Create hearty meals with dishes that complement each other.
Set the theme for your meal with a familiar Italian dish or an interesting new entree. Then build the meal around it.
The first course (primo piatto) usually consists of pasta, risotto, or soup. Pasta is the popular choice for the first course because it is so versatile -- it can be tossed, baked, or stuffed with a variety of fresh ingredients or topped with many different sauces.
The second course (secondo piatto) of meat, poultry, fish, or seafood is presented with at least one and sometimes two vegetable side dishes. A crisp garden salad may take the place of a vegetable dish, although Italians sometimes serve salad after the second course. Breadsticks or crusty Italian bread and a glass of wine may complete the second course. Popular red wines include Chianti, Lambrusco, Bardolino, Valpolicella, Barbaresco, and Barolo. Popular white wines include Frascati and Soave.
Dessert, fruit, and/or cheese courses follow the second course. A sweet dessert wine, such as port, Tokay, cream sherry, or Marsala, may be served. Italians usually conclude the meal with a tiny cup of full-bodied espresso coffee.
Meals for special occasions are more elaborate and often begin with an antipasto course. Antipasto means "before the meal." The course consists of a blend of meat, fish, seafood, vegetable, and/or fruit appetizers. The antipasto often is accompanied by a light wine.
We've taken the hassle out of planning a tasty meal for you and your family. Here's more than a week's worth of menus to get you started on eating low-fat meals -- the Italian way.
To begin, separate a few fresh cloves of garlic and slice them thinly. Then slice your aromatics like onion, shallots or leeks. Add a little olive oil to the pan and heat it over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add your onion and garlic and lower the heat to medium. Give the pan a little stir and cook until the onions are soft and translucent. Add a generous pinch of pepper flakes for heat. While your onions cook, chop about 2 handfuls of fresh tomatoes or other vegetables. Add the tomatoes to the pan and give the pan a stir. Let the tomatoes cook to break down just a little bit. Then add your greens, about 2 handfuls of fresh vibrant greens like spinach, keel or mustard greens. Stir the pan again then add about a 1/4 cup of pasta cooking liquid or broth. This will help you sauce to get a little saucier and steam the greens. Generously grate Parmesan, or Reggiano or Pecorino cheese all over the top. The cheese will help bind your sauce to the pasta shapes.