The Unorthodox Epicure (Recipe): Antipasto Pasta Salad

Being Southern and German as I am, the whole antipasto thing always confused me as a child. Even as a young adult, I couldn’t imagine why the Italians were anti such a wonderful plate of cured meat and cheeses that they’d invented. And don’t get me started on the whole pasto part of it. Why there was only a single vowel standing between pasta and the variety served on antipasto platters was always beyond me.

Then it occurred to me that not every person in the world speaks American English. In fact, antipasto means before the meal — literally. In the U.S., we refer to it as the appetizer course.

Antipasto was to my wife’s New York/New Jersey family what chips and salsa were to mine here in Texas. The following recipe (her creation) is loosely based on the platter that my mother in-law served to her guests.  For example, she used red wine vinegar and olive oil instead of the creamy Italian dressing; and I’m sure she used readily available roasted red peppers instead of diced pimentos. Still, so long as you have all of the elements of a traditional antipasto — cured meats, cheeses and pickled/brined vegetables – you’re good to go.


Antipasto Pasta Salad — The meal before the meal.

Antipasto Pasta Salad — The meal before the meal.

Antipasto Pasta Salad

1 lb – Tubular or corkscrew-shaped pasta: cooked, drained & rinsed under cold water
3 TB – Creamy Italian dressing

4 oz jar – Diced Pimentos, drained -or- 1/2 cup – Roasted red peppers, chopped
1 can (12 oz) – large black olives
6 oz jar – Marinated artichokes, quartered
1/4 lb – Fresh Mozzarella, 1/2” cubed
1 cup – Grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 lb – Thinly sliced (sandwich) pepperoni and/or salami
1/4 lb – Smoked Provolone, sliced thinly

Butter or ‘Spring’ mix lettuce
Pepperocini peppers

Kosher salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Place 1 slice of cheese between 2 pieces of pepperoni/salami and roll tightly. Slice into thin ‘wheels.’ Set aside.

Toss cooked pasta with creamy Italian dressing (or red wine vinegar and olive oil, if you prefer). Place on large serving platter that’s lined with lettuce. Sprinkle on top the pimentos/peppers, olives, artichokes, tomatoes and Mozzarella. Add meat/cheese wheels. Garnish with a handful of Pepperocinis. Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper as desired.

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  1. Oh definitely red wine vinegar and olive oil…never creamy Italian dressing. Your wife makes an awesome antipasto – I’m pro your antipasto as I ogle each part of it. My favorite is the cheese rolled with the meat, very nicely done.

  2. I’ve never seen a real antipasto with creamy Italian…got to be the vinegar & oil. Is that a Texas thing or NJ thing? Tell Catherine that I think that’s the most beautiful antipasto I’ve ever seen (and that includes some mighty fines one in the North End.

    • adamjholland says:

      I think it must be a Texas thing. Actually, I think I turned her on to creamy Italian as a ‘dressing’ for sandwiches and such, but she still prefers (bottled) Caesar dressing for that purpose — when she forgoes oil and vinegar (which is rare). The dressing for the pasta is a small part of this recipe, but I think she could (now) go either way.

  3. The first sentence of this post made me laugh..because yes, I didn’t get it either. And I just recently learned that it meant “before the meal”. And I call myself a foodie – sheesh. Great looking salad Adam.

  4. That’s the one…thank you so very much are a good egg

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