Although charcuterie (shaar·koo·tr·ee) is a French word, the practice of eating cured meats dates back to ancient Rome. Now a popular worldwide trend, the Italians have always embraced the culinary prowess of charcuterie serving plates of affettati misti (sliced cured meats,) cheeses and assorted accompaniments as an Italian antipasti. Traditionally served at aperitivo bars throughout Italy, this after work ritual offers a moment of relaxation at the end of a day, for a pre-dinner drink, a prelude to dinner (apercena) or in some cases a light meal.
Besides a selection of cured meats and cheeses typical to the region, Italian charcuterie boards can include olives and preserved vegetables, spreads and other small bites. One of my favorite elements of an Italian antipasti/charcuterie are the jams and mostarda. If well-paired they are the perfect complement to the other main ingredients, combining sweet and savory, dense and creamy; all accompanied by a glass of wine. Italian red wines with their bold tannins and rustic flavors pair well with Italian charcuterie boards. Once again regional matches are best so select a wine that pairs well with the ingredients. An article in Decanter magazine advises that if you know where the charcuterie is made, then you’ll know what wine is the perfect match.
Planning a charcuterie board is a great outlet for your culinary creativity. A composition in design with curated selections that are both tasteful and visually appealing. Depending on what’s available, flavor combinations, or even just personal preference you can easily prepare an Instagram worthy charcuterie board that is artfully appetizing.
Elements of the Best Italian Charcuterie Boards
consider a mix of savory, sweet, herbal and spicy flavors
consider ingredient texture (hard, soft), shape, appearance and arrangement for visual impact
meats and cheeses should be the primary focus of the board; limit the number of meats or cheeses to a selection of 3-5 depending on the number of people you are serving
cheese selections should include both light and strong flavored cheese
don’t crowd the elements or ingredients on the board, you want to give them room to look their best
add other elements or ingredients only if they enhance or support the major ingredients on the board
include fruit or wine jams/jellies, chutneys, mostarda or honey
include savory sides like olives, preserved vegetables, sweet and spicy marinated red peppers
include complimentary fresh or dried fruits
Recipe Agrumato Style Marinated Olives with Rosemary
A sweet-savory addition to an Italian inspired charcuterie board influence by the argrumato method of infusing olive oil. The assortment of olives should include Castelvetrano, a medium-sized green olive from southwestern Sicily with a crunchy texture and a rich buttery taste. Other Italian olive cultivars are Leccino, Lugano, Nocellara and Cerignola although they may be difficult to find outside of Italy.
2 cups assorted black or green olives, with pits
1 large sprig rosemary, cut into 2-inch pieces
zest of 1/2 orange, removed in thin strips
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
1/ 2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a large bowl, toss together olives, rosemary, orange zest and pepper flakes, and then pack mixture into a 1-pint glass jar. Pour in enough oil to just cover the olives (about 1/2 cup), and then seal tightly and chill for 1 to 3 days before eating.