A great way to enjoy Italian food is to keep it fresh and simple. Jenni Muir picks ten top-notch ingredients for the perfect summer picnic

Cherry plum tomatoes, £8.99 a kilo

Cherry plum tomatoes, £8.99 a kilo

In summer there are good tomatoes to be found from the Isle of Wight and even the Netherlands, but the sweet, deep red varieties from Italy are worth seeking out for al fresco entertaining. Target specialist independents such as Valvona & Crolla for Ovetta cherry plum tomatoes on the stem from Naples.

Where: Valvona & Crolla, www.valvonacrolla.com, Tel: 0131 556 6066.

Fresh figs, 80p each

A simple fruit, yes, but fresh figs have a sensuous, luxurious quality that tend to particularly excite guests. They work well as an antipasto with cured meats, or as a meal finale with cheese. Sicily, Liguria and Puglia are among the important fig-growing areas of Italy.

Where: Claude's, 7 Swains Lane, London N6, Tel: 020 7348 2072.

Focaccia bread, £1 per slice

Focaccia is flat bread and, historically speaking, the mother of all pizzas, although that commonly sold in Britain today is a satisfying 1 1/ 2 to 2ins thick. The neat squares are easily carved up for sandwiches, and work well ripped apart. Or drizzle with olive oil (which will sit in the surface dimples) and cut into cubes.

Where: Branches of Carluccio's, www.carluccios.com, Tel: 020 7580 3050.

Taleggio Valsessia, £17.37 a kilo

The Italian washed rind cheese taleggio is ideal for picnics. The paste is yielding but not oozy enough to drip over your blanket, and the fruity flavour suits foodies and fusspots alike. La Fromagerie's version comes from the northern alpine region of Lombardy close to Lake Como and is excellent with dry wines.

Where: Branches of La Fromagerie, www.lafromagerie.co.uk, Tel: 020 7935 0341.

Cacciotta salami, £3.95 160g sausage

A small, palm-sized sausage cut into toothsome pieces is a more elegant way to serve and eat salami than wafer-thin slices of the larger varieties. It is also how Italians would prefer to enjoy it. This pure pork version is studded with the occasional peppercorn for a pleasant piquancy.

Where: The Fine Cheese Company, www.finecheese.co.uk, Tel: 01225 448748.

Sandoliva (olive grissini), £1.75 130g pack

Grissini are back in fashion. Served hot, wrapped in a napkin, in the most elegant Italian restaurants, they're a far cry from the cellophane-sealed crisp sticks of the average antica trattoria. Carluccio's recipe is studded with olives and ideal for dipping. Alternatively, try the company's rosemary-flavoured bruschetta toasts at the same price.

Where: Branches of Carluccio's, www.carluccios.com, Tel: 020 7580 3050.

Seggiano antipasto medley, £9.95 500g jar

Save yourself the hassle of buying lots of separate antipasto vegetables with this delicious assortment packed into one tall jar. The artichokes, peppers and baby onions are grilled over volcanic rocks before being steeped in Tuscan extra virgin olive oil. A few sun-dried tomatoes are thrown in to give a mix that really does have something for everybody.

Where: The Fine Cheese Company, www.finecheese.co.uk, Tel: 01225 448748.

Salsa di funghi et tartufo, £4.90 80g jar

A dark, rich blend of mushrooms with distinct truffle top-note, this versatile "salsa" from Antonio Carluccio sits between paste and sauce and can be eaten straight from the jar. Dip your grissini into it or spread on bread or crostini. Any leftovers can be forked through thin strands of egg pasta for supper.

Where: Branches of Carluccio's, www.carluccios.com, Tel: 020 7580 3050.

Amedei chocolate, £3.75 50g bar

Considered by some to be better than France's Valrhona chocolate, the artisan-produced Amedei range is manufactured at Pontedera near Pisa in Tuscany. The flagship Chuao variety is deep, rich and rounded with ripe red berry and plum flavours, made from top-quality criollo beans grown on a single plantation in Venezuela. Amedei also produces very good white and milk chocolates.

Where: Branches of Harvey Nichols, www.harveynichols.com, Tel: 0870 873 3833.

Martini Extra Dry, £4.75 750ml

A chilled bottle of dry vermouth packed in the cool bag and served neat as an aperitif will kick-start the party. The bitter herb flavours of Martini Extra Dry suits antipasto and outdoor dishes well and can be turned into something long and cooling with the addition of almost any soft drink you've packed for the kids.

Where: Off-licences and supermarkets.

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