Learning how to make an antipasto platter full of Italian foods is easy to do. The beauty of making your own Italian platter full of appetizers is that there is room for flexibility on ingredients and presentation.
Whether for a dinner party, the holidays, or other special occasion, this delicious platter will be a hit. Follow along and I’ll step you through the creation process so you can build your own Italian antipasto tray in confidence!
Anti in Italian means before. So antipasto is a collection of various Italian appetizers used as the first course of an Italian meal. By placing them all on a platter, we call it an antipasto platter.
These Italian platters can be as creative or as simple as you want. My recipe follows what most traditional antipasto platters include:
- various cured meats
- vegetables and fruit
But to make your own platter takes a little prep and planning. Don’t worry, I’ve written the whole creation process out just like a recipe. I’ll be giving you all the information you need to create your own platter full of delicious Italian appetizers.
Antipasto Platter Basics
Here are some food ideas that are generally the core of any Italian antipasto tray. Pick and choose which ones you want to include, or follow my recipe in the recipe card for specific products and selections.
Here are some common Italian cheeses that are used in antipasto trays.
- Romano Pecorino
Meats to include
Here are a variety of meats that should be available at your local grocery store or Italian deli. These deli meats can also be bought online through Amazon. I’ve included links below.
Fresh fruits and Vegetables
The Italians love their fruits and veggies and some are often stuffed with cheeses such as ricotta. Here is a sampling of some fruits and vegetables you can use. Some of these, not all, are used in my own recipe.
- Artichoke hearts (very popular!)
- Figs (Fresh or fried)
- Cherry peppers
- Red peppers (fresh and roasted)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Sliced apples
Ways to Create an Italian Antipasto Platter
Like many of my Italian recipes, we use what we can and modify ingredients to suit personal tastes. Let me make it clear, you certainly don’t have to be Italian to make an out-of-this-world Italian platter!
There are two methods for making a good antipasto platter. I’ll quickly explain each.
PRO TIP: If you’re on a tight budget, plan ahead and buy items early to spread out the budget.
Method One: Make all your antipasto items from scratch
For the Italian food enthusiast, making everything from scratch may seem like the only way to prepare such a dish. For example, stuffing your own olives, dates, cherry peppers, etc.
However, making and prepping everything yourself requires more time and planning.
On the other hand, making and prepping your antipasto yourself lets you have more control over quality and freshness.
Method Two (preferred): Buy individual items already prepped
I’m not saying to go buy a prepared antipasto tray at the store and place it on your serving table.
But what I am saying is to look for ingredients that are already prepared. This will save you time and energy. This is the method I use for my custom antipasto platter recipe, and it works every time.
What Goes on an Antipasto Platter
Here are the steps for how to make the best antipasto platter everyone will love. ❤️
Variety of meats
Write out what meats you want to include. When shopping, look for variety packs which may be more cost-effective.
PRO TIP: If you are concerned about availability, talk to the butcher or deli manager at the store. They may be able to reserve your choices and set them aside with your name on them. That way, you’ll be sure the items are there for you. This is most useful when hosting a very large party during the holidays!
Here are many commonly used sliced meats you can choose from below. Some come in variety packs. You can also order these through Amazon. I’ve included the links below.
- Genoa Salami
- Calabrese Salami (more spicy than regular salami)
You can also include hard cured meats as well. These you can certainly buy further in advance than the thinly sliced versions in the deli. You can buy them on Amazon which is where I tend to buy mine when I’m really wanting a good stick of salami!
Italians love their cheeses just like we do! One of my favorites is mozzarella cheese, but you have to get the ones labeled “fresh”.
- Fresh mozzarella – Look for mozzarella balls or pearls packed in water.
- Small “fresh” mozzarella sticks pre-wrapped. These are party tray sizes and are prewrapped with sliced meats. This is a huge time saver when building your antipasto platter.
While mozzarella is certainly a signature items for Italian trays, you can also include other Italian cheeses.
- Provolone – if you buy it sliced you can roll them or wrap them around another ingredient. Be creative!
- Romano Pecorino or Parmesan Reggiano – These are hard cheeses and if you serve them, I’d recommend doing so in thin slices or small cubes (they’ll crumble).
- Fontina cheese – this is a soft cheese and goes great with crackers!
These are all fresh cheeses, so you’ll want to keep them refrigerated and not let them sit out until you are ready to serve. You can also use the soft cheeses to stuff any vegetables such as the sweet cherry peppers, pepperoncini or large olives; you can even stuff some dates!
Remember, cheeses like American cheese, cheddar cheese, or Brie are NOT Italian cheeses. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a place at the serving table (I LOVE Brie!!), but they don’t belong in your Italian… and I repeat Italian antipasto platter. 😊
Tips for adding olives to your Italian platter:
- Offer a mix. Buy a jar of mixed Italian or Mediterranean olives.
- Buy pitted olives. I’m paranoid of anyone accidentally choking on a pit, so I always use pitted. Plus, unless your guests know how to gracefully spit out the pits, it might be a rather awkward moment.
