Antipasti Platter Beauty, as seen on The Kitchen, Season 32.
Recipe courtesy of Alex Guarnaschelli

My Favorite Salami and Cheese Platter

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 9 hr 35 min (includes chilling time)
  • Active: 1 hr 20 min
  • Yield: 8 to 10 servings
I am an Italian American who grew up with a mother who would hand me a bowl of ricotta sprinkled with sugar as a snack. When I want to make a platter, I go down to Di Palo’s on Grand Street in Little Italy in Manhattan and I buy this assortment of cheeses and meats. Call them and find out for yourself! Ask for Lou or Sal…This is just my suggestion. This is a road map to get things going. More simply, mix your own favorite meats and cheeses. Make a platter with some thin slices of each meat (about 1/4 pound each) and a wedge (say 1/4 to 1/2 pound) of each cheese. Serve with my pickled butternut squash, charred or mixed peppers, cheese tortellini with mixed parsley sauce or pesto, olives, cherry tomatoes, crackers and bread.

Ingredients

Pickled Butternut Squash:

Cheese Tortellini with Mixed Parsley Sauce:

Charred Peppers:

Directions

  1. Arrange on a large board or platter the salumi, cheeses, Pickled Squash, Tortellini, Peppers, bread and/or crackers. Serve with bowls of olives, mixed peppers and cherry tomatoes, if using.

Pickled Butternut Squash:

Yield: about 2 cups
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Cook the squash: Place the squash halves cut-side up on the prepared sheet pan and brush with the olive oil. Place in the center rack of the oven. Add 1/2 cup water to the sheet pan to create steam and prevent overbrowning. Roast until tender but not falling apart, about 1 hour.
  3. Make the pickling liquid: In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, cloves, cinnamon and 1 1/2 cups water. Cook on medium heat, stirring, until the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
  4. Finish: Transfer the squash halves to a cutting board and set aside until cool enough to handle. Cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces. Transfer to one or two glass jars with lids and pour the pickling liquid over the squash. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator overnight. Ideally, let it sit 2 to 3 days in the fridge and up to 1 week before serving.

Cheese Tortellini with Mixed Parsley Sauce:

Yield: 8 to 10 antipasti servings
  1. Cook the pasta: In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a rolling boil. Add a generous amount of salt. (The pasta water should taste like seawater.) Add the tortellini to the pot and stir so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom as it cooks. Cook until al dente, chewy but not hard or raw tasting, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander, reserving a little of the pasta cooking water in case you need it later.
  2. Make the parsley sauce: While the pasta is cooking, in the bowl of a food processor, add the flat leaf and curly parsley, garlic and a generous pinch of salt. Pulse to blend. Continue to pulse while slowly streaming in 1/3 cup oil through the top of the machine until almost completely smooth. (Do not overmix.) Add more oil if necessary to loosen the sauce. Transfer to a large serving bowl and stir in half the cheese. Taste for seasoning.
  3. Finish the dish: Drain any excess liquid from the tortellini and toss with the parsley sauce. Stir in more cheese if needed. Taste for seasoning. When ready to serve, squeeze a little of the lime juice lightly over the tortellini.

Charred Peppers:

  1. Char the peppers: Place the peppers directly on the gas flame of the stove or grill. Char, turning occasionally, until the skin burns and turns black on all sides. Cover and refrigerate immediately to allow them to cool quickly, until the peppers are cool. Peel and discard the skin. I use a kitchen towel to wipe the skin away.
  2. Finish: Try to avoid rinsing the peppers, as it washes away flavor. Place on a flat surface. Open, seed and slice the peppers into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Arrange on a platter. Season with salt and drizzle with the vinegar and oil. Refrigerate.

Cook’s Note

Sopressata is a type of dry-cured pork sausage made in many regions of Italy. It has a flattened oblong shape from being pressed during the drying period. The ones from southern Italy are known for including dried chile peppers, whereas the northern ones are more known for including aromatic spices. Depending on the region, the meat used can be lean or fatty. I like fatty ones with the coarse grind leaving big pieces of fat and meat which give the final product a lush, rustic texture. Imported Prosciutto di Parma is my favorite, a giant air-cured and dried pork leg. It’s rich, nutty and also salty. Salame Abruzzese is pork sausage cured in the Abruzzese style. It’s ground pork and black pepper that is air-dried. It’s salty in the best way. Black pepper-crusted pecorino is covered with a thick crust of ground black pepper and then aged. The pepper gives a tingling heat and brings out the salty notes of the cheese. “Dolce” means "sweet" in Italian, and Gorgonzola dolce DOP is a soft, blue, buttery cheese made with cow's milk. It is buttery like Brie but has a little tangy blue cheese note as well. The history of Gorgonzola varies with claims that it originated either in the town of Gorgonzola or Pasturo. Ricotta is an Italian fresh cheese that was traditionally made from the whey left over from the making of other cheeses. It can be made from the milk of cows, sheep, goats and even water buffalo. Since the casein is filtered away from the whey, ricotta is a very tolerable cheese for people with casein intolerance. It’s also surprisingly low in fat and high in protein, compared with other cheeses. It’s very satisfying! Traditional Italian fresh ricotta is smooth and tastes mildly sweet. Burrata is a fresh mozzarella cheese made from cow or buffalo milk. The mozzarella pouch holds a mixture of fresh mozzarella shreds soaking in cream. The added fat from the cream makes it richer and loose in texture. You can also sub in classic mozzarella.For the Pickled Butternut Squash: Pickling is often done to raw fruits and vegetables. This recipe is a wild card, in that you may not have ever pickled something that you cook first. Roasting the squash before pickling helps it reach its full flavor. You can use another type of squash in the same way. For this recipe, you need about 2 cups cooked squash cubes. To make it easier, buy pre-cut peeled squash at the supermarket and cut down the roasting time to about 30 minutes. Add a drizzle of honey or sprinkle of sugar just before serving if you like it a touch sweeter. For the Cheese Tortellini with Mixed Parsley Sauce: I love the grassy taste of parsley and the saltiness of the Pecorino cheese with pasta—and it’s more unusual than the classic basil-pine nut combo. It’s super fresh. And the lime juice perks it right up. For the Charred Peppers: This is such a great way to add some sweetness to the platter other than the classic fruits. The texture and freshness is also welcome in the midst of all these cheeses and meats. If you don’t have access to a gas burner or grill, the peppers can also be charred under the broiler. Preheat the broiler to high and position the rack so that the peppers will be as close to the heating element as possible without touching. Place the peppers on a baking sheet. Broil, turning occasionally, until all sides are blackened.