The antipasto (plural antipasti) may consist of a number of different foods, depending on the meal and the circumstances. In a general sense, it could be almost anything served as an appetizer, even fare outside of traditional Italian cuisine, such as battered squid or devilled eggs. More often, however, antipasto refers to a number of traditional Italian appetizers, which can be categorized into four different groups: meats, olives, vegetables, and cheeses.
Meats served as antipasto are usually served cold, and may be cold cuts, sausages, or cured meats. Turkey and ham are two examples of cold cuts served as antipasto. Pepperoni or salami may also be served sliced into thin pieces as antipasto. A number of cured meats may also be served, most especially the dry-cured Italian ham known as prosciutto. While these meats are usually served in thin slices, they may also be served in larger pieces, or in the case of salami or pepperoni, still in their casings. Olives are a staple of Italian cuisine, and so are nearly always found in a traditional antipasto that is not exclusively meat. Kalamata, Nicoise, and Colossole olives are the most common types found in antipasto. These olives may be served on their own, or stuffed with different cheeses, garlic, nuts, prosciutto, or hot peppers.
Vegetables served as antipasto are usually served raw, or perhaps marinated. While any vegetable can in theory be dished up as antipasto, and sometimes one encounters carrots or broccoli, it is more common to find vegetables such as mushrooms, artichokes, or sun-dried tomatoes as the antipasto fare. Often, a number of different types of mushrooms are served together, perhaps each prepared differently; some might be marinated and served cold, others marinated and served hot, and still others grilled before marinating. This allows the diner to experience one food in a number of different styles. Cheeses are also an important part of the antipasto. Usually, traditional Italian cheeses are served, although in some cases, more exotic cheeses may also be included. The cheeses may be dished on their own, or wrapped in cured meats or stuffed into olives or mushrooms. Although antipasto is not necessarily accompanied by bread, if it includes spreadable cheeses, it will most likely be served with something to spread them on.
Usually, antipasto is served simply as a dish of assorted meats, cheeses, olives, and vegetables, but the term may also be affixed to another type of food to indicate that the antipasto accompanies it. The most common example of this use of the term is antipasto salad, which is usually a green salad covered in various cheeses, olives, cold cuts, and other assorted meats.