally begins with a variety of appetizers, which are known as antipasti–literally, before the meal. These antipasti vary considerably from place to place in Italy, but they will often include a selection of pickles and other firm vegetables, which are known as an antipasto misto. In this platter–prepared by the Trattoria il Borgo, a restaurant Franciacorta's Azienda Villa (a fine winery with excellent bubbly) which recently opened in Monticelli Brusati, not far from Brescia–are pickled artichokes, stewed mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, pickled onions, and giardiniera, a vegetable medley.Continue to 2 of 6 below.
02 of 06
Carciofi Sott'Olio, Pickled Artichokes
Fresh artichokes are standard fare during the winter in Italy, play, an important role in pasta sauces, and make a fine main course (stuffed, usually) or a side dish.
Carciofi sott'olio–artichokes packed in oil–are instead popular year-round, and are among the standard elements of an antipasto misto. They're also nice on pizza, either in conjunction with ham, or in a Quattro Stagioni, a pizza with ham, artichoke hearts, prosciutto, mushrooms, and olives.Continue to 3 of 6 below.
03 of 06
Funghi Trifolati, Stewed Mushrooms
Italian cooking is above all seasonal, and you'll find that in the selection of vegetables that go into an antipasto misto too. This platter was prepared in the fall, during mushroom season, and funghi trifolati–stewed wild porcini–naturally find a place. In the spring you might find something else, like a couple of asparagus tips and a slice of hard-boiled egg.Continue to 4 of 6 below.
04 of 06
Pomodori Secchi, Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Sun-dried tomatoes are more of a southern thing in Italy, in part because the southern climate is more conducive to growing tomatoes, and in part, because the tremendous volume of tomatoes produced in the south leads naturally to drying some of them. Southerners, therefore, do more with sun-dried tomatoes than northerners do–they put them in pasta sauces, for example, or add them to dishes to provide flavor.
In the north, on the other hand, they're primarily used as antipasti and are very nice to nibble on.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
Cipolline Sotto Aceto, Pickled Button Onions
Pickled button onions are extremely versatile. They add depth and zest to a platter of mixed antipasti and are also a perfect accompaniment to blander foods like the boiled meats one obtains if one makes broth at home or boiled vegetables. You can also use them (sliced in half, perhaps) as a garnish with other dishes, for example, boiled or roast fish.Continue to 6 of 6 below.
06 of 06
Giardiniera, a Pickled Vegetable Medley
Giardiniera, a mixture of pickled vegetables, is the one element you can be certain of finding in an antipasto misto. The vegetables involved will depend upon the tastes of the person who prepared the giardiniera but will consist of vegetables that remain firm when pickled like carrots, onions, celery, cauliflower florets, and baby cucumbers.