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Meat Lite: Antipasto Pizza

Editor's note: Philadelphia food writers Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond drop by each week with Meat Lite, which celebrates meat in moderation. Meat Lite was inspired by the book coauthored by the two, Almost Meatless, due out in spring 2009.

In Italian cuisine, antipasto is essentially the appetizer course. The word translates to "before the meal," and it's a wonder that anyone's appetite ever makes it to the main course given the delicious array offered on a typical antipasto platter.

Mixed greens, marinated vegetables, roasted garlic, an assortment of cheeses and wispy slices of smoked and cured meats, like salami, prosciutto, and soppressata, all add up to a perfectly satisfying meal.

This pizza makes antipasto the main course (though you could certainly serve it as an appetizer instead) and is a tasty reminder of how far just a bit of good quality, flavorful meat will go. Soppressata ranks among my personal favorites in the dry-cured salami category for its rich flavor, salty edge and subtle chewiness. I opt for sweet slicing soppressata in this recipe, but feel free to request the hot variety (do specify "slicing soppressata" when ordering, which will ensure you end up with wide, thin slices that blanket the dough, as opposed to small, thick chunks). If you prefer different types of vegetables, feel free to swap them for the suggestions here. Don't skip the chopped greens, lightly dressed with simple vinaigrette--often the bed of an antipasto plate--as the final topping.

In this age of prepared food abundance, you can certainly purchase your favorite roasted vegetables (get around 1/2 cup or 4 ounces of each), roasted garlic (you'll need about 20 cloves) and pizza dough. But if you're one for rolling up your sleeves, here's the how-to for all of the above.

About the author: Tara Mataraza Desmond writes about, cooks, and eats food for a living. Her blog, Crumbs On My Keyboard, is dedicated to delicious things in Philadelphia and lots of other places.

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