For me and D, the most precious souvenirs collected abroad are different approaches to entertaining. We love our friends and family and thrive on sharing the art of multicultural hospitality, which is a lifelong affair — especially when it comes to Italy.
When it comes to Italian tricks to being a host or hostess, the foremost rule is quite simple: share.
Whenever we have company in town, the one Italian entertaining trick that never fails to make a crowd go wild is a perfectly imperfect (and overstuffed) Italian cheese board — or, more frenchly and appropriately called, a Charcuterie board.
I first enjoyed this quintessential aperitivo staple with my cousin Michela in Pescara, Italy. The variety in flavors and aesthetic makeup (everything from olives to potato chips) was a feast for my eyes and palate. There is no Charcuterie board created alike and it’s such a romantic and spontaneity-laced culinary trick that it’s always a beloved event on the table.
Since that wonderful occasion, I’ve been slowly practicing and exploring inspiration to create my own cheese and salumi presentation…and now, I’m ready to share my lessons.
Here is how to create a Charcuterie board like a pro (and make your vita just a touch more bella in the process):
Master Your Cheese (Formaggi) Game
So the truest way to go when creating your own cheese board is by using cheeses from all four milk sources: cow, sheep, goat and buffalo.
However, I cater my cheese options depending on who I’m feeding. When in Europe, my relatives and friends have an extremely sophisticated and developed cheese palate and no slice or chunk is strong enough for them. On the other hand, when entertaining my western squads I skip goat cheese and stick to a few high-quality aged and favorites from my go-to Italian markets.
My favorite cheeses to include: Pecorino Toscano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Burrata, Mozzarrella, Provolone or Caciocavallo
The Art of Salumi
Translation: Italian cold cuts. I personally am vegetarian, but back to the art of Italian entertaining: it’s about the tangible satisfaction for guests and sharing, and your satisfaction is fed by their happiness alone.
Luckily I grew up a passionate carnivore in an Italian household, so remembering the sight, smell and best-quality types of salami and prosciutto is still a talent I have on lock (even if now I only feast with my eyes).
I always search for a quality cut of Prosciutto San Daniele, Soppressata and I’m always on the hunt for a nice dry salami with fennel or truffle.
Choose Your Bread Wisely
If you think world politics are in a combative and dismal state, you should experience the competition among different Italian regions when it comes to their bread game. For Italians, bread are the swords, so be sure to find a bread that slays.
I love slicing up fresh Ciabatta or a light and airy Focaccia. Either find the perfect one via a bakery in your neighborhood or learn to whip together a loaf yourself.
I also make a point to any unique artisan crackers I find, Crostini or Grissini.
Ode to Olives
Not any olive is is created alike and no Italian would be able to survive with out them. A Charcuterie board is a celebration of a culinary culture, and no celebration of Italy is complete without olives. Mix colors, types, pits, no pits and get olive wild.
Be Sweet & Give Complements
When it comes to a Charcuterie board, it’s all about pairing. I love to include a fresh seasonal fruit on the board – figs, pears, grapes, melon or persimmon being my favorites. I never include a board without a little side of local honey and fig or apricot jam.
Add a Crunch
I was surprised but as my Italian Charcuterie board horizons broadened and more aperitivo hours were had, the biggest hit always included potato chips. I used to believe this was a purely American obsession but that’s a complete mistake and it’s a common companion in the aperitivo hour of many Italian regions.
Other crunchy additions: almonds, nuts, mini-pickles (I’ve haven’t tried the latter quite yet but I hear people love it).
Serve Alongside Drinks…
My favorite drink to serve alongside a cheese board is absolutely Aperol Spritz, especially during warm terrazza weather. You can view my go-to Aperol Spritz recipe here.
Both Italian red and white wines are also wonderful options, but that’s another article to come…