The small dishes, antipasti, tapas, meze, which are served in cafés, restaurants and bars have a long tradition in the Mediterranean countries. In Italy, antipasti are served in restaurants at the table to begin a meal. Good Italian restaurants still have impressive and delicious antipasti buffets, and it is well accepted nowadays that you skip the pasta if you have enjoyed the antipasti buffet.

By chance I came across my notes of a truly magnificent antipasti buffet that we enjoyed at our hotel during a skiing trip in Madonna di Campiglio many years ago. At home, nobody would cook an antipasti buffet like that followed by pasta, main course and dessert, but I thought why not have antipasti as dinner and nothing else.

These varied small dishes enjoyed with a glass of chilled rosé, a green salad and good country bread can keep you happy on a summer evening without cooking the pasta or heating the barbecue. Many of these dishes can be cooked ahead of time. The following four dishes are just a tasty sample of the sumptuous antipasti buffet served in Madonna di Campiglio.

Dish 1.

Mix together sliced, tinned Italian artichokes, baby salad leaves, cooked prawns, minced flat-leaf parsley and freshly ground black pepper. Make a dressing of 1 part of freshly pressed lemon juice and 3 parts of fruity olive oil. Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving and toss.

Dish 2.

Toss together cooked brown beans, minced parsley and vinaigrette. Make a vinaigrette of 1 part of red wine vinegar and 3 parts of tasty olive oil. The beans are best if soaked overnight and cooked just before serving. If you use tinned beans, rinse thoroughly in cold water and dry before mixing with parsley and vinaigrette.

Dish 3.

Mix together thinly sliced courgette, and thinly sliced cold roast beef. Pour over some vinaigrette and toss.

Dish 4.

Thinly slice an aubergine and brush olive oil on the slices. Roast the slices in 200 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes until soft. In a frying pan, fry sliced mushrooms with some garlic in rapeseed oil. Mix together the aubergine and mushroom slices. Toss in a little vinaigrette and grind over some black pepper.


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