How to Create the Ultimate Antipasto Platter

There's an art to the perfect antipasto platter, but it shouldn't be an elusive one. Here are our tricks to perfect your platter–and the wine list to go with it.

Brushettas, cheese variety, Mediterranean olives, pickles, Prosciutto di Parma with melon, salami and wine in glasses over black grunge backgroundPhoto: Shutterstock / Foxys Forest Manufacture
Photo: Shutterstock / Foxys Forest Manufacture

Gone are the days of uninspiring appetizers — the antipasto platter is now a canvas for creativity, the perfect way to delight your guests and their taste buds. Whether you’re a master party planner looking to finesse your food options or a novice who wants to nail your first event, our favorite tricks will help you strike the right balance for a swoon-worthy platter.

Psst! Looking for more easy appetizer recipes? We’ve got the cheesiest ones here.

Start With Inspiring Serveware

Make sure you do your spread justice with an appealing look and plenty of cutlery for your guests. Stuck for ideas? A long, wooden board or marble slab is always classic, but make sure what you pick can accommodate all of your food without it looking too crowded. Also, consider the aesthetic of your serving utensils: small, ceramic dishes can be great for holding dips and spreads, and don’t be afraid to poke around vintage or homeware stores for interesting cheese or condiment knives

Choose Your Ingredients

While we believe in the power of a good presentation, even more important is striking the perfect balance of flavors.

A good rule of thumb is to have eight to 10 options, depending on the number of guests, and assume that guests will sample everything twice. If you’re worried about running out, keep backups in the kitchen. And having leftovers isn’t the end of the world, either!

Given that cheese reigns over the rest of the platter, you’ll want a high-quality selection that covers a multitude of bases. We recommend getting one soft, one firm, one aged and one blue. Aim for three to four types of meat, and take creative liberty with the rest, choosing from nuts, vegetables, fruit and dips (we can’t get enough of this sun-dried tomato spinach-artichoke one). If possible, try to accommodate for food-sensitive friends, making sure there are options for those who can’t eat dairy or need gluten-free crackers.

Pro tip: For an extra touch, provide labels next to each option so your guests know what they’re sampling and can remember new favorites. Looking for a basic guideline? Here’s one of our go-to antipasto platters.

Get Artistic With Your Arrangement

One of the defining aspects of a successful antipasto platter is that it provides a culinary and visual feast. Because cheese is the platter keystone, start with arranging it and fanning the rest of your food out around that. Generally, don’t intermingle different categories. Keep all your meats together, and all your fruits together, but try to ensure that items are situated next to dishes that complement them, such as snuggling your prosciutto near your figs or your ham near your brie.

Bring some pizzazz to your platter with fresh produce. Marinated olives will always go well with cocktails and wine, while seasonal berries or figs (we love these Gorgonzola figs with balsamic glaze) will add pops of color. Richly hued and tasty veggies include eggplants, carrots, radishes and artichokes. Platter looking a bit empty? Arugula can take up empty blank space, or sweeten the deal with pieces of dark chocolate.

Don’t Forget the Wine

One of our favorite parts about making an antipasto platter is crafting a wine list to match. With softer cheeses such as brie, choose a merlot, chardonnay or sparkling wine. Fresher options like mozzarella and goat will do well with lighter wines like pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc. For blue cheeses, choose a wine that’s strong enough to stand up to them. A port or a Riesling is a good place to begin. (Here are some more tips to pairing food and drinks.)

Following these simple tricks will help you create antipasto platters that will be the hit of your next event, whether it’s the centerpiece to a small get-together or the prelude to a big holiday meal. Be the bearer of good tidings–or dishes–at your next party with a platter that’s both delicious and stunning.

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Kim Bussing
Kim Bussing is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. She has written for publications including Reader’s Digest, Modern Farmer, Clean Plates and Vice, among others, and she is working on her first novel. She is always on the hunt for the perfect gluten-free cinnamon roll.