Serving a Traditional Italian Meal in Order

Part of the Italian Cooking For Dummies Cheat Sheet

A traditional Italian meal is leisurely process — a time to share news of the day and enjoy the delicious results of the cook's labor — and has several distinct courses. If you're preparing an authentic Italian meal, follow this list in order:

  • Antipasto: Something to nibble on — such as a bowl of marinated olives and some fresh fennel for dipping in extra-virgin olive oil, or a wedge of fine Parmigiano-Reggiano and some bread — perhaps served with drinks.

  • Primo: A first course or appetizer. Usually pasta, rice, soup, or polenta. Keep portions small (eight servings for a pound of pasta) because the main course comes next.

  • Secondo: The main course, usually chicken, meat, or seafood. Usually fairly simple, especially if a rich pasta or rice dish has already been served.

  • Contorno: The main course is usually accompanied by a platter of vegetables. This side dish is usually quite simple and highlights the simple goodness of the vegetable.

  • Dolce: On most days, the dolce is a bowl of fruit. Some hard Italian cookies, called biscotti, for dunking, and dessert wine are another option. More elaborate cakes, tortes, and custards are for special occasions.

  • Caffe: End a meal with espresso all around.

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