How To: Serve Dinner, The Italian Way

Living in Italy, well, turned me into a snob. I scoff at strawberries in the winter. I’ve sworn off frozen yogurt. I quickly avert my eyes from the wan, sickly, pale pink tomatoes in the grocery store. ‘These don’t exist in Italy!’ I explain to my friend, to my mother, to anyone unfortunate enough to go shopping with me. ‘It just seems so…wrong!”

Food in Italy is sacred – prepping it, cooking it, and, most importantly, eating it. A meal is a ceremony, a celebration, a time where not much else matters besides the plate in front of you and the people next to you. The way Italians eat, the way in which they stage a meal, is of utmost importance; no matter which region, no matter which starch or vegetable or meat or dessert, there is a set order to every Italian dinner. Antipasti. Primi. Secondi. Dolci. From the top of Alto Adige to the bottom lip of Sicily, these are the iron rules that drive Italian cuisine – and Italian eating.

So I propose to you: embrace that inner Italian snob that I know you must have in you. Insist on a good meal, a solid meal, a meal with friends or family or anyone you deem worthy. Cook up a storm, and sit down to a real meal: a meal the way Italians do it. And here’s how.

***The Plan***

Antipasti. This is the easy course: anything small and snackable. Set out some meats, cheeses, olives, nuts, or crostini, if you’re feeling fancy. Pour the prosecco, and watch your guests nibble happily.

Primi. The moment you’ve been waiting for: the pasta course. Something simple is best here: Genovese Pesto Pasta, perhaps, or Linguine Aglio e Olio con Acciuga. Make sure to keep the portions small – there’s still much more to come.

Secondi. Oh, yes: the meat course. To keep your stress-level as low as possible, make something here you can reheat when the time comes: Seared Chicken with Cherry Tomato Pan Sauce, or, if you have all day, Red Wine Braised Short Ribs.

Dolci. What’s the best way to finish up your Italian (or any) meal? Dessert, of course. Try this easy Fig and Walnut Cake (and make it the day before), or some Brutti Ma Buoni.

Brette Warshaw is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is a student of European history, creative writing, and jazz studies. She ate her way through Rome during the fall semester, leaving a wake of empty plates, flabbergasted waiters, and ripped skinny jeans behind her.Read more…

Originally posted on Thursday, January 19th, 2012

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