The Courses of an Italian Meal

Create hearty meals with dishes that complement each other.


Enlarge Image Build your meal around a heartymain dish, such as this lasagna.

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:

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:

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.

The Last Course:

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.

On Special Occasions:

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.

Menu 1
Enlarge Image Chicken with Golden Raisins
  • Chicken with Golden Raisins
  • Steamed baby carrots
  • Baked Potatoes and Mushrooms
  • Cookies and Crema

Chicken with Golden Raisins and PIne Nuts

Baked Potatoes and Mushrooms

Cookies and Crema

Menu 2
Enlarge Image Pizza Rustica
  • Pizza Rustica
  • Country-Style Peas
  • Mixed Green Salad
  • Berries with Zabaglione

Pizza Rustica

Country-Style Peas

Berries with Zabaglione

Menu 3
Enlarge Image Vegetable Lasagna with Red Pepper Sauce
  • Vegetable Lasagna with Red Pepper Sauce
  • Easy Herb Focaccia
  • Steamed yellow wax beans
  • Crespelle with Orange Sauce

Vegetable Lasagna with Red Pepper Sauce

Easy Herb Focaccia

Crespelle with Orange Sauce

Menu 4
Enlarge Image Shrimp-Artichoke Frittata
  • Shrimp-Artichoke Frittata
  • Zucchini alla Romana
  • Pepper-Cheese Bread
  • Fresh Pear Custard Tart

Shrimp-Artichoke Frittata

Pepper-Cheese Bread

Fresh Pear Custard Tart

Menu 5
Enlarge Image Pasta alla Carbonara with Asparagus
  • Pasta alla Carbonara with Asparagus
  • Country Whole Wheat Bread
  • Tiramisu

Pasta alla Carbonara with Asparagus

Country Whole Wheat Bread

Tiramisu

Menu 6
Enlarge Image Whole-Wheat Pesto Pizza
  • Whole-Wheat Pesto Pizza
  • Mixed greens salad with vinaigrette
  • Chocolate Biscotti

Whole Wheat Pesto Pizza

Chocolate Biscotti

Menu 7
Enlarge Image Make-Ahead Minestrone
  • Make-Ahead Minestrone
  • Panzanella
  • Cheesecake Treasures

Make-Ahead Minestrone

Panzanella

Cheesecake Treasures

Menu 8
Enlarge Image Fresh Tomato Soup with Tortellini
  • Fresh Tomato Soup with Tortellini
  • Pepper and Cheese Sandwich
  • Caramelized Apple Wedges

Fresh Tomato Soup with Tortellini

Pepper and Cheese Sandwich

Caramelized Apple Wedges


How to Make a Pan Sauce for Spaghetti
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