I love the Italian tradition of antipasto — the first course of a traditional Italian meal that features a variety of specialties like cured meats, cheese and vegetables.

This savory Antipasti Salad combines two courses in one for a quick and easy meal or side dish when you just don’t feel like cooking on a hot summer’s night.

Featuring crispy romaine lettuce with Genoa salami, prosciutto, mozzarella pearls, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, red onions and mixed olives, this simple summer salad only requires a bit of chopping before it’s ready to assemble and serve.

Cured meats, olives and cheese are staples on a traditional Italian antipasti platter. Featured here (from left) is Genoa salami, mixed olives, prosciutto and mozzarella pearls. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Cured meats, olives and cheese are staples on a traditional Italian antipasti platter. Featured here (from left) is Genoa salami, mixed olives, prosciutto and mozzarella pearls. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

We often serve it with a simple dressing of extra-virgin olive and oil and red wine vinaigrette, but for this occasion I’ve included a recipe for a tangy Oregano Vinaigrette that is the perfect complement to the hearty Italian flavors of the cured meats. In addition to olive oil and red wine vinegar, the dressing is flavored with dried oregano flakes, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and seasoning, and can be prepared up to a week in advance of serving.

When Tony and I retired from our cruise careers and moved back to Fargo in 2000, finding specialty Italian items was really a challenge. Fortunately, our food scene has greatly improved since then, and you can now find high-quality — and good-value — cured meats and cheeses at Costco and Sam’s Club, or even the Hornbacher’s Culinary Circle brand.

RELATED:

This recipe calls for two hearts of romaine lettuce, which are chopped with a sharp knife into sections that are about 1 inch wide to produce bite-sized pieces. It is a good idea to rinse and dry fresh lettuce, especially when purchased by the head, and a salad spinner is a terrific kitchen tool to ensure that the lettuce dries quickly.

Antipasti Salad features crisp romaine lettuce combined with a colorful medley of cured meats, cheese, vegetables and a tangy Oregano Vinaigrette. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Antipasti Salad features crisp romaine lettuce combined with a colorful medley of cured meats, cheese, vegetables and a tangy Oregano Vinaigrette. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

For the meats, I buy a 7-ounce stick of Genoa salami and cut half of it into rounds about ¼-inch thick, and then cut each round into quarters. You could buy pre-cut salami if you prefer, but I like the thick slices that a stick allows, especially in contrast to the strips of ultra-thin prosciutto that are also in this salad.

I chose mozzarella pearls for this dish, which are bite-sized little balls of fresh mozzarella cheese, but you could also use marinated mozzarella balls, or buy a log and slice the cheese to whatever size you prefer. The soft, tender mildness of fresh mozzarella complements the flavorful meats and vegetables, and fontina or feta cheeses would also work well.

Roasted red peppers are a pantry staple in our home, and when I don’t have time to make them myself, I buy a jar of roasted bell peppers produced by the Mezzetta brand, which are typically located in the pickle aisle. You can find artichoke hearts in the vegetable aisle of most supermarkets, and either plain or marinated will work for this recipe.

Combining two courses into one, this fresh, crisp and hearty Antipasti Salad perfectly embodies the simplicity and deliciousness of Italian cuisine. Buon Appetito!

The romaine lettuce is cut into pieces and topped with cured meats, vegetables and mozzarella pearls before tossing with the vinaigrette. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
The romaine lettuce is cut into pieces and topped with cured meats, vegetables and mozzarella pearls before tossing with the vinaigrette. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Antipasti Salad

PRINT: Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe

Serves: 4 to 6

Salad ingredients:

2 hearts romaine lettuce, chopped into bite-sized pieces

3 ounces Genoa salami, cut into 1/4-inch rounds, then quartered or halved (about 1 cup)

3 ounces prosciutto, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 cup mozzarella pearls or cubes

1 cup mixed olives

1 cup roasted red peppers, chopped

1 cup artichoke hearts, marinated or plain, chopped into pieces

1 cup (about 15) cherry tomatoes, halved

¼ cup red onion, thinly sliced

Garnish ingredients:

2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped

5 to 6 pepperoncini peppers, whole

Oregano Vinaigrette ingredients:

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon dried oregano flakes

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Prepare the oregano vinaigrette first to allow flavors to combine. In a small bowl or jar, add all the ingredients and whisk or shake vigorously until the dressing is fully combined and emulsified; taste and adjust seasoning and flavors as desired. Set aside at room temperature until the salad is assembled.

The dressing may be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

To assemble the salad, in a large bowl, add the chopped romaine lettuce and then place all the remaining salad ingredients on top. Pour all the oregano vinaigrette over the top of the salad and use tongs to gently toss until the ingredients appear evenly distributed. To serve, transfer salad to a serving platter or plates and garnish with the chopped basil and whole pepperoncini.

Leftovers may be stored in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days.

Recipe Time Capsule:

This week in...

Recipes can be found with the article at InForum.com.

“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.