- Italian marinated dried black olives. If you can find the marinated Italian black olives, go for it! You can buy them on Amazon here. Not everyone likes them, but if anyone does they’ll be sure to thank you as they are a real treat as they are hard to find in the stores.
- Marinated vs. packed in brine. Keep in mind that anything marinated is going to be very oily even if you give it a rinse. Make sure to also provide proper serving utensils for your oily olives b/c oily olives means oily fingers and plates. I always buy my olives in water.
- Stuffed olives with cheese or other items. You can buy these also online or get them locally. There are multiple options such as stuffed with cheese, garlic, onions, etc.
Variety of peppers
The three types of peppers included in my tray are roasted red peppers, sweet cherry peppers, and pepperoncini.
The pepperoncini were pre stuffed from the store, which is a huge time saver.
- Roasted red peppers can be purchased in jars and I recommend going this route. Trying to roast them yourself takes too much time unless you are really wanting a truly authentic homemade antipasto platter!
- Sweet cherry peppers can be purchased stuffed or unstuffed. I like to buy them unstuffed and stuff them manually using ricotta or mozzarella balls. Either way is fine.
- Pepperoncini can also be included on a tray as stuffed or not.
If you can find marinated mushrooms, great! Some of my images don’t include any as I can’t always find them at the store. Don’t let the mushrooms throw you off; include them if you can. You can also make your own using my Italian marinated mushrooms recipe.
These are sold in cans or jars. I buy mine from Aldi and look for the ones packed in water, not oil. Slice them in half lengthwise making them easier to eat and easier to prepare and serve.
Fresh fruit and vegetables
The fruit I use in my tray is simply fresh grapes, but here are some additional ideas to place in various areas or even in separate small bowls.
- Fresh grapes
- Dates (stuffed or plain)
- Olives (already mentioned above)
- Fresh Figs
- Marinated tomatoes – okay for this I recommend marinating your tomatoes. Use cherry tomatoes or a meaty tomato like Roma or San Marzanos. Chop them up and place in a bowl near or on the tray.
Antipasto Recipe Ingredients
Here are the various items I used to put on my Italian platter. 😊 Remember, you can be flexible with the ingredients. Use this as a starting point.
You can order most of these items at stores like BJ’s, Costco and Sam’s Club. Some you can order on Amazon and I’ve provided links below to help.
Food to buy for your platter
- Variety pack of thinly sliced Italian meats (12 oz package)
- Variety pack of pre wrapped mozzarella sticks in pepperoni, prosciutto, and salami (buy these at your local grocery or wholesale club)
- Variety pack of marinated vegetables (unstuffed red sweet cherry peppers, mushrooms, stuffed olives, stuffed pepperoncini)
- Marinated or non-marinated fresh mozzarella balls (buy these locally)
- Jar of cherry peppers stuffed with prosciutto & provolone (24 oz)
- Whole pitted kalamata olives non-marinated or marinated
- Jar of roasted red peppers
- Jar of non-marinated artichoke hearts
- Fresh grapes (purchase locally)
You can choose to expand on this list or simplify it down if you prefer.
PRO TIP: Many marinated vegetables are very oily and that oil, trust me, is not quality Italian olive oil. Don’t be shy to remove some of the oil or marinate the vegetables yourself.
Steps to Make an Antipasto Platter
Now you know what ingredients to use for making the perfect antipasto platter. Follow these steps to create your delicious display.
Choose a large platter or tray
Trays and bowls can be of any shape or style. You can use a wooden cutting board, antipasto board, or very large plate can be used. I used a large serving platter that I bought from a Dollar General store for 2 dollars.
A tray using my recipe will serve about 16 people. Adjust quantities as needed.
For a high-end event don’t do that for your Italian antipasto platter. Instead, try to use a beautiful silver tray or glass tray, something that doesn’t yell “budget-friendly” to your guests.
Lay your first layer on the platter
Before you start placing everything down, you need to first create a bottom border.
The first antipasto trays I made, I had so much sliced salami and other meats on hand that I used them as a nice red border on the edge of the platter, underneath the other ingredients. I’ve come to do this now for each tray I make.
You can also place rows of fresh lettuce for the contrasting green (which is nice until it wilts).
Create a centerpiece to your platter
In the center of your platter, place one or more small bowls. Fill the bowls with olives, mushrooms, and/or mozzarella balls.
Using bowls in your antipasto platter is a great way to keep the olives and other round items from rolling off the tray. Although you can also add a few here and there, wedged between the other finger foods to give it some extra texture and depth.
Place your Italian food items on the tray
Your tray is going to consist primarily of red from the meats, green from the peppers and olives, and brown/tan from the mushrooms and artichokes. Oh yes, and white from the cheese.
Here are some tips for building your antipasto platter.
- Section out the tray with the ingredients and place the more colorful ingredients in various areas where it may be too solid of a single color.
- Remember that red and green are complimentary colors, so make sure to put the green olives next to some of the red salami.
- Likewise place the bright red cherry peppers strategically next to the brown colored artichokes to brighten them up, as you’ll see on one of my trays below.
- Alternate and break up the rolled meats so there is color on either side of the platter.
When creating the sections on your appetizer platter, you’ll need to stack the food items so they all fit. This includes stacking the artichokes and roasted red pepper strips. You’ll find that this adds more depth to the presentation too.
PRO TIP: When I ran out of the wrapped mozzarella, I used some of the sliced meats to wrap the roasted red pepper strips I had cut them up from my purchased jar of roasted red pepper. It is a clever way to make these wet and slippery peppers stand a chance of not sliding off the platter!
How to Serve an Antipasto Tray
Always serve your antipasto at room temperature. If you prepared the whole platter in advance, then take it out in time for it to warm up a bit.
Complimentary food and drinks
Although your amazing antipasto platter is already loaded with delicious Italian appetizers, make sure to serve complimentary foods such as fresh artisan breads, crackers, and wine. For the wine, include a small variety for people who like red or white wines. I’d recommend a semi-sweet wine.
Place your tray out on a table or counter before the main meal when people are mingling around. Place some napkins, small plates, forks, toothpicks, and small spoons nearby.
For those who don’t drink alcohol, here are some beverage ideas to offer.
- Non-alcoholic wines
- Sparkling cider
- Sparkling water
- Lemonade or water with lime
Where to Find Food Items
For my tray in my recipe and images, I got most of my items at BJ’s and had some existing jars of the items already in my pantry. I bought the remaining ingredients and did some mix and matching to make the tray even more inviting and creative, giving it my own special touch.
You can also check out Amazon and see what items they have that can be shipped directly to you.
PRO TIP: Stores like Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s cater towards larger quantities so you’ll find they will have a good assortment of options. For smaller quantities try your local deli and butcher shop or try a store like Aldi.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can make them a day in advance. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and take out 15 minutes before serving. The only item I would not place on the tray a day in advance is the fresh mozzarella; leave it packed in water or marinade until you are ready to serve.
Wine, bread, and pasta will compliment an antipasto tray.
Antipasto trays are used all year for many holidays and events. Some examples are Christmas holiday, Easter, weddings, bridal showers, and birthdays.
Additional Italian Appetizers
In case you’re in need of additional party appetizers, try these.
Crunchy breadsticks also known as Italian grissini are great snacks to eat for parties, and they are easy to make.
If you don’t know how to make ciabatta bread pizza then give these a try. Make them as usual and quarter them into bite-size squares.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this recipe and now feel confident about how to make an antipasto platter that everyone will love! Let me know in the comments below your feedback and how you made this Italian platter your own.
With proper planning and a bit of creativity, your tray will be the hit of the party!
- Platter Trays or wooden cutting boards
- Serving plates and utensils
Cheeses – mix of any below
- Small mozzarella sticks wrapped in italian meats these are called panino
- Fresh small mozzarella balls packed in water or marinated if you prefer
- Provolone slices optional
- Romano Pecorino slices or chunks optional
- Parmesan Reggiano slices or chunks optional
- Fontina slices or chunks optional
Meats – a mix of any of the below
- Genoa Salami
- Mortadella optional
- Sopressata optional
- Calabrese Salami optional
- Hard cured meats slice 1/4 inch thick hard sticks of pepperoni or salami
Fruit and Vegetables – mix of any below
- Fresh grapes
- Dates stuffed or plain
- Pitted Olives green, black, kalamata
- Marinated mushrooms
- Artichoke hearts
- Stuffed cherry peppers
- Stuffed pepperoncini
- Roasted Red pepper
- Fresh Figs
- Choose a large tray or trays. You can also use a wooden cutting board.
- Place a small bowl in the center of the tray.
- Fill the bowl with any of the round food items such as the mozzarella balls, marinated mushrooms or olives. You can use multiple bowls if they will fit on the platter, or use a single bowl per tray if using multiple trays.Fresh small mozzarella balls packed in water, Pitted Olives, Marinated mushrooms, Stuffed cherry peppers
- Create a base layer on the tray using lettuce and/or flat round slices of the meats such as the salami.
- Slice the roasted red pepper into strips. Then wrap them with any deli meat slices you have available.Roasted Red pepper
- Wrap the stuffed pepperoncini with deli meat (optional). If they aren't stuffed, it's okay.Stuffed pepperoncini
- Place the various prepared ingredients on the tray in sections making sure to mix up the colors of the foods.
- Stack the items to create additional layers, such as the artichoke hearts, red pepper strips, pepperoncini and the wrapped mozzarella sticks.
- Place napkins, small plates or bowls, and serving utensils on the table next to the tray.
- Place a bunch of toothpicks in a small holder, as well as spoons, near the tray so people can use the toothpicks to pick up the food items instead of their fingers.
- I always recommend making recipe modifications to suit your own preferences. If you prefer more or less of something, do it! Use my recipe as a guide.
- Purchasing ingredients in jars such as anything stuffed, allows you to purchase ahead of time and spread out any expenses. It also avoids last minute issues with stores being out of stock during busy times.
- Add any cheeses the day of to avoid them drying out. Otherwise, make sure they are wrapped tightly in the fridge overnight.
- Antipasto platters are best served at room temperature